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How to Dye Your Grey Hair With Henna

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I love to dye my hair all colors of the rainbow. I love all things vintage, and I enjoy creating art, taking photos, and doing it myself.

Cover up that grey hair with henna instead of box dye!

Cover up that grey hair with henna instead of box dye!

Use All-Natural Henna Hair Dye to Color Your Hair

I’ve been doing at-home hair coloring for nearly 10 years now—with every type of dye under the sun. More recently, it’s been a lot of bleach and semi-permanent hair dye for fun colors. When my roots grow out, I start to notice how many greys have come in—and then it’s a mad dash to grab some more color.

Some people rock the grey hair, but there are many who also seek to cover it up. If that’s you, add henna to your list of dyes to consider. When your hair starts to grey, it tends to get wiry and brittle, so permanent dyes with chemicals dry it out further. The great thing about henna dye is that it is natural! The henna process has multiple steps, so make sure to read the whole tutorial below before starting.

What Does Henna Dye Do?

First of all, let’s talk about what you’re able to do with henna. Henna dye will only add color to your hair, therefore darkening it. If you’re looking to go lighter, that will absolutely not be possible with henna.

Henna shades are a mixture of different powders. The ratio can be pre-mixed, or you can use your own ratio to achieve different shades. The powders you’ll use are:

  • Henna powder: This provides warm red and orange tones.
  • Indigo powder: This contains blue and green tones and will neutralize henna's warmth to create varying shades of brown.

This tutorial will be based on dyeing gray hair brown with Moroccan Method International henna powder. They also have red, black, and blonde (this will not lighten, only enhance blonde hair) henna. The instructions for using red, black, and blonde henna are different—they actually have fewer steps as you are only working with one form of powder.

This is what henna paste looks like when mixed.

This is what henna paste looks like when mixed.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Dye Your Hair With Henna

Tools Needed

  • Two non-metal mixing bowls
  • Non-metal mixing spoon
  • Plastic wrap or shower cap
  • Gloves
  • Towel
  • Measuring cup

Ingredients

  • Brown henna: One package of henna powder, and one package of indigo powder,
  • 2 cups black tea: Strongly brewed and cooled down.
  • Apple cider vinegar OR freshly squeezed lemon juice: This is if you’d like to deepen the color (max 3 tablespoons).
  • 1 cup filtered warm water
  • Optional clove, ginger, or cinnamon: To mask the strong smell of henna.
  • Optional Euro Oil: To add moisture back into the hair (max 3 teaspoons).

Instructions

  1. Add the brown henna powder to one of the bowls. The smell is terrible, so at this point, you may want to also mix in cinnamon, clove, or ginger. For a deeper tone, add in no more than three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice. Be careful how much of these ingredients you mix; they have drying effects on the hair. They also increase how long you need to wait for the dye to release.
  2. Slowly add in black tea, stirring it into the powder. Do not add all two cups at once. Gradually add more and more until the mixture is the consistency of pudding or yogurt. Ideally, it should not be runny. If you lift up the spoon, you do not want it to drip, but the mixture should be easily spreadable.
  3. If you added vinegar or lemon juice, you may want to also drop in some Euro Oil at this point. It will help combat the drying effects of the henna but use no more than three teaspoons. Adding oil also dilutes the mixture and will increase the amount of time you need to wait for the dye to release. If you add too much oil, the dye may not stick to your hair.
  4. Now, let it sit. Cover the bowl with wrap and set it aside for 8–12 hours while the dye releases (this may take up to 12 hours if you added in ACV/lemon juice and oil). As it gets close to the 8-hour mark, you should notice the color changing on the top of the mixture to a brown-red tone.
  5. Next, get out another clean bowl and add the indigo powder. Take the warm water and add it in slowly, again until the mixture is a pudding or yogurt consistency.
  6. Mix the contents of the two bowls together. If the consistency is too thick, add in a bit of warm water until it’s like pudding again. You’ll want to use this mixture immediately on dry hair—do not let it sit! Your hair does not have to be freshly shampooed, but it shouldn’t be caked with products or oil either. Ideally, you want to use henna a day after a wash.
  7. At this point, you’ll want to apply oil around your hairline to prevent staining, and drape a towel around your shoulders. Apply the dye quickly and thoroughly working with small sections of hair, making sure to evenly coat each section.
  8. Once the dye is applied, wrap your head with plastic wrap or put on a shower cap. The goal here is to keep the dye wet. It will not work if it dries out. You’ll want to leave the mixture in for 1–4 hours, but don’t go crazy and leave it overnight because it will likely dry and clump in your hair.
  9. Rinse out the mixture with warm water, using conditioner if necessary. Do not shampoo for at least 24 hours! Your new dye should last for 8–12 weeks.
Ingredients you'll need to dye your hair with henna.

