Orange you glad Henna is only semi-permanent?

julio 12, 2010

Last night I committed a mortal sin. I had shampooed my hair, detangled it and my henna paste was already starting to dye release when I realized I didn’t have any gloves. So, rather than wait another day, I put it in my hair without gloves (hoping that if I applied it quick enough and washed my hands well enough after it wouldn’t stick). Girls, never ever underestimate the power of henna! Now my hands and fingers are stained an orangey, coppery color. Ah well…at least it will only last a few weeks at most (though I really hope it goes away sooner than that…can’t go around looking like I’ve gone untreated for some rare disease). As I’m typing, I’m letting my hair simmer in some Shea Moisture’s Organic Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque (my favorite DC treatment) while my face is covered in bentonite clay (“feel your face pulsate!”). In short, I am a sight to be seen.

maybe it will strengthen my nails?

it's sort of more intense in real life 😦

Henna is one of those things that you either love or you hate. Rarely is there an in between. I am one of those “fortunate” enough to love it…and it loves me! When I first heard of henna being used as a hair treatment as opposed to a skin dye, I admit I was a but skeptical. I was familiar with mehndi, the use of henna to make often elaborate decorations on the skin, a traditional practice in Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, India and Morocco (among other places in the aforementioned regions). I’ve had henna applied to my hands before and have always been fascinated by these beautiful and symbolic mehndi designs. But henna…a thick muddy paste…in my where?

An example of tranditional Mehndi design. Most likely bridal related

I paid 10 Dirham for this (about a dollar) in Morocco

After doing a bit of research at Curly Nikki and the Henna for Hair LJ community, I decided to take my chances and go for it. Here are the pros and cons that everyone should consider before embarking on your first henna adventure:


  • Henna is an amazing conditioner! Use it in place of a DC (deep conditioning) every once in awhile and TRUST, you will see the difference
  • Henna is completely natural and safe–as long as it is pure henna (the only ingredient should be its scientific name, Lawsonia inermis) and has not been mixed with possibly dangerous chemicals (e.g. PPD)
  • In some instances, henna will loosen your curls, making them more manageable and decreasing shrinkage
  • Henna is a safe way to dye your hair, and much more effective than red hair dyes found in a box (see more about color below)
  • Henna has staying power–which means its benefits will last longer than hair dyes and other conditioning treatments


  • Henna does not like metallic salts–so if you’ve recently dyed your hair you may want to wait a bit before applying it
  • Henna cannot be dyed over–if you hate the reddish hue, good luck getting rid of it. at least for awhile
  • Henna can leave your hair dry and dull looking if you don’t properly moisturize before and after the process
  • Henna is messy with a capital M!
  • Henna can be a hassle to apply and keep on for long periods of time (but in my opinion the benefits outway the costs)
  • Henna can be a bit expensive depending on where you get it/how often you use it. and it’s very important that you’re getting it from a reputable source!
  • Henna will make your hair thicker–this may be a con for some people who already have thick heads (I do but I am aiming for a big afro look so it doesn’t bother me..would rather my curls look thick and strong than small and wimpy ;))

Like I said before, henna definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s a committment. Some people don’t have the time and energy to dedicate to the 2 day process it takes for henna applications. But if you’re dreaming of baby soft hair, strong and shiny locks…you can’t find a much better natural source.

What exactly is henna?

Henna is a plant also known by its botanical name Lawsonia Inermis. Henna powder comes from the processed leaves of the henna bush and serves as one of the most effective and longer lasting natural hair dyes. Henna leaves are harvested and then blended with other leaves from different areas/countries (so it’s not uncommon to see something like “yemen blend” etc) The leaves are grounded and sifted–the more finely sifted, the better for body art and a smoother application to the hair.

When henna powder is mixed with an acidic liquid, its internal dye is released in a reddish-brown hue (when mixing henna you’ll now the dye has released when the mixture turns from green to brown). That’s why it’s important to read the ingredients and even the front label. If it reads something along the lines of “black henna”, “mahogany” or “strawberry blonde” it’s most likely been mixed with either another herbal plant (e.g. indigo or cassia) or possibly a dangerous chemical. It’s best to always use pure henna, not a henna compound. If you want to mix in an ingredient to alter the color, add it yourself!

