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Tips for Dying Hair Effectively With Henna

Updated on September 27, 2011

I've been dying my hair red for quite a while. I've also worked as a self-employed henna artist for many years. And pretty recently I began dying my hair red with henna, and found that it is the most effective, permanent, and non-damaging red hair dye I've ever used! Here are some tips for mixing your own henna hair dye and tweaking the dye to get the color you want.

For absolutely excellent henna products, advice, etc, go to It's where I get all my supplies for my business--their products are always of the highest quality, and their prices are often unbelievably good.

Start with henna powder

Don't use a pre-mixed paste! These pastes that you can buy in supermarkets are usually mixed incorrectly; also, once henna powder has been mixed it has to be refrigerated (or better, frozen) to retain its ability to color hair and skin for any length of time.

A lot of people will tell you to use body art quality henna, and it's true that doing so will give you a more reliable color that might be more vibrant, but lower quality henna will also work and will be cheaper. I mixed high and low quality stuff last time, and it worked quite well.

Mix it up!

Here's a basic recipe for hair henna:

Henna powder - amount varies based on length of hair; 4-5 oz should be enough for hair that falls a little past the shoulders and isn't unusually thick.

Lemon juice - enough to make a thick paste (it does not need to be fresh squeezed). This provides the acid that the henna needs to release its dye.

Essential oil - about 2 tsp. Certain essential oils act as "terps" in henna, strengthening the dye. Some effective essential oils are lavender, cajeput and tea tree. Always use high quality, pure essential oils.

Tweak your mix to get the perfect color

I always want my hair to be super red, so here are the additives I use to achieve that:

Red wine - replace about a quarter of your lemon juice with a dark red wine; wine is acidic, so it helps with dye release, and it will add richness to your color. Use the cheapest stuff you can find--you just want the color and acid.

Brandy - a couple of tablespoons will help deepen your color.

Cinnamon and/or paprika - a few tablespoons of these lovely red spices will enhance your color as well.

For a more golden result:

Strong chamomile tea - again, replace a little of your lemon juice with this

Turmeric - if you've seen what this stuff can do to a plastic cutting board, you know it dyes like crazy!

Mix the henna powder, lemon juice and your various additions until you have a nice, thick, non-drippy paste; then add the essential oil. You will want to let this mixture sit for at least a couple of hours for the dye to release fully; press plastic wrap onto the top of the paste, squeezing out air bubbles, and leave in a warmish place to aid dye release.


Next, wet your hair with warm water, don some latex or nitrile gloves (this stuff WILL stain your skin), and start working the mix into your hair, front to back. You may want to apply some hand cream or vaseline to your hairline before doing this so that you don't end up with patches of orange skin.

Once your hair is full of brown goop, it's time to make yourself look even sillier! Henna dyes best when it's warm, so it works really well to wrap your head in plastic wrap while the paste is on there. Yes, you will look crazy, but it's for a good cause.

Leave the paste on for a couple of hours at least, depending on how long you let the dye release before you applied it; I find that a total dye release time of 4-7 hours works well. Some people sleep with the dye in, but they must be wizards if they don't get it all over their bedclothes.

Happy coloring! I'll be posting soon about mixing and applying your own body art henna, because that's an art form everyone should get to enjoy.


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    • profile image

      Jessica 20 months ago

      I knew adding lemon was helpful, but I never knew it was good to add so much! I've only been adding about 1tbsp lemon juice and the rest of my liquid is coffee. My color always comes out really pretty, I leave it in for 8 hours, and since my hair is blonde naturally, I usually go back and do the roots again for 4 hours the next day.

      I'll have to try with the higher lemon concentration, maybe then I won't have to leave it on for so long to keep from looking like a high lighter attacked my hair!

    • profile image

      maylee 2 years ago

      Hi high Hoffmann g huh mbhnm

    • profile image

      lynn 4 years ago

      I was concerned about metals in henna, some people say that the metals are harmful for your health

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Oh, thank you very much for your informative hub. I specifically searched for "red henna" and found your hub with all of these wonderful tips. I use red henna to dye my grey hairs. I only leave it on long enough to dye the grey hair so I have red highlights with my dark brunette hair. It works wonders. Your additional tips help me get even greater results from the henna process. Thank you, again... so much.