Ingredients you'll need to dye your hair with henna.

Which Henna Is Best for Grey Hair?

Honestly, any shade of henna can work great for covering grey hair, especially if you add a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to make the color more intense. Blonde and light brown henna can have similar effects that a toner would on blonde hair. The henna blends out the grey so it doesn't look as noticeable once grey roots start coming in. The lighter colors would definitely be easier if you have a full head of grey hair and want to do less upkeep.

That being said, traditional red, black, or brown work as well. Just check the reviews and before and after photos for the brand you choose if you want to be sure. The darker colors will definitely need upkeep if you’re working with a full head of grey hair—silver roots will definitely be noticeable.

This is what the dye should look like during the application process.

This is what the dye should look like during the application process.

FAQs

Is Henna Dye Good for Grey?

Yes! While the apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can be drying, it’s still preferable to harsh chemicals and ammonia that are present in normal box dyes. All of the ingredients in henna dye are natural, which is much better for greying, coarse, and brittle hair.

Can You Mix Box Dye With Henna?

Not always. Here’s why… Some henna dyes have metallic salts in them. These can enhance or change the color. They are fine on their own but start a chemical reaction when combined with the ammonia in hair dye. Your hair can quite literally start smoking and melt. If you have previously used henna dye and would like to revert back to box dye for whatever reason, wait at least four weeks after the initial henna process.

Now, if you wanted to put henna over previously dyed hair, it has the potential to turn green. This depends on the amount of additives in the dye and how much indigo you use. Some say that the greenish tone will fade out after a few days once the dye settles in, but you should always do a strand test just in case.

Before and after a henna application on grey hair.

Before and after a henna application on grey hair.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips to consider before dying your hair.

  • You may have to apply more than once for darker colors. Dark brown, dark red, and black can sometimes need extra applications. You can apply as often as you’d like.
  • Make sure your henna powder does not contain PPD (paraphenylenediamine). It can be very harmful to both hair and skin.
  • Don’t apply on dirty hair. If your hair is oily or covered in product, it can block the henna from absorbing into your hair and make the color fade quickly.
  • Follow the instructions for your brand. Not all henna dyes are created equal! This is the recommended process for Moroccan Method International—some dyes may recommend a shorter process.
  • The color will darken for 2–3 days. After you rinse the dye out of your hair, it will continue to develop over the course of a few days. Don’t be alarmed! It’s just like a henna tattoo.

Warnings:

Henna Can Permanently Change Your Hair!

There are a couple of warnings to do with henna. First of all, it is a permanent dye. It will fade over time, but it will not completely leave your hair. The only way to truly be rid of it is to grow out your hair and cut it. Otherwise, you can continue to dye your hair with henna or wait at least four weeks and use permanent hair dye.

Henna Can Loosen Naturally Curly Hair

The next change affects those with curly hair. Henna has been known to loosen curl patterns. If you’re planning to use henna on curly hair, you can use alma powder to help retain some of the texture. Alma powder will also cool down the red tones in the dye.

This is the henna dye this tutorial is based on.

This is the henna dye this tutorial is based on.

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.

Comments

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 26, 2021:

This is a nice article and informative. I have never used Henna but many I know do.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on March 26, 2021:

I have heard of henna dye before but I have never used it. This is a really good guide as well. The tips you mention about adding the spices and apple cider is good too.

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