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How to henna african american hair

Updated on July 10, 2009

The basics.

Henna (Lawsonia inermis) has been used all over the world for centuries for not only skin decoration but as a wonderful hair treatment. I’ve been hennaing my hair for a little over two years and would like to share with you how and why I do it.

The reason I began hennaing my hair in the first place was to take the place of my frequent hair dying. As a woman with relaxed hair, I wanted some new color but didn’t want to continue using drying dyes. I found henna.

Before I go on I want to warn you about a few things.

Never ever use anything called compound henna on previously chemically treated hair. That means if you’ve ever dyed your hair, relaxed it, gotten a perm only use body art quality henna. Failing to take care not to use compound henna can cause burns and hair loss. An easy way to tell compound henna from body art quality henna is that often times compound henna will say things like, “blonde henna” “black henna” etc.

Body art quality does not come in colors per se. Compound henna has added metallic salts and chemicals to change the color of the henna and you don’t want that.

Now if you aren’t certain about your henna harvest some hair from combs and brushes, mix up a tiny amount and put the hair into it for 4-10 hours rinse it and see the results. If you don’t like what you see don’t use it.

Also, as with anything you put on your body, please do what’s commonly called a patch test first. Mix a little bit of henna and apply to a small area of skin to make sure you’re not allergic to it.


Okay let’s get to mixing.

You will need henna. I use Jamila henna but you can use bulk henna or any other brand of henna that is marked as body art quality. I have very thick just past shoulder length henna and I use about 100 grams of henna.

Next you will need some cheap conditioner. The key thing to look for is something low cost (I buy White Rain Tropical Coconut conditioner at the dollar store) and moisturizing. You'll need this for your rinse.

You'll also need a plastic or ceramic bowl. I use plastic tubs like these with lids. You can even use recycled butter tubs etc as long as you have a lid. Generally I like using a container that is bigger than I think I'll need in order to contain the mess.

You'll also need some oil. I usually use Extra Virgin Olive oil, you can also use Jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil etc.

Hot water (I prefer to use near boiling)


Plastic Shower cap.

Now before you get started, lay down some papertowels or newspaper around your work area because mixing henna can be messy.

First off start your water heating up and while that's going put your powdered henna into your bowl. I use a spatula to stir it with and after your henna is in the bowl make a little depression in the middle to keep you from splashing yourself. Once your water is at almost a near boil start pouring it into your henna little by little.

Mix very well until your henna is a nice batter consistency. Make sure you mix it well and check for lumps until you end up with a nice smooth but not runny texture. Put the lid on your container and leave it out overnight.

Prior to applying your henna I have found it easiest to detangle my hair and section it off in 6-8 sections using small ponytail holders. Now you're ready to start applying your henna.

Right before applying your henna add in a few tablespoons of your chosen oil and mix well.

Apply your henna to each section of hair from root to tip. Be sure to cover it well. To keep hair organized and out of the way I use plastic clips like these to hold sections away from my face and to keep the hair that I haven't hennaed yet clear of my hands.

Once you've got your hair all covered to not try to comb it. Gently pile hair together and slide your shower cap on. Now if you like you can start your clean up now. Use warm water and soap to remove any spots from the counter or floor.

I like to leave my henna on for 4-5 hours or so. If you're worried about drips you can wrap a scarf around your shower cap and go on about your business.

Next up get ready to rinse. Grab your conditioner. Very carefully loosen the henna with your fingers under warm running water. I like to rinse the bulk of henna out this way. The easiest thing to do is to use a sprayer in the sink. If your sink doesn't have one attached you can easily find one like this to use. Also if you live somewhere with not great water pressure, or you don't have a large hot water heater these are excellent to have around for hair care.

Now that you've rinsed out the bulkier bit, saturate your hair with the cheap conditioner. Work it in gently with your fingertips and rinse. Then do it again. Keep using the conditioner to saturate and rinse your hair until you don't feel much more henna in it. If you're hair is natural I highly suggest doing this a few extra times just to be sure.

Once you're all done doing this, go ahead and deep condition your hair as usual. This method allows for some color release from the henna. For more color release you can experiment with your mix by adding dark coffee for a more brown tint, for a more red tint try adding a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt or even some red tea.

For African Americans or anyone with coarser hair, curly hair or hair that's prone to dryness I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to make sure you deep condition and moisturize your hair once you're done hennaing.

This is one of the things that I love about using henna. I can satisfy my urge to dye my hair, give my hair an excellent protein treatment and I find it really fun to do.

Feel free to ask me any questions. Happy Hennaing.

Watch my video on how to henna

My hair-after shots.

Here are a few shots that capture the color variations and overall health of my hair.
Here are a few shots that capture the color variations and overall health of my hair.


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    • profile image

      Cameren 5 years ago

      Hi I was wondering if there was a type of henna that gave you the jet black look ???

    • profile image

      kiki 5 years ago

      i think for people with jet black hair, it takes a few applications to actually see the color, but one see can the highlights under sunlight. also it helps to let the henna mixture sit for about an hour or so before applying.

    • profile image

      kaily 5 years ago

      hi , my hair is jet black naturally , and when I used henna , it still remained black ! what can I do ?

    • profile image

      Ahmed Muhammed 6 years ago

      Thanks for the article, I've been trying to figure out how to use henna as a beard dye, I don't have any grey hair, it's a muslim tradition, but I found your article very interesting, and helpful thank you.

    • profile image

      meme 6 years ago

      thx a lott, it really helped and what a GREAT article:)

    • profile image

      mimi 6 years ago

      i heard that Henna should never be used on relaxed hair, and hair that has been treated with henna should not be relaxed i read this on an article on the internet but is it true

    • profile image

      Jasmin 7 years ago

      Why cheap conditioner does it matter i have dove fuzz would that mess up my hair

    • profile image

      franky 7 years ago

      i have perm hair and i always have breaking hair but am so curious to do it but my problem is this, i put relaxer on my hair 5weeks ago, can i still henna my hair now?

    • profile image

      Tjohnson 7 years ago

      I am thinking about trying it! Thanks for the input!

    • profile image

      girlie girl 7 years ago

      I have been using henna for several years now, its healthier for your hair and you get color without chemicals! Also its great for grey coverage

    • profile image

      Jmont 7 years ago

      where can i buy the jamila brand henna?

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L. Cronkite 7 years ago from Maine

      Great article Shannon, I am also a woman of color and have been using henna for years, as a matter of fact I have a henna pack on my head now with 2 plastic bags and a big turban towel covering my hair. I'm so happy to see that more people are using henna instead of chemical dyes. My hair has improved in texture and strength so much from henna and thank you for warning people about the dangers of compound henna on relaxed hair. Keep up the good work!

    • Theblackorean2010 profile image

      Theblackorean2010 7 years ago from ORIGINALLY: H-Town AT THE MOMENT: South Korea

      I have never heard of using henna for your hair. I love the article and the way you put your video together...thanks for the info! I will have to try this once I get back to the states.