There are plenty of ways to color your hair. If you’ve become an expert at bleach and dye, you’ll probably grab those off the shelves at your local beauty store.
If you’re younger and want fun fashion colors, you’ll likely gravitate toward dip dye and hair coloring clays.
But if you want a very specific rich, coppery auburn shade in your hair – one that even expensive dyes don’t always get right – you might have heard of a little something called henna.
This natural “dye” is a popular alternative to commercial dyes that can damage the hair.
Although henna might be able to give you that perfect red color you’re seeking (plus a few other benefits for healthier hair), there are also some downsides to using it on your precious tresses.
In this post, we’ll be going through everything you need to know about henna, where it comes from, and what happens to your hair when you use it.
We’ll also look at the advantages and disadvantages of henna for hair.
And we’ll definitely go through how to get yourself out of trouble if coloring your hair with henna doesn’t go as planned.
Table of Contents
What Is Henna?
Don’t just search henna on your favorite online store and add it to your cart right away just because it’s trendy!
You shouldn’t be putting anything on your hair that you don’t fully understand.
So, let’s take a quick look at what henna is in the first place.
Henna is a type of red-orange pigment that’s been used for centuries in Asia and North Africa.
It’s derived from dried leaves from the henna tree, which are then crushed to create a very fine powder.
This power usually looks green in color.
But when mixed with water to create a paste and then applied on hair and skin, it creates a rich, orangey copper tone.
In the olden days, it was used for tattoos, which signified status and prosperity.
It was so sacred that it was used for body ornamentation during wedding ceremonies to wish the newly-weds good fortune in their married life.
It was even used in the mummification process for some Egyptian pharaohs!
Today, there are tons of commercially manufactured forms of henna, but they still pretty much do the same thing.
Younger generations have started experimenting with henna to create faux freckles, but some still use it to color their hair that unique burnt sienna shade that’s hard to perfect and manage.
Derived from Lawsonia inermis, also called the henna tree, Egyptian privet, or mignonette tree, henna dye is prepared by drying the leaves of the henna tree.
They’re first ground into a fine powder, and then mashed into a paste (usually in combination with liquids like water or lemon juice).
Through this process, the staining ingredient in the powdered henna, called lawsone molecules, is released.
This is what allows henna to bind with proteins of the skin or hair to color it.
Henna has historically been harnessed from nature, even as far back as ancient times.
As mentioned earlier, it can be used to create intricate patterns on the skin, or to dye the skin, hair, or even fabrics like silk and leather.
The rise in henna’s popularity can be attributed to its ease of use.
Moreover, the fact that it’s a natural product makes it less harsh on the hair or the skin.
Let’s explore further why henna is gaining traction as a chemical hair dye substitute.
Why Is Henna Used On Hair?
The most popular reason why henna is used on the hair is that it’s a natural hair dye.
So many women today spend hundreds of dollars to have their hair bleached and toned using traditional dyes that can damage their hair.
When abused and used too frequently, these chemicals can make your hair fried and brittle.
So, plenty of people seek out healthier and more natural alternatives that won’t obliterate their hair’s health.
One of these is henna.
Unlike the dyes your stylist uses at the salon, henna doesn’t contain stripping ingredients, like peroxide and ammonia.
These are the chemicals that end up destroying your hair, and sometimes even your scalp.
While bleach and dye force your hair cuticles open so that pigment can penetrate your hair shaft, henna works in a very different way.
Instead of altering the structure of your cuticles, it fills in the cracks and gaps in your strands.
This makes your hair shaft stronger, thicker, and more resilient against damage.
In short, instead of depositing color deep in your hair strands, henna coats the hair.
It leaves your hair intact while adding a protective coating around it.
Sure, using henna might take longer than your usual 30-minute coloring session at the salon, but it’s a much healthier way to color your hair.
The color from henna can last a month or two before fading.
What’s fantastic about it is that it fades gradually.
As you wash it out over time, it blends in nicely with your regrowth, unlike conventional dyes that lead to stark demarcation lines as soon as more hair grows in your natural shade.
Think of henna as some kind of semi-permanent hair dye.
