After years of using chemical dye to try and maintain red hair I started using henna. It made a world of difference because I had thin, fine hair and it strengthened it. My hair became thicker, stronger and shiny and I have used henna ever since.
Henna is something that is often over complicated. It get’s processed and unnecessary ingredients get used and you end up with something containing metallic salts and your hair turns green. I wouldn’t recommend using any of those kinds of henna with added chemicals. It doesn’t need much more than lemon juice to activate it and I generally keep it that simple. Occasionally I add paprika to slightly alter the color but most of the time I just use henna powder, lemon juice and water.
There are natural ways to slightly adjust the color of your henna. Paprika seems to make my hair a little more copper. Coffee and rosemary will darken it slightly and chamomile tea is used to make it a bit lighter. If you add amla you will get a brunette color and indigo can be used for black hair dye. Whatever the starting color of your hair is will also factor in because henna does not dye over your hair color it binds to the protein in your hair and blends with whatever hair color you are starting with.
So this is the henna I am using and I get it from HennaforHair.com
It is a plant based green powder like this.
If you have hair that has been dyed with chemicals a natural henna like this is safe to use but a henna with added chemicals will probably turn your hair green so make sure you know what you have got. I usually add about a half a cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice, some people use apple cider vinegar. I have also tried citric acid powder but the color did not come out as nice.
You want to mix it until it is a thick slippery sort of paste, After all of the lemon juice is added then use as much water as you need to get it to this consistency. I usually use a fork to mash it up.
After it is all mixed cover it with plastic wrap and set it in a warm spot for 24 hours. After this point you will need to have plastic gloves on at all times when touching it or else you will dye the skin on your hands. I generally place it on the warm stove after I cook something or while I am baking something, or just near the heater overnight if it’s winter the gentle heat helps the dye release. When I lived in the desert I could get the dye to release in a matter of hours if I set the bowl on the porch when it was 100 degrees. The mild acid of the lemon, vinegar, tea or coffee is also essential for the dye to release.
After 24 hours you should see the surface of the mix has darkened in color slightly and it has lost its green for a bit of brownish red color from the dye. At this point you want to add water at about 1/8 – 1/4 of a cup at a time and mix well before adding more, henna absorbs water strangely so it takes a bit of mixing each time you add water. You want it to be the consistency of yogurt or pudding.
Apply lotion to all of the skin along your hair line, neck, shoulders and face, let it soak in and then apply another layer. Henna will not dye cotton or counter tops or bath tubs or floors but it will dye hair, skin, wool and other animal based stuff. It’s ok to get some on the floor or the counter or on the towels or a cotton t-shirt it will wipe off like it’s mud.
Ok so glove up and smoosh the henna into your hair. It is messy so I recommend keeping the mix on the thick side, you will want to keep this in your hair for at least 4 hours so you don’t want it dripping all over. Use a lot of this stuff, it’s thick so really put a lot on there.
Then I usually take a roll of plastic wrap and just sort of… plastic wrap my head, then wrap a towel around my head, this keeps heat in and catches any escaping henna. This is where I generally watch a science fiction movie from the 1960’s or old episodes of Batman until 4 hours have gone by. If it is uncomfortable and bothersome or more drippy than I want I just take a 4 hour nap. You can leave the dye on for longer, some people do, I find that I get the color I want after roughly 4 hours and leaving it longer doesn’t seem to give me better color.
After 4 hours rinse this out of your hair kneeling at the bottom of your bathtub or in the sink( it will save you some shower cleaning time) until most of it is out of your hair and then get in the shower and wash the rest out. Whatever method you use to wash your hair you will need to repeat it about three times because mud has been drying in your hair for 4 hours. Once you have all of the mud out of your hair and off your scalp and skin don’t waste your time getting the bits of lemon out of your hair… it’s easier to remove when it’s dry.
Let your hair dry completely then brush it a lot. You will also loose a bit more hair just like when you use chemical dye, the slightly acidic mud releases hairs that are going to be falling out soon by removing the build up still holding them in place so expect a small bit of shedding. This is part of why I let it air dry completely before brushing it at all. Once it is completely dry the last of the lemon bits will slide right out. Here’s the color (with lemon bits) right out of the shower.
And with it dried and brushed.
This particular henna also cover’s grey hair really well. It will be very orange at first, this will darken over a three day period as oxidization happens. After roughly three days you will have the final darker color of your hair.
While you are waiting for your hair to dry it’s a good time to use some sort of exfoliant on any skin that has dye marks on it, it should come off pretty easily if you applied a good amount of lotion to your skin before hand and wiped away any spills and drips.
The red will fade much slower than a chemical dye and it wont fade to different colors like chemical dyes can.
For color comparison here is a picture I took of my hair from when I made Coconut Rye hair wash, (I had rye in my hair for this picture before the brush out) You can see my natural hair color is the first inch or so of growth from my scalp.
Also after about 4 years of henna every 2-3 months this is what the length of my hair looks like about three months after the last time I used henna. Every time you henna your hair again the color becomes stronger and deeper.