How to Henna Your Hair
So, you're sick of your hair color, and want to do something about it. But, getting your hair colored at a salon is expensive.
Why pay someone else to do something you're more than capable of doing yourself at home, for a fraction of the price?
The Pros and Cons of Henna
- 100% natural
- Cost effective compared to a trip to the salon
- Will not damage hair
- Easy to upkeep
- Beautiful highlights
- Limited color selection (recipe section later in article)
- Color depends on natural shade of hair
- Dyes skin in addition to hair (temporary)
- Henna prevents future use of chemical dyes and perms, due to it's unique coating of the hairshaft. This can last months.
- Time consuming depending on the desired intensity of color
What is Henna?
Henna is a small tropical tree. It's leaves contain a special compound, Lawsone, that has an affinity for bonding with protein. In the Bible, henna is called Camphire.
Is Henna Safe?
Yes, henna itself is safe in it's pure, unadulterated form. When additives are added, it's safety is called into question. PPD, an additive that turns henna black and makes it stain faster, is known to cause severe burns and cancer. But PPD is only one additive, there are more. Premixed henna body art pastes are known to have harmful additives, so avoid them at all costs. For your safety, only use pure henna powder from a reputable source.
Is Henna legal in the US?
As a hair dye, you bet. For body art it's actually illegal, though prosecution isn't probable.
How to Henna Your Hair: Step by Step Guide
- Non-metal bowl (Henna does not like metal!)
- Non-metal spoon
- Shower cap
- Time (plan on watching a movie... etc)
- Old t-shirt and pants (in case of drips)
- Hair clips
- Old towels
- Make sure your hair is clean and dry.
- Follow the mixing instructions on the packaged henna hair color (if applicable, body art henna mixing instructions will be posted later in this article).
- Gather hair from your hairbrush, and do a strand test. If you like the results of dyeing your hair from the hairbrush, proceed with dyeing your entire head.
- Change into your "painters clothes" (old t-shirt, pants).
- Apply vaseline to the skin of your hairline and ears.
- Cover your shoulders with an old towel.
- Have your henna mixture and other supplies handy, apply gloves, and section hair.
- Make a section at the nape of the neck first, clipping all of your other hair on top of your head and out of the way, (if you have short hair you may skip this step).
- Coat the first section with your henna mixture, then create the next section, coating that one in the same way you coated the first.
- Move forward until you reach your hairline. Cover the hair of your hairline well.
- Sweep your henna-covered hair up on top of your head, and apply shower cap.
- Leave henna on according to either package instructions or recipe suggestions.
- Rinse henna out until water runs clear.
Q. I really want to give henna a try, but I'm currently using chemical dyes. Can I switch directly to henna, or do I need to wait for the old color to fade?
A. A year needs to have passed since the hair was permed, dyed, bleached or straightened. Some claim that if you're using pure, body-art quality henna (mehndi) that you can color sooner. If you do choose to risk it, be sure to do a strand test first.
Q. Can I henna my hair a certain shade, such as chestnut brown or espresso?
A. Well... yes and no. Henna is red, is red, is red! Unless additives are added to the mix, that is. Chemical additives are bad with a capital B, so if you really have your heart set on a color other than red, it might actually be safer to either go to a salon or use a traditional hair color!
With that said, henna can be coaxed into other variations of it's normal red shade with certain natural additives, so if you're daring, you could give that a try. Check the recipes section for some ideas.
Q. I've always wanted to be a blonde. Can I lighten my hair with henna?
A. While henna can give some awesome highlights, it can't actually lighten hair. Color has to be lifted to lighten the hair, and henna coats the hair follicle. It adds, it does not take away.
If you know that you want to be blonde, head to the salon, and don't try henna first. More than likely, you'll be disappointed, plus the henna coating your hair will prevent you from getting your hair bleached for a long, long time.
Q. What about black henna?
A. There is no such thing as black henna. Henna is red. However, some people refer to indigo as "black henna". Don't be fooled though, chances are those "natural" black henna hair colors at the store do not contain indigo, they contain PPD. How can they call it natural if it contains p-phenylenediamine? My guess is that although it is toxic and hazardous, p-phenylenediamine is still "natural", as in from a natural source. If you want to dye your hair black, please see the recipe section further down on this page.