Where can I buy it?

Some people are lucky enough to live in diverse communities that have stores that sell ethnic goods such as henna. You do have to be careful not to pick up any ol’ package of henna though. A lot of people prefer BAQ henna (body art quality), which is supposed to be of superior quality, better dye concentration and super sifted (which is good since you won’t have to pick out any pieces of grass/straw and the like). Three trusted sources are henna for hair (also great for finding out more about henna if you’re having doubts. sooo recommended!!), mehndi skin art (slightly cheaper than the previous site) and butters-n-bars. As a  rule of thumb, if it’s Jamila brand henna, tiene que ser bueno (it has to be good)!

I like my hair color as it is. Will henna make me a red head?

It depends on how dark your hair is. Because henna is natural, it can’t lighten your hair. If anything it will darken it. That means if you have brown hair or black hair you’ll see very little change to the actual color. Perhaps a hint of auburn in the sunlight, otherwise nothing drastic. Don’t worry–you won’t come out looking like a fire engine! If you  have blonde or very light brown hair, you can expect to see a red hue. At first it will look sort of coppery and a bit bozo the clownish (no offense to anyone who likes this color red), but after a few days the color will start to oxidize and bring about a more natural looking red. With each application henna will darken to almost a wine color. Some people mix henna with other natural dyes such as indigo (to make your hair black), amla (keeps the color brown, also helps maintain curl if you’re starting to lose it) or substituite it all together for cassia (virtually colorless, and works a lot like henna but the benefits don’t last as long).

On the other hand, if you have dark hair and you want the red hues to shine through there are a variety of herbs and teas that you can add to your mix to increase the color (see next post for more about mix ins).

I just dyed my hair recently/will want to dye my hair in the future. Can I still use henna?

Again, it depends. If you’ve used or are planning to use a dye with metallic salts it’s best to stay away. Henna can cause your hair to fry or turn an unsightly color if mixed with that compound. Some argue that pure BAQ henna goes fine with most chemical dyes. The only problem is that it’s hard to dye over henna because henna gets into the fibers of your hair instead of simply coating it. In other words, don’t use henna unless you’re ready to commit to it right away and for a semi-extended amount of time.

How do you use it?

Curly Nikki has a great tutorial on how to apply henna to your hair. In my next post I’ll show you the process I use. The basic items you will need are pure henna, an acidic juice to release the dye, optional herbal color enhancers (if you’re focusing on color and not the conditioning effects), and a heavy duty moisturizer to follow up. A lot of people use lemon juice (the kind that comes in a bottle) to let the dye release but I prefer Nikki’s method (she uses green tea) because lemon juice sounds a bit too harsh. If you don’t have lemon juice or green tea you can use orange juice, apple cider vinegar, apple juice, lime juice or white distilled vinegar.

Also check out the LJ community for advice and questions from people who vary from henna pros to beginners.

Does it have a shelf life?

Henna can last for a few months if it’s left in a cool place like a freezer. Left over henna mix from an application can also be frozen and actually holds a stronger dye concentration for the next time you go to use it.

I’ve used henna before but it was too messy/too time consuming. Any alternatives?

You can always try a henna gloss. Basically halve your typical henna recipe, then add in your favorite conditioner to the desired consistency. This is also great for touch ups. I’ve used henna gloss when I didn’t feel like putting in a lot of work and had extra henna sitting in the fridge.

More questions? Let me know and I’ll put my expertise to the test!

2 comentarios to “Orange you glad Henna is only semi-permanent?”

  1. terra88 said

    I heard that it may loosen your curl pattern how is it true and have you experienced that

    • Hi! Sorry I’ve been neglecting this blog and haven’t seen your question. Yes, some people have had their curl pattern loosened. I didn’t experience that though and I henna my hair every 4 months or so. One way to avoid it is to add an ayurvedic herb called amla into your mix. It will also keep your hair brown instead of imparting a reddish color. I like the color though so I always just use henna and actually have started putting hibiscus leaves to brighten the red. I will write an update to this post soon!


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