How to Color Your Hair with Henna

Bowl with Henna
Photo: Depositphotos
Women in Asia and the Middle East have known about the benefits that the ground-up leaves of the plant Lawsonia Inermis have for their hair. Better known as Henna, this potent tree is also used to create intricate patterns on hands and feet, to dye fingernails, and to create the popular and temporary "Henna Tattoos."
From Cleopatra to Lucille Ball, Henna has been used for millennia by royalty, celebrities, and any woman who desired a head of healthy and strong red hair. Popular in the 70s, Henna is making a comeback and is marketed under various brand names.
Some manufacturers offer different colors of Henna, however anything that does not have the rust-red tone is not pure Henna. The black version, for example, includes indigo, and for other colors, an array of herbs and even chemicals are used in the mixture.
If you want the real deal, buy 100% pure Henna from a trusted source.
How does it work?
When Henna coats the hair shaft, the pigment travels into the hair and binds with the keratin. This makes the hair color very long-lasting and also strengthens the entire hair.
What does the color look like?
Just like with chemical dyes, the resulting color strongly depends on the original hair color it is applied on. Blonde will show a more dramatic effect and turn into a bright and beautiful coppery red while darker hair can just get a warm, reddish sheen. The intensity of the color also changes with the length of time of the process, which can be from 30 minutes to 4 or 5 hours. The longer you leave it on, the more intense it will be.
There is also no limit to the number of applications. It does not do any harm to dye your hair every month or as often as you feel like it. The intensity of the color will increase with each application since the pigments build up more in each hair. There is some fading of the color over time and some hair products that contain oils can accelerate this. But in general, a good henna red will last longer than its chemical counterparts..
How to Use Henna
Dyeing the hair with henna can be tricky. If not done right, the results can be uneven and blotchy. Henna produces a very permanent hair color which is not easy to remove or dye over, so take your time, do your research and all of the preparatory steps and you will get a beautiful head of healthy, thick and luminous hair.
The following instructions refer only to 100% natural Henna without any added ingredients. This type of henna can be found in bulk at health food stores or online. It is not only cheaper than the packages of various brands; you can also just buy as much as you need for the length of your hair, and the color is longer-lasting.
Coloring hair with Henna
Photo: Pixelshot/Canva
Prepare your hair: You want your hair to be free of any residual oil and buildup. It also needs to be dry, so it is best to wash it with a clarifying shampoo the day before. Brush it and comb it well before applying the henna.
Mix the Henna: Use a glass bowl. Plastic may stain, and metal may react with the mixture. The pigment develops best with the help of some acid. You can mix the henna powder with lemon juice, from a bottle is fine, or orange juice.
It is best used slightly warm, but never hot. You don't want to burn your fingers on it. Think about the temperature of a baby's bottle. Mix it to a mushy consistency that resembles mayonnaise or yogurt, but not runny.
Let it rest: Keep it for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours at a temperature between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes that long for the pigment to reach its full potential.
Do a STRAND TEST! Never go without one. Every person's hair reacts differently to Henna and before you risk a traumatic experience, take strands of hair from your hairbrush, dip it in the henna, and let it develop. Check on the progress several times to see the development of the color: after 30 minutes, after 1 hour, after 2 hours, and if you want it more intense, check again after 4 hours.
The hair strand test takes a bit of effort, but it is worth it and very important. You won't have to do it again for the next time you color your hair this way, as long as you use the same brand.
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