How to Henna Your Hair

Posted by Lisa Spaulding on

Congratulations! You're ditching the synthetic chemicals and going for natural colour!

Quick Facts:

  • this dye should be permanent
  • pure henna can be used over chemically dued hair, but always test first with hair from your brush
  • it will take a day to dye release and 2 – 4 hours of paste on your hair
  • it takes 2 – 3 days for the final colour to oxidize
  • there are no guaranteed colours as the final results depends on the starting hair colour
  • hair colour can’t be lightened  

Using plants to dye your hair is very different than chemicals, so please read everything before you start.

Chemical hair dyes work by lifting the hair cuticle, entering the hair shaft, then either eat away at the melanin to lighten the colour or darkens the melanin & also dying the hair cuticle.

Henna & cassia work by binding to the keratin of the hair cuticles. Henna, Cassia & Indigo are translucent dyes - which means that your starting hair colour will be seen through the plant dye. Henna adds colour, not change it ;)  This means that you can make your hair colour richer or darker, but alas not lighter.

If your hair is very light, dye resistant or damaged from chemicals, you may need more than one application. You can dye over chemically dyed and processed hair, but the results may be unpredictable. Always do a test first.  Bleaching highlights into hair that has been dyed with henna and indigo gives unpredictable results.  Test first.  

This dye is permanent
If your hair is undamaged & you follow the instructions properly, this dye does NOT gradually wash out. (it’s also permanent on the nails, so gloves are advised!)
Every time you dye with henna and indigo, your hair will take up more color.  If your hair doesn't come out as dark as you want, just dye it again. If your hair is as dark as you want, you can prevent gradual darkening by just doing the roots.

Test before you begin
Harvest some of your hair from your hairbrush and do a test for the colour you’re attempting before henna’ing your hair (using instructions below). If it’s not what you wanted, collect more hair & test again.
When attempting to henna the hair on your head for the first time, I recommend doing just a small test section that isn’t obvious (like behind your ear). If you are having a reaction (we can all be allergic to natural things!) please rinse out immediately. I also advise that you use a slightly lighter mix than you think you want first. The reason: you can always go darker on the next test, but you can’t go lighter if you accidentally go too dark!

About Grey
The translucent rule of natural dye makes covering grey interesting. Unless doing the 2 step process for black, the grey might end up a much different colour than the rest of your hair. 
If you have light blond hair with some pure white "greys", then cassia will make your white hair a light golden blond without affecting the rest of your hair.
If you have light brown hair & use henna alone, you'll end up with dark red or light auburn hair & copper-red highlights. (again, depends on how dark your 'grey' hair actually is)
If you have medium brown hair & use the medium brown mix, you may end up with auburn or light brown highlights in your medium brown hair.
Only when doing the 2 step process for black does all the hair end up black.
Unless you have dye-resistant grey hair... that's a topic for another post  ;)

How much powder do you need?
It's wise to colour all of your hair the first time. After that, you can just colour your roots or continue to cover all of your hair to make the colour richer, adding strength & glossiness to your hair. So here is an approximation of how much powder you need per application to be able to thoroughly cover all of you hair:
100g = short hair
200g = collar length hair.
300g = shoulder length hair.
500g = waist length hair.

* If you have very thick hair or curly hair or if you are tall, you'll need more powder than estimated above.
 Henna & Cassia: it’s fine to dye release more than you’ll thin you need, because the leftovers can be frozen. Indigo can’t be saved, so only dye release as needed 😉

Dye Releasing:

How to dye release Cassia:
Open the package and put the Cassia powder in a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl.  Mix in just enough lemon juice (or apple juice if citrus allergy) to make the henna as thick as Greek yogurt (or sour cream or guacamole). Cover it airtight with plastic wrap (plastic against the paste) and let it sit in a dark spot (or cover bowl with a towel) for 12 hours at room temperature (70F).
Reminder in case you didn’t read the cassia page information: if you have hard water, cassia can turn your hair greenish – brown – black. If there is a chance you have hard water high in zinc, TEST, TEST, TEST !

How to dye release Henna:
Open the package of Henna and empty powder into a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl.  Mix in just enough lemon juice (or apple juice if citrus allergy) to make the henna as thick as Greek yogurt (or sour cream or guacamole). Cover it airtight with plastic wrap (plastic against the paste) let it sit in a dark spot (or cover bowl with a towel) for 12 hours at warm room temperature (24 C). Place a paper towel over the plastic – if there is no orange on the paper towel, the henna has not reached dye release. In colder seasons or depending on the henna crop, it can take up to 24+ hours to dye release, so check it often after the 12 hour mark. When you see the paper towel has turned orange, you can do a dab test on your finger or palm. Leave henna paste on the skin for 5 minutes, then wash off. Test ever 2 hours until the henna leaves a *bright* orange stain on the skin when washed off.  

How to dye release Indigo:
Mix with the hottest tap water RIGHT BEFORE using it. Indigo paste must be applied within 20 minutes of mixing it. Don’t mix up your indigo until you are completely ready with everything else (henna ready, gloves on, chopstick or comb to separate hair & no distractions).

When applying the paste to your hair:
Make sure your hair is clean & free of all oils. Your hair can be damn or dry, just make sure it's clean.