Henna also comes with different benefits, given its organic roots.
For instance, it is believed to aid in the treatment of dandruff and eczema.
It also nourishes the hair by helping it retain moisture.
We shall look into more benefits of using henna below.
Natural henna only creates a red dye for the hair.
While henna stays on the hair for some time, hair dyed using henna is prone to fading after four to s weeks.
This means it lasts for a shorter period compared to chemical hair color treatments.
This is also the case with other natural dyes for the hair – since they do not contain preservatives and other chemicals that let them stay longer in the hair.
However, the good news is that the color fades out gradually, giving a very natural look to the hair.
This also means that you have the option to simply redye your roots to even out the color once more.
As a natural product, it’s also definitely safer to continue color-treating your hair using henna, especially if you’re happy with the color it gives you.
Mixed With Other Ingredients
Although organic henna gives the hair a rich auburn color, commercial henna is sometimes mixed with other ingredients to create other shades.
Others combine the henna they have with black tea or coffee to make the color darker.
Related Post: Can I Leave The Black Tea Rinse In My Hair?
There are the likes of black henna, which is combined with indigo powder to darken the shade.
This also means that you have to practice caution when buying henna products in the market.
They may therefore end up damaging your hair instead.
There’s even something called natural henna, which doesn’t color your hair at all, but only strengthens it and adds shine.
Let’s delve deeper into the advantages and disadvantages that come with using henna for hair.
How To Properly Apply Henna To Your Hair
- Wash your hair with a gentle shampoo to get rid of product build-up.
- Don’t follow up with conditioner this time, as this can keep the henna from binding with your hair.
- Apply a thin layer of coconut oil or Vaseline right on your hairline and ears to prevent any staining.
- Mix two parts henna powder with one part water to create a cream-like consistency.
- If you’re concerned about drying out your hair, add a teaspoon of olive oil to your mixture.
- Stir until you get a smooth paste that feels like mud.
- Apply the henna directly to your hair, going in sections to be organized. Henna doesn’t spread that easily, so take your time distributing it into your hair with your fingers. Make sure every strand is saturated with it. When one section of hair is fully covered in henna, twist it up in a bun. The stickiness will hold it up on your head.
- Cover your hair with a plastic wrap. This traps heat in your hair, allowing the henna to activate.
- Let the henna develop in your hair for 4-5 hours. If you can, wear your hair like that overnight. The longer the henna stays in your hair, the richer the color you get.
- Rinse your hair using cool water, making sure to get rid of every drop of henna. Don’t shampoo your hair – leave it for at least 24 hours before doing so. This allows the color to settle nicely.
- Allow your hair to air-dry or pat dry with a microfiber towel.
Advantages Of Using Henna On Hair
Apart from giving a vibrant, fiery red shade to the hair, henna comes with other amazing benefits that make it a wonderful substitute for chemical hair dyes.
Here are the top benefits that henna offers the hair and scalp:
Repairs And Strengthens Hair
Packed with vitamins and nutrients that are good for the hair, henna boosts the hair’s overall health.
Besides, henna is known to nourish the hair by promoting scalp circulation.
This ensures that your scalp gets all the necessary nutrients and oxygen to remain healthy.
This ultimately strengthens each hair strand, which also means that the hair is less prone to damage and hair fall.
Research has also shown that using henna can help eliminate split ends.
Earlier, I mentioned how it fills in the cracks in your hair to make it thicker and stronger.
In that way, it kind of acts like a protein treatment would.
So, it helps keep split ends and breakage at bay, which is a must for fine, delicate hair.
This can also lead to a significant reduction in hair loss and hair damage.
By coating the hair, henna also makes strands thicker and less susceptible to breakage.
Conditions The Hair And Keeps It Healthy
One underrated benefit of henna on hair is that it softens and conditions it, making it feel silky and smooth to the touch.
This is because henna binds the hair, smoothening out any gaps in your strands that are rough or snag onto each other to create frizz.
Henna is a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant known to boost moisture levels and shine in hair.
Suggested Read: How To Make Vitamin E Oil For Hair Growth
This adds to the softness and overall conditioning of your strands.
