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Learn it: Henna Your Hair

I’ve always been envious of friends with red hair.  I think it is beautiful.  I’ve been coloring my hair red since I was thirteen.  The first time I did it with koolaid.  I soon graduated to the real stuff.  The sucky thing about going red is that it fades SO fast.

Then a friend introduced me to henna.

Henna body art is made of a natural plant dye (latin name: lawsonia inermis) which stains the skin and hair a reddish-brown color.  Henna is never-ever black. Henna paste should always be made with body art quality, 100% natural henna.  I mix mine with lemon juice and oils to make it into the paste that is applied to the skin.

I’ve been hennaing my hair for three years now.  I love how it makes my hair smooth and strong- I have crazy frizzy/curly hair.  I keep it long to pull a little of that down with weight.  Whenever I wear my hair up I get this halo of frizz that sticks up all over my head.  A few days after I tried henna for the first time I suddenly had these long pieces of hair hanging in my face, kind of like bangs.  And the I realized those were my frizzies- all smoothed out.

The other neat thing?  It doesn’t really fade.

I have a sweet deal with my friend Jessica- she does my hair for me and I do fancy henna designs for her.  I briefly tried coloring my hair RED RED in March, but I missed how soft and silky my hair feels when treated with henna.

How we henna my hair:

(Everyone has their own recipe and system, but this is what we do for my hair- written by Jessica)

Take a quantity of powdered henna sufficient to cover your hair (about 100 g for every 6 inches if you’re going for full coverage) and mix it with a little less than equal amount of an acidic liquid (vinegar, lemon juice, tea, etc.) until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes.   Then cover it and let it sit over night.
-Dye release ( when the mix has little pools of brown liquid on top) may take less time if it’s very warm and humid or the henna is strong. The more dye that releases, the more that will be available to your hair and the deeper and more vibrant results you’ll get.   So try not to rush the process if you can.

Once the dye’s released, add a bit more liquid (tea, water, rosewater, conditioner, etc) until the mix is about as thick and smooth as really thick yogurt. Thicker paste won’t drip as much while thinner paste will go farther. Err on the thicker side of things since you can always thin it down.
Comb out the hair and divide into four sections.
With a tint brush begin painting the henna on to the hair at the nape scalp line.  Thoroughly cover the roots and don’t worry about getting it on the scalp- henna is good for dandruff.
Put more on the length of the hair until it’s covered- but not too much.  Divide off the next inch up, cover the roots and the the length of the hair and repeat until the whole head is covered.
Make sure the little whispies are covered but try to keep the henna off your skin.
It won’t hurt you but may stain a bit. Some people put some cold cream along their hairline but I never bother.
Joni here: I feel the need to add that I, however, get all freaked out about henna on my skin and scrub and scrape my face and neck repeatedly until it is time to wash it out of my hair.

See? I’m miserable.
Jessica laughs at me.  But I can’t stand that trickling, smelly, smushy mess.

Cover the hair with plastic wrap.  I cut a plastic shopping bag down one long side and tie the loops on the back.
Cover with a scarf or towel for warmth and let it sit for at least two hours. Longer exposure will yield darker results. If you can sleep on a headful of mud and plastic go for it.

When you’re ready to wash it out, take a bath. Soaking the henna out of the hair in the tub is the easiest way. Once it feels like most of the henna is out work a few gobs of cheap conditioner into the hair and scalp. Rinse that out. You may have to do that one more time to get it all out.  Don’t shampoo for at least a day.

Joni here again: Instead of a bath, I take a shower and alternate scrubbing furiously under the shower head with kneeling in the tub with my head tipped under the tub faucet.  It is like a scene from Carrie- I swear.

I am not fond of the process, but I truly LOVE the result and it is worth all the annoying bits.

If you want to purchase henna for yourself, whether for hair or body art, I suggest you use Artistic Adornment– which I can personally vouch for because it is run by a friend and it is where I get my henna.  This is super fresh and pure body art quality henna.


Oh yeah- and here is what I did for Jessica in exchange for my muddy hair (cough) I mean AWESOME HENNA JOB ON MY HAIR:

Pretty!  The OCD part of me is noticing a few lines aren’t laid out straight, but hell- I did a decent job considering it was two o’clock in the morning!

17 Responses to Learn it: Henna Your Hair

  1. You used body art quality henna on your hair, right? If you did, you should make that clear in your post. You are probably aware of boxed henna and how misleading it is (the metals, etc). Your other readers may not be aware and may end up damaging their hair and possibly their health.

    I personally use mehandi.com, but I’m sure your supplier is just as good. =)

    I’m able to get dye release by placing the mixed henna on top of the stove that is set at 200 degrees for a few hours. (I’m too impatient to let it sit overnight.)

    You also don’t mention that the color will darken over a few days after you’ve washed it out, so the color you initially see isn’t likely to be what you end with.

    • Melissa,
      I read the post, and Joni mentions about body grade henna at the top and again at the bottom……did you just read the middle bits?

      • It is a good point though, thanks Melissa!

        -body art quality is ALL I will use!

        I’ve used mehandi.com and hennacaravan.com too… But I pretty much exclusively use artisticadornment.com now.

  2. Ahhhh, that makes me want to henna my hair again! It’s been well over a year since I’ve done it. I LOVE the results, but it is SO MUCH work to do on my mop- which is waist-length and the thickness of about 4 “normal” heads of hair, ha!

    I’m trying hard to embrace the rapidly amount of gray in my hair, though… it’s been prevalent since I was 20 and at this point is rather abundant.

    That said, henna does SUCH nice things….

    Obviously I’m undecided, hahahaha!

      • Quick question. I’ve never dyed or henna’d my hair before. It is insanely thick and curly, and waist-length. I have a fair bit of grey now, which I don’t mind so much, but think it could be cool to henna my hair becuase I bet the greys would turn beautifully red, and by the sounds of it the henna would help with the frizzies. But I am a really low maintenance person- I don’t want to have to re-do this in 6 weeks, you know? I’d rather it just be a temporary thing and fade out. I would NOT want it to be a permanent thing- because it would mean that I’d have to keep henna-ing my hair as it grew, or be left with the greys that grow in grey at the roots and switch to red partway down. I’d rather be able to just try it out, see how I liked it, and if I didn’t like it, just stop, and have my greys fade back to grey (which I kindof like anyways, though I suppose I’m just 29 and will likely not like them so much at 40 haha). Any thoughts on this?

        • Henna is not temporary- it is a permanent dye! I’m lazy, so I tend to do mine every three months or so, whenever the difference between ends/roots is TOO noticeable to ignore.

  3. This is so funny, but I have a post draft on how I hennaed my hair. 🙂 I really do love it, but it’s such a mess. I like that it’s natural, though (I use body-art quality, too), so I can do it through pregnancy and breastfeeding. Your hair is gorgeous!

  4. I have been wanting to do this, but I don’t have a clue where to get Henna. I’ve tried to find it locally, but all the places I used to buy it when I was younger, have stopped selling it. 🙁

  5. What a great job you both did! Love Henna on my hands and feet. Will definintely ry to henna my hair, it is getting to the “too many grey hair to not notice” stage, and I do not want to use conventional dye. So thank you for this post.

  6. You now from your main photo I thought it was dyed. But from your other photos I thought it looked natural. I’m going to tell my friends to go henna if they want to go red. I love being a redhead.

  7. I was reading your article about henna and was very interested but I am curious about one thing? If a person is allergice to red dye (as in food coloring etc) would they be able to use henna?

    • They should if it is 100% pure, body art quality product- henna is completely natural and safe for most people.You should do a skin test before using it and/or ask a doctor if you have any concerns.

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