My love story with henna started around eight years ago when I finally realized that yeah, I CAN have orange hair! Why not? And why did I drag it out over several years, enviously staring at people who dared to? Finally, I was sick of bleach and my hair breaking and my poor scalp screaming for help. So, I somehow fell upon the idea of dyeing my hair with henna and just so happened to read like 3000 forum pages on how do to it, what to expect, how hot I would be, how permanent it is. But since then, I’ve forgotten what all those 3000 pages said, so all I have to share with you guys is how I do it and what I’ve experienced. If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, I recommend you to read at least a couple of forum pages about before you take the plunge. It is permanent, after all.
Let’s get into it!
HENNA IS ONLY ORANGE-BROWNISH-RED
Henna derives from a plant called Lawsonia Inermis that grow in warm places towards the Middle East, and the dye that releases when you wet the pulverized, dried leaves is orange-brown-red. Nothing else. No pure brown, no black, no colourless. There are different nuances of henna, ranging from light more yellowy orange to darker, redder versions. To compare names, “Jamila henna” (that I use) gives off a more warm orange tone while “Yemeni henna” gives off a cooler red.
You just have to find the type of henna that suits your needs, hence the importance of doing a little bit of research before you get yourself into something you can’t get out of that easily. Is the henna in bar-form, like Lush’s henna bars, there’s other stuff in there apart from pure henna. Does the pack say “Brown henna” or “Blonde henna”, there’s other stuff in there. Does it say “Black henna”, STEER THE FUCK CLEAR because depending on what kind of product you’re looking at, it can be harmful. One guide line that can be used is to look for “tattoo quality henna”, because it’s usually more finely milled and purer.
Cassia is often marketed as “neutral henna”, which is kind of true but not really. It’s a similar kind of plant that gives out less pigment (yellowy) and is used for conditioning packs and shine.
OKAY, SO HOW DO YOU DO THIS THING WITH PURE HENNA?
Well, a pack of henna, a pot to hold the mixture, water, and lemon is all that I need to dye my hair with henna! Oh, and like 12 hours of developing the mixture/on your hair.
Happy green powder that makes a brown mixture that makes your hair orange, simple!
Greeny brown goo releasing orange dye onto a piece of paper
I mix the powder with just regular water (I don’t bother with hot water (NOT boiling!), it’s fine anyways) and a little bit of lemon juice that is supposed to pull that bit extra pigment out of the powder. Put the mixture somewhere a little cozily warm in your house and out of the sun, and let it sit. For hours. I often leave it for eight hours (I mix it before work and dye when I get home) and it’s just fine, people recommend up to twelve hours I think. The surface turns a soggy brown and it’s easy to see that it’s oxidizing in the air just by stirring it, it’s greener under the surface!
I just slap it on, can’t help you with a good fool proof method but it’s always turned out even. And then I let it sit for three-four hours. I’m a natural blonde and that time is enough. After waiting for ages, you just rinse it out carefully and then wait for two days to see what it oxidizes into. The colour settles a bit and I prefer the settled colour from the lighter, more intense orange that is the first result.
Also, a warning for you beginners out there: Don’t make the mix too runny. The first time I dyed my hair with henna, I had to lay flat on my back on the living room floor for three hours because it wouldn’t stop running down my neck, haha.
Whatever mixture is left when I’m done slapping it on my hair and getting that covered, I just put in the freezer. When it’s time to dye it again, I just take it out and let it thaw and it’s good to go another round! From the mixture starting to develop the dye, until it’s weakened and dyes badly, it’s about 24 hours, so there’s a little bit of room to play with.
Something to keep in mind is that the henna mixture and its muddy consistency, is that it’s a bit harder to work with than regular hair dye. It’s drier and “rougher” in texture so parting your hair carefully is a good idea in order to avoid dry, undyed spots. And, use gloves. Henna is usually used for tattoos that last for weeks, and sticks to skin, hair and nails like a BOMB. It stains my face a tad when I dye my hair but with my oily skin, it’s barely visible the day after.
Every time you dye your hair, depending on how long you keep it in and how intense the mixture is, the colour adds and adds. So if you want a lighter colour, it can be a good idea to not dye your entire head of hair every time. Just dye it all until you’ve reached the level of red/depth that you desire and then just dye the grown out bits. I haven’t had any regulations and have dyed my roots along with everything that happens to get involved while doing it. Your natural colour shifts will be visible through the henna! Over my light blonde hair and three years of dyeing with Jamila henna, my hair looks like this:
OH, BUT I HAVE HEARD ABOUT PEOPLE DYING THEIR HAIR BROWN WITH HENNA?