To make the most out of henna’s conditioning ingredients, you can take natural henna and put it in a DIY hair mask.
Of course, with an improvement in hair hydration comes the advantage of letting other necessary nutrients penetrate the hair shaft better.
This helps keep the hair in a nourished state.
Ultimately, this improves how the hair looks – it’s softer, silkier, and glossier, without the dreaded frizz or split ends!
A healthier mane also means no tangles to contend with, especially when you have a long day ahead.
Helps With Dandruff And Psoriasis
Henna’s not just great for the hair – it works wonders for the scalp too!
It is known to have antifungal and antimicrobial properties that can help defend your scalp from dandruff.
With its antimicrobial properties, henna inhibits the growth of the fungi touted to cause dandruff, which is malassezia.
Henna also helps fight other microbes or bacteria present in the scalp.
This can help to eliminate a wide range of scalp problems, from acne to psoriasis.
All of these pave the way for a softer scalp.
The soothing properties of henna, then, not only keep dandruff at bay but also get rid of the itching that comes with it.
Suggested Read: How To Use Tea Tree Oil For Dandruff
Balances Oil And pH Levels
Part of why henna can help fight against dandruff – as well as facilitate hair growth – is its ability to balance both oil production and pH levels in the scalp.
Controlling sebum production not only eliminates dandruff – which can come from dirt in the scalp mixing with excess oil – but also ensures the sebaceous glands are functioning normally.
These are just some of the many benefits that henna dyeing can bring the hair.
Stories and anecdotes vary across people, so you might encounter even more benefits once you finally apply henna to your hair.
Aids In Hair Growth
Some people say that henna is also beneficial when you’re trying to grow longer hair.
There is some anecdotal evidence that points to henna’s role in promoting and facilitating hair growth.
There aren’t studies yet to completely confirm this claim.
However, many users of henna say that it does help hasten the growth of their hair.
While this claim is yet to be proven, though, what we do know is that henna strengthens your locks, thus preventing hair fall and shedding.
This can help provide the perception of fuller hair that grows quickly.
This may also be part of why people believe henna helps in growing hair.
Many believe that henna also helps prevent premature graying in the hair.
This is because henna is rich in tannin, a biomolecule found in plants that helps keep your hair color rich and solid.
If you’re older and want to extend your natural hair color for as long as possible, henna might be your new best friend!
Disadvantages Of Henna For Hair
While henna is an incredible option, especially for people who want a shorter commitment to dyeing their hair, it’s not without its drawbacks.
Let’s examine these disadvantages to better inform ourselves if we should try out henna dyes for our hair.
Applying Henna Can Be Messy And Difficult
Using henna can be a daunting process especially because of how difficult applying it yourself can be.
Henna takes a mud-like consistency when made into a paste and applied to the hair.
This means it can be difficult to ensure that everything is coated properly.
Some of the henna can also fall into your forehead, arms, or all around the place of application.
Henna also stains everything – it can stain your fingernails, your hands, and even the shirt you are wearing.
Thus, mixing that with its penchant for getting everywhere can be stressful.
It is advisable therefore to use rubber gloves when dyeing the hair with henna.
You should also use shirts and towels you wouldn’t mind getting dye on.
Lastly, henna needs some time to stay in the hair to ensure it effectively coats and dyes the hair.
That can take up your day, not to mention, also limit your ability to do things around the house.
It Can Result In Uneven Coloring
Due to the difficulty that comes with applying henna by yourself, you may also have a hard time ensuring all strands are evenly coated.
Given its thick consistency, it’s less easy to apply all over the hair, unlike chemical dyes.
Using all-natural henna also means that you don’t know what color you really will be ending with after application – will you get a very vibrant shade of red, or will it simply give your hair a red tint given the proper lighting?
We really don’t know.
Using henna thus needs a lot of experimentation on your end.
You’ll have to look for the perfect amount to use, and the correct ratio of henna and other natural dyes (if you’re mixing it with other dyes) to ensure that you achieve your desired hair color.
Even application time and preparation time can be factors affecting your final hair color.
Think through this before you begin the application process.
