Saturday, November 28, 2015

Henna hair dye

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now.

My hair has always been a delicate subject to me. I have never dyed my hair and never have I intended to dye it. For some reason I was assuming that I would inherit dark-hair-at-the-age-of-70 from the side of the family that I seem to have inherited all my physical traits, and never have I expected to see gray hair to appear in my twenties, ever. Yet it appeared and as much as aging in general is not a subject that bothers me, that of aging hair had thrown me off balance and really made me contemplate my options.

I am trying to eliminate artificial products from my life as best as I can, so the thought of covering my head with para-phenylenediamine (used in most conventional hair dyes, but also in chemical photographic developing and as a vulcanization compound, scary, right?) was out of the question.

My natural hair color is a deep dark brown, so in the very beginning I was advised to try to color the couple of gray hair that grew out with a green walnut infusion, which made my hair shine, but it did not darken it. Perhaps, had my hair color been lighter, it would have helped, but it left me looking for other options.

Indian women, and their beautiful hair...So inspiring...
I discovered henna, and dozens of articles, tutorials and testimonials later I found Beachcombers on Etsy, a shop owned by a husband and wife, in love with the wonderful ancient art, selling body art quality organic henna powder. And though I was scared to death the very first time I did it (every time I look at this photo it makes me laugh out loud) I grew to love the result and the fact that it lacks chemical components.


I decided to write down my experience, to help those who also debate whether to try it or not. Instead of eating an entire bar of chocolate to calm yourself (like some of us), just read this guide to know what you can expect. There are a couple of important aspects that are good to keep in mind.

1. Quality

Henna is RED. Remember that when you see Henna Hair Dye listed in different colors or hues, and labeled as natural product. These companies are either lying or they are entirely ignorant. The henna leaf  releases a red dye, and blond/black henna dyes are botanically impossible.
When choosing henna it is incredibly important to make sure it is certified organic, and body art quality. This means that it is free of metallic salts and other compounds and so you'll make sure there will not be any cross reactions when applying store bought hair dyes (like you'll end up having smoke come from your hair) or allergic reactions. Organic henna is by no means an allergen.

2. Protect your skin and surroundings

Henna stains everything. Literally everything it touches. So make sure you cover your forehead, ears and neck with a bit of olive/coconut oil and wear clothes that you won't mind ruining accidentally. And use gloves when applying the paste on to your hair.

3. Time

You will want to free up quite a few hours for this purpose. Henna dye takes quite a few hours to set, so depending on the color-intensity you want to achieve, you would have to leave it on your hair anywhere from 2- 7 hours. I usually leave it up for 4 hours. Also, keep your head warm, as the color will set more effectively. I usually wrap my hair in clear plastic wrap and then in to a dark colored towel.

4. Henna will not coat your hair

It is good to know, in advance, that henna will not coat your hair. Instead it builds on your own color. So if you have roots, highlights or just some gray hair, the dye will have an entirely different intensity throughout your hair. And depending on your original hair color it will result in a different kind of red. Basically the lighter your hair is, the more your head will be carrot colored (good to know, blondies!).

5. Orange hair 

If you've washed the mixture out of your hair, dried it, and your hair is orange, don't freak out. It will darken over the next three days. In the beginning it is very bright and intense, but the color deepens as time passes. And what is great about it is, that it does not fade out entirely, so often you'll find it is enough to touch up the roots.



Mixing henna

- organic henna powder
- lemon juice
- essential oil (optional)

For those with a more sensitive skin, you can divide the juice quantity into 50% lemon and 50% orange. The orange juice is less likely to irritate your scalp. Regarding adding essential oils to the henna mixture, this is totally up you. Henna has sort of an algae smell, it is rather powerful, and many find it too much. Personally I have no problem with that, it does not bother me. Yet lately I have been adding a few drops of pure lavender essential oil, and I love the result.

I never follow any particular measurement. I just add citrus juice gradually and stirr well until the mixture becomes the thickness of  mashed potatoes, then I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it for 16-20 hours. Right before applying I add a bit more juice to achieve sort of a thick pancake batter consistency and I add the essential oil.

Another tip that I personally find important is that henna works best on clean hair, so I always wash my hair the day I intend to dye it.


Dying hair with henna is a wonderful alternative to conventional hair dyes. You don't have much color option, but I find it a good compromise, if the dye I choose to use helps and nourishes my hair and gives it such an amazing shine. If someone had told me even just a year ago that I would end up being a red head, I would have laughed at the foolishness of me being anything other than natural walnut brown. But now that I became red(ish), I have to admit, I like it.

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