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An Introduction to Henna for Natural Hair

• Nov 30, 2008


henna, lawsonia inermis, is a plant found in the middle east, africa and india
• known for decorating the skin and depositing color onto the hair
• the dye molecule lawsone is found within the leaves and must be mixed with a mildly acidic liquid for the lawsone to be released
henna is dried and ground into a powder for most effective use
• you can use henna for an hour or so for short term conditioning or long term color deposit
• best results with body art quality henna (b.a.q.)
you can find baq henna in indian grocery stores or online
a reputable site is which formulated a henna bundle for african hair 
pure b.a.q. henna turns the hair red so if you have gray they too will turn red which makes for pretty highlights; the rest of the hair will be lightly tinted red depending on your natural color (if you have a lot of gray or may not want so much red see “boosting henna” section below for more ideas)
• future henna applications will deepen the color

henna pros and cons
• strengthens the hair
• conditions the hair
• fuller hair
• defines the natural curl
• adds shine

• can be drying: some people experience dryness after henna processing due to it’s strengthening abilities
this can be avoided by mixing the henna with some orange juice instead of lemon, adding yogurt or by adding some nourishing oils to the mix.
• time consuming: the henna mix must rest for 6 to 12 hours so that the henna leaf cellulose is dissolved before application; then after application it has to set in your hair for several hours to oxidize
• messy: wrap henna-ed hair tight with saran wrap and dark towels and cover your bed/pillow if processing your hair overnight
• it is difficult to lighten hair from a dark henna coloring
• does not react well with store bought peroxide-based hair color that needs to be mixed with an activator, especially if it is not b.a.q henna

many fotki ladies i know use henna to color their hair
lina40 who has a great henna tutorial and sells henna in her online store: afiba naturals

boosting henna
• use indigo over the initial henna application to darken your henna results
• add espresso type brewed coffee to your henna mix (i tried this on my mother’s hair with good results )
• add spices like cinnamon, paprika to the water (see info on “herbal teas”)
• add essential oils of tea tree, eucalyptus or lavender
• avoid chlorinated water when henna-ing, this can alter results

henna box blends
some companies sell premixed henna with additives — this is not 100% pure/b.a.q. henna 
colora henna creme and rainbow henna can be found in your local beauty supply/health food store
Click here for hair coloring part 2
Click here for hair coloring part 1

About jenteel

haitian-naturalist-lover-idealist-health-conscious-spiritualist-yogi-new yorker

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13 years ago

I don’t know about anyone else but henna seems like too much work for not much color change. I really want to dye my hair but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend multiple hours messing with henna and I can only see the difference in the light.

13 years ago

if you are impatient, henna is NOT for you. If you already do conditioning treatments and would like to add color to the mix, henna can help. Some people experience delayed reactions to the harsher chemicals in box and salon colors, so one way to get the best of both worlds is to get the salon color of your choice and add neutral henna(cassia) to your deep conditioners in order to keep your color looking fresh. If you want your hair to be black and are not patient, henna+ indigo is not the way to go either.  Henna can be… Read more »

13 years ago

i couldn’t have said it better myself lina! 🙂

everything is not for everybody
the original question was from someone inquiring about how to cover the “gray“
so i presented many options that were broken down for ease of comprehension

i myself will be switching to henna(from aveda permanent color)to cover my gray whenever they come in…

6 years ago

I’ve been using henna close to 4 years now and I love it. I’ve found methods to shorten the long process. If I’m going to henna my hair, I usually mix it the day before so that at least 12 hours of dye release is activated and at peak by the time I get ready to apply the henna on my hair. That way I can get a great deposit within 3 hours, wash it out with conditioner and f/u with my Indigo for a couple of hours after then deep condition. I get a rich vibrant dark color on… Read more »

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