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Chemical-Free Hair Color: How to Use Henna to Dye Your Hair

I'm a registered nurse and nutrition enthusiast. I love spreading information to encourage people to improve their health and their lives.

Henna on dark brown hair gives a dark auburn color.

Henna on dark brown hair gives a dark auburn color.

What Is Henna?

Henna is often used for tattooing, but you may not know that it has also been traditionally used for dying hair. Henna, or Lawsonia inermis, is a plant that releases a red-orange dye in response to acids. When used to dye hair, it combines with your natural hair color, converting dark brown hair into dark auburn, and blonde hair into a true redhead color.

Henna is not harsh and does not fade, and it leaves your hair stronger, thicker, and shinier. An added bonus—particularly for those with naturally curly hair—is that henna will leave your hair silky and frizz-free!

What’s Wrong With Commercial Hair Dyes?

Many store-bought hair dyes are full of harsh chemicals and ingredients such as ammonia that can wreak havoc on your hair. In order to dye the strands of hair, they destroy the hair shaft so the color can enter.

Although the hair may initially look better afterward since dyes often contain conditioners, chemical hair dyes can be very hard on your tresses. Over time, this can make hair weaker and more brittle, and most hair dyes tend to fade from that luscious color to a dull color that makes your hair and skin look older and more lifeless.

Beware of Store-Bought Henna

Many forms of henna that you find in stores contain little to no henna. These products will claim to dye your hair red, black, or brown, but may contain harsh ingredients and other forms of dye. True henna will only dye your hair red. You will probably have the best luck finding body art quality henna online from a trusted site.

Henna tested on a section of hair

Henna tested on a section of hair

I used 300 grams of Punjabi Prime henna from mehandi.com.

I used 300 grams of Punjabi Prime henna from mehandi.com.

Adding lemon juice to the henna

Adding lemon juice to the henna

Steps for Dying Your Hair With Henna

Using henna to dye your hair can be a long and sometimes confusing process, but the color and hair benefits are well worth the mess! If you are unsure of the permanent color that henna will give you, you can do a strand test on a small section of your hair or even test on hair collected from your hairbrush.

The first step toward using henna to dye your hair is finding high-quality henna. It is very doubtful that you will find high-quality henna at a store, so it is best to find a website that specializes in pure body-art-quality henna, such as Mehandi.com.

Here is a complete list of everything you will need for dying your hair with henna:

  • Pure body art quality henna
  • Lemon juice
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • A mixing bowl and spoon
  • Plastic wrap
  • Old clothes
  • Water
  • Shampoo and lots of conditioner

Step 1: Measure out your high-quality henna.

I recommend ordering online from a trusted website, as store-bought henna can contain fillers and ingredients that will damage your hair. I used 300 grams of henna for my below shoulder-length hair. 100 grams will dye short hair, and long hair will need 500 grams.

Step 2: Mix in lemon juice.

You must be sure to mix in enough lemon juice to make the mixture a mashed-potato consistency. Be sure to mix thoroughly so that all the henna comes in contact with the lemon juice. The acidity of lemons will cause the henna powder to start releasing the red-orange dye.

Cover the henna mixture with plastic wrap to let it sit for 12 hours

Cover the henna mixture with plastic wrap to let it sit for 12 hours

Add water until the mixture is a yogurt consistency.

Add water until the mixture is a yogurt consistency.

Wear gloves since henna will stain your skin!

Wear gloves since henna will stain your skin!

Step 3: Cover the mixture and leave it overnight.

Your mixture should sit for about 12 hours. The henna will be releasing the most dye after this time period.

Step 4: Add water until the consistency is like yogurt.

This will make the mixture spreadable enough to cover all of your hair.

Step 5: Using gloves, spread the mixture into your hair layer by layer.

Cover all your hair generously. This is where it is very important to wear gloves, because the henna will stain your hands orange! You should also wear old clothes that you do not mind getting stained. Try to avoid the skin around your scalp as much as possible. Any stains that you may get on your skin will fade within a couple of days.

Step 6: Cover your hair with plastic wrap.

Depending on the length of your hair, this should be done after twisting it all on top of your head. You can also wrap a towel or T-shirt over the plastic to hold in more heat and release more dye. You will need to leave your hair wrapped up with the henna for 3–4 hours to give the dye molecules time to enter the hair shaft and combine with your natural hair color.

Step 7: Thoroughly rinse your hair.

This step can take a while. Try using a cheap lighter conditioner to help wash the henna out of your hair, as using too much shampoo can dry your hair out.

Step 8: Style your hair as usual.

Your red color will leave your hair shinier, stronger, and thicker. The red color will darken over the next few days. Henna can also be used to touch up your roots. Enjoy your new gorgeous color!

Henna combines with your natural hair color. When used on dark brown hair, it forms a dark auburn color.

Henna combines with your natural hair color. When used on dark brown hair, it forms a dark auburn color.

Other Natural Hair Dyes

Other dye-releasing plants can be combined with henna to form colors besides red.

  • Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) is often used along with henna to dye hair jet black.
  • Amla (Emblica officinalis) can be used with henna and indigo to dye hair different shades of brunette.
  • Cassia (Cassia obovata) releases a golden yellow dye that is used to brighten up dark hair or make blonde hair more golden.

No matter what color combination you choose, you can rest assured that these natural dyes will be gentle and very beneficial for your delicate hair.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 AnniesHealthTalk

Comments

Taty on November 24, 2016:

From my experience, the best quality henna can be bought at an Indian grocery store and to get darker colors (up to a black color) you have to add indigo powder (also from Indian store) in different proportions. Although - never use indigo powder by itself - your hair WILL turn blue or green!

Rosalind on September 22, 2014:

Thank for you sharing, last week, I buy hair weft from www.lokshair.com, I want to dye it like that.

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