Yes! If they’re dyeing their hair with pure henna, and not those already mixed packs of differing tones of dye, they’re using henna PLUS something else. Many people do this. Black? Henna + Indigo. Indigo is a dark blue dye (also used for dyeing jeans) and together with henna it can create a colour that’s close to black. Do you want brown? Throw a smaller amount of indigo in the mix! This takes experimentation, to find the shade that you’re after. I’ve even heard about people throwing cocoa in the mix but I would double check that one before you try it yourself.
I believe that indigo is a little less permanent over time, but henna itself is SUPER PERMANENT. In the picture up there, I haven’t dyed the ends of my hair in two years. The henna doesn’t care, it’s there and it’s showing off its business anyways. Henna farts in bleach’s general direction.
The first time I tried bleaching out henna was when I had quite a bit of roots, and then I dyed it all crazy orange and yellow and red (IT WAS AMA-ZING) so I’ve never come to the point of having to remove all the henna, which is good I’m guessing. I’ve heard of people managing it but I wouldn’t count on it happening to just about anyone.
Bleached hennaed and natural hair. I believe you can see what parts are which..
I’VE HEARD ABOUT PEOPLE GETTING IN TROUBLE BY BLACK HENNA, IS HENNA DANGEROUS?
STEER CLEAR OF "BLACK HENNA", PLX!
Black henna, as it can be marketed in the case of black henna tattoos, is often not actual henna at all. Instead, it’s a black dye that is made of PPD which is harsh and can cause allergic reactions, with scarring and misery to follow. If you have an allergic reaction to PPD it can cause future reactions to all sorts of black dye, ranging from paper inks, regular hair dyes, clothes dyes, so it’s best to steer clear of it. Note, IT IS NOT HENNA AT ALL. There are people who have experienced allergic reactions to real, natural henna, but as far as I know (source: the internet. Do your research! Spot test!) there’s not many of them at all.
OKAY, SO HENNA IS PRETTY. BUT WHAT DOES IT DO?
It’s strengthening for your hair! The pigment penetrates your hair and becomes one with the structure, making it stronger. I have henna to thank for my long hair, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help. After a couple of dye sessions, I had a hairdresser touch my hair and exclaim “It’s in pretty good nick for all those bleach sessions!”. That’s the first time I’ve EVER heard a hairdresser compliment my hair, I almost fell out of the chair! Some people get shinier hair, some hair types get straighter, and some claim that henna doesn’t play well with perms for that reason. My hair is definitely straighter and the natural curves of my hair is GONE like the wind, leaving it stick straight, but I think it’s worth it. It’s good to take into consideration though if you have locks that you cherish.
The coppery goldy reflexes the henna gives off in direct sunlight are AMAZING. And, the best part of all!: It doesn’t wash out. You just have to keep up with your roots, the rest of the hair is forever covered.
I WANT HENNA, WHERE CAN I FIND MYSELF SOME?
I don’t know! I buy from a Swedish distributer at hennabutiken.se, I have no experience other than that. Google is your friend in all aspects of henna!
Left: Remnants of black dye gone brown and pink dye. Right: I threw henna over all of it. You can see how the pink and browns shine through. As soon as the pink washed out, it all turned orange. You can also see how light orange one single layer of henna can be on blonde hair. I like my hair darker also, but wouldn't have minded the light orange either!
My colour as of the winter of 2017, in the cool light of a winter sunset. It's more orangey in real life, but this picture shows how the colour changes with the lighting too!
SO, THE STEPS!
1. Do your research. Do more of it than you think you need. Read, google, read instructions, mixtures, types, brands, pictures, varieties!
2. Decide! Do you want to go for it, or not. There’s no turning back after, the result is PERMANENT. Try on not so visible strands of hair before going full head. On the pictures in this post you see pure warm-toned henna over naturally blonde hair. If your hair is darker, then the henna will turn out darker too!
3. Buy the right kind of henna! Cooler, warmer, redder, orangier.
4. Dye! Wait for it to settle and oxidize for two days before you get to see the final result.
5. ENJOY your lesser upkeep-intense hair colour, just the roots to keep track of.
Disclaimer; I'm a civilian experimenting with my own hair. I'm no expert, I take no resposibility for your hair, good luck and so forth!