If you're working to clean up your beauty routine, don't stop with your hair color. Instead, turn to red henna powder for a natural alternative to