Section your hair to make it easier for you to apply the paste.  If it's your first time and you have long hair, maybe try a few different methods of sectioning your hair to make sure you won't miss any spots before you jump into applying the paste - it can be messy your first go!
Before applying the paste, make sure it's a good consistency to work with. Runny paste is a horror, so be careful to add very small amounts of liquid & stir constantly. What you're looking for is a thick icing consistency - coats the hair easily but won't drip or run.  If you accidentally made it too runny, add a little more henna or cassia powder. It won’t be dye released, so it won’t affect your colour. You can also use ziziphus to thicken if you have bought some for natural hair cleaning.
WEAR GLOVES.
Apply the paste with a spatula, with a piping bag, or with your fingers and apply the paste THICK, as if you're frosting a cake.  Smoosh the paste into the hair sections with your fingers. 

When finished, wipe any paste that's made its way onto your face/ neck and then cover your head with plastic wrap or a plastic bag. The idea here is both to keep the paste moist & warm.  If you're cold, adding a towel or knit hat over the plastic will help.
Keep paste in your hair for 2 - 4 hours. Grey hair can be a little harder to stain, so 4 hours is best.
Rinse out your hair and in 2-3 days you'll see the final colour!


So let's apply all of the methodology to the colour mixes:

Lighter Shades:
very light blond = 100% cassia (only seen on white hair)
bright strawberry blonde  = 90% cassia : 10% henna (4:1 ratio)
light red = 50% cassia : 50% henna
You'll be mixing cassia & henna in different ratios. Henna easily over powders cassia, so start with only 10% henna in your cassia mix if you have white / very light blond hair; if after 3 days the colour isn't as red as you'd like, mix a little more henna into your cassia.

Ash blond:
This is using a 80% cassia : 10% henna : 10% indigo mix.
So you can dye release your cassia & henna in the same bowl. 
Right before you're about to apply the paste (you have everything else ready to go), that's when you dye release the 10% indigo in a separate bowl with hot tap water. Make sure you don't add too much water & make the indigo runny. As soon as the water in blended with the powder, add the indigo paste to the henna paste, stir madly fast to completely blend. If not fully blended, you will have green-blue streaks in your ash blond! Then apply to your hair right away. Follow application method as above.
If it’s not as dark as you want, you can increase your henna + indigo in small amounts. Ex: 15% henna : 15% indigo : 70% cassia. Still not dark enough: 20% henna : 20% indigo : 60% henna. The henna & indigo must be the same ratio.  

Reds:
red = 100% henna
reddish auburn = 90% henna : 10% indigo
brownish  auburn = 75% henna : 25% indigo

If your hair is not white, start with using 100% henna.  Wait 2 - 3 days to see if the final colour is red enough. If you have white hair, 100% henna paste will make your hair a very bright orange. If that's not what you're going for (hey, who knows? I'm not judging), you'll want to mix a little indigo into your henna. Same if the red isn't rich enough - mix a little indigo into the paste. Start with only 10% indigo powder to the henna powder ratio. Again, wait 2 - 3 days, if it's still not as dark a red as you'd like, add 20% indigo powder to your henna powder ratio.
How to do that: dye release your henna. Right before you're about to apply the paste (you have everything else ready to go), that's when you dye release the proper amount of indigo in a separate bowl with hot tap water with hot tap water. Make sure you don't add too much water or make the indigo runny. As soon as the water in blended with the powder, add the indigo paste to the henna paste, stir madly fast to completely blend, then apply to your hair right away! Follow application method as above.

Browns:
medium brunette = 50% henna : 50% indigo
cool medium brunette = 50% henna : 50% indigo + amla
dark brunette = 25% henna : 75% indigo
cool dark brunette  = 25% henna : 75% indigo +  amla7-
almost black = 10% henna : 90% indigo

Dye release the proper amount of henna. If you want a cool brown tone, add 25% amla to the henna paste after dye release. (if you dye released 100g henna powder, add 25g amla powder – that’s about 2 Tbsp).  

Right before you're about to apply the paste (you have everything else ready to go), that's when you dye release the proper amount of indigo in a separate bowl with hot tap water with hot tap water. Make sure you don't add too much water or make the indigo runny. As soon as the water in blended with the powder, add the indigo paste to the henna paste, stir madly fast to completely blend, then apply to your hair right away! Follow application method as above

For Black hair:

Dye release 100% henna. Apply as directed above & let sit 2 - 4 hours. Rinse henna completely out of your hair.
Towel dry your hair so that it's just damp & easy to section again.
Dye release your indigo with hot tap water & apply 100% indigo to your hair. As with the henna, wrap your hair up in plastic again and let the indigo sit for 1 hour. Rinse.

Smell
So what was with the ginger powder?  If you don't like the scent of henna'ed hair, * and you know that you are not allergic or sensitive to ginger*, adding a teaspoon of ginger powder to the henna paste before application will help with the scent. Do not use ginger essential oil or extract. Only use plain powdered ginger .

Tips:

Or, really, things not to do...

  • don't use boiling water in your henna paste
  • don't add essential oils to 'terp' your hair paste as a henna body artist would.  It will cause a headache
  • don't use coffee or tea in your paste.  You probably don't need the extra caffeine buzz and it doesn't change the colour
  • if you use vinegars as your acidic liquid, it will smell VERY bad. (even if you like using ACV as a rinse by itself, it doesn't smell good with henna)
  • don't use egg, yogurt, oil or anything else in your paste - they just block the dyes from binding with your hair.


 


Share this post



← Older Post Newer Post →