Color Correcting Can Be Difficult
If you do end up unhappy with the resulting color from applying henna to your hair, you may find yourself unable to immediately correct your hair color using commercial dyes.
Since henna covers hair strands, it might take some time before chemical hair dyes are able to penetrate your hair and change its color and color over your current henna-dyed hair.
In other cases, using store-bought henna can also cause extremely bad reactions with commercial hair dyes.
Henna dyes bought in stores are sometimes mixed with other compounds to produce other colors, and some of them have metallic salts present.
When these salts react with chemicals in commercial dyes, like ammonia, the typical consequence is your hair smokes from their reaction, which is definitely not a good sign.
It is also not recommended to use henna over chemically-treated hair, especially if you’ve only recently dyed your hair, as similar reactions can occur.
Make sure to be honest with your hairdresser about this, so you can avoid potential damage.
Darkens Hair Over Time
Successive applications of henna to the hair can also cause it to assume a darker color over time.
This is especially true if you try to apply henna when a previous dye application is starting to fade.
A good option is to simply apply it on your roots to even out your hair color, rather than reapplying henna to the whole hair shaft.
It’s important to note that henna does not lighten the hair.
It simply wraps around your current hair strands, meaning you get a color that incorporates the henna dye’s shade into your current hair color.
These are just a few of the disadvantages that using henna dyes can bring.
Depending on your hair structure and sensitivity, you may also end up experiencing fewer or more downsides to using henna dye.
It’s best to do a patch test first on some hair strands to determine if using a henna dye is good for you.
Who Is Henna Most Suitable For?
Henna works well with most – if not all hair types.
But because it does a good job of filling in gaps in the hair and thickening up the strands, it’s best for highly porous hair.
Suggested Read: How To Fix High Porosity Hair
So, if you have severely damaged hair and have been advised not to dye or bleach your hair again, henna might be a good option for you.
These properties would also be highly beneficial to those with fine, low-density hair.
Henna can help make your hair lusher and thicker, creating a feeling of volume and body in the hair.
Those with curly hair can enjoy the many benefits of henna.
But a word of caution – your curls might not be as tight or springy after using henna.
This is because henna can weigh the hair down a little.
If you’re looking for a way to color your hair and loosen up your spirals, it’s a fantastic option.
Low porosity hair has a possibility of having a rough time with henna.
Because there are little to no gaps and “pores” in low porosity hair, it might not take the dye that well.
You might end up with a patchy, uneven color.
However, using natural henna to add extra shine to the hair might be good for it still.
How To Fix Dry Hair Post-Henna
If you used henna to color your hair and are now experiencing dry, brittle hair, don’t worry.
I have some tips that can help you get your mane back in shape:
Use glycerin or aloe vera gel as a natural leave-in conditioner, especially on days when you’re feeling extra dry.
These humectants can boost hydration in the hair, making it feel soft and conditioned once more.
Recommended Post: Humectants For Low Porosity Hair
Hot Oil Treatment
Give yourself a hot oil treatment or pre-poo with nourishing oils, like olive oil and avocado oil.
Not only will they moisturize your parched strands, but they’ll deepen and enrich your new color even more.
Reduce Shampooing Frequency
Don’t wash your hair that often.
Shampooing your hair can strip it of the natural oils that keep it hydrated and shiny.
Now that you have colored hair, wash your hair every few days, not daily.
Henna can be intimidating and tricky to master, especially for first-timers.
But as long as you take everything above to heart, apply it properly, and do the right aftercare, you can get sultry red locks with henna unscathed.
The best part is you won’t be damaging your hair like you would with traditional dyes!
Or maybe you’re interested in getting into henna because of its other benefits, like plumping up your hair and making it thick and strong.
Maybe you’re in it for the hair growth aspect, too.
Using henna for the hair is definitely packed with benefits that are sure to attract you into trying it out.
However, you should also take note of the disadvantages of henna for hair.
After all, we wouldn’t want to be sad over how our hair turns out, especially when using henna was initially such an exciting prospect!
Hopefully, this post helps you make an informed decision before taking the first step toward your hair color journey using henna dyes.
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