Q. Is there any way to know for absolute certain what color my hair will be after dyeing it with henna?
A. Actually no, there's not. That's why it's so vital to do a strand test using hair from your hairbrush before dyeing your entire head. Because henna coats the hair in a transparent coating, results will depend on the original color of your hair, since your natural hair color is the base. So it varies from person to person.
Q. Why can't I perm my hair after treating it with henna?
A. It's all thanks to how henna works. Henna, when applied to the hair, bonds it's tannins to the keratin of the hair follicles on a molecular level. Once bonded, the fiber of the hair is strong, durable and glossy. That's why some people claim it can make split ends disappear. It actually binds with the hair shaft, repairing it. With a protective coating of henna on the hair shaft, it's almost impossible for anything to penetrate it, even chemicals. So, please think carefully before dyeing your hair with henna.
Like pies, cakes and cookies, there are hundreds of recipes for henna, and each are as unique as the person who conceived them! This list is by no means an exhaustive one, and chances are, even if you find a recipe you love and adore, you'll make at least a slight alteration to it over time, making it more suited to your preferences.
Many women add oils to their mix. Some use yogurt instead of lemon juice. For my list, I'm keeping it simple, but feel free to experiment! As long as you do a strand test first, that is. ;)
Classic Henna Recipe: Body art quality henna powder, lemon juice.
It's really that simple. The amount of henna powder you need will depend on your length of hair. The amount of lemon juice will depend on the amount of henna powder. Mix top-quality henna powder with lemon juice until it's the consistency of mashed potatoes. Then, cover it with plastic wrap and let it steep for about 12 hours. Before applying, add more lemon juice until it's the consistency of gravy. Apply to hair, and let it set for 2-4 hours.
Classic Henna Results: (will vary)
Blonde + Classic Henna = Brilliant Red
Gray + Classic Red = Copper Penny
Ash/Dark Blonde + Classic Henna = Red
Red + Classic Henna = To Dye For Red
Medium Brown + Classic Henna = Irish Setter
Dark Brown + Classic Henna = Cherry Wood
Black + Classic Henna = Black with Red Halo (in the sun)
Interested in the Classic Red recipe, but want a gentler color? Substitute half of the henna powder with powdered cassia and viola, tamer red!
Brown Henna Recipe: Two parts body art quality henna and one part indigo powder, lemon juice. Mix in the same way as the Classic Red recipe.
Brown Henna recipe results: (will vary)
Blonde + Brown Henna = Light Brown
Gray + Brown Henna = Light Brown
Ash/Dark Blonde + Brown Henna = Light Brown
Red + Brown Henna = Medium Brown
Medium Brown + Brown Henna = Medium Brown
Dark Brown + Brown Henna = Brown with warm highlights
Black + Brown Henna = Black with warm highlights
Espresso Henna Recipe: One part body art quality henna, two parts indigo powder, lemon juice. Mix in the same way as Classic and Brown.
Espresso Henna Results: (will vary)
Blonde + Espresso Henna = Dark Brown
Gray + Espresso Henna = Dark Brown
Ash/Dark Blonde + Espresso Henna = Dark Brown
Red + Espresso Henna = Dark Brown
Medium Brown + Espresso Henna = Very Dark Brown
Dark Brown + Espresso Henna = Very Dark Brown
Black + Espresso Henna = Warm Black
Raven Henna Recipe: Henna and indigo powders, lemon juice.
First, mix up henna and henna hair exactly as instructed for Classic Red Henna. Then, mix up indigo all by itself and apply to hair. Let indigo set for 1 hour, then rinse. It may take more than one application of the indigo to dye lighter colored hair black, but if you want 100% natural black hair, it's well worth the time invested.
Blonde + Raven Henna = Black
Gray + Raven Henna = Black
Ash/Dark Blonde + Raven Henna = Black
Red + Raven Henna = Black
Medium Brown + Raven Henna = Black
Dark Brown + Raven Henna = Black
Black + Raven Henna = Black
Do you have your own henna mix you'd like to share? If so, please feel free to post it in the comments section. :)
If you're not up for experimenting on your own mixes, there is one brand of 100% safe pre-made henna that I know of, LUSH.
Are there other 100% safe pre-made henna mixes out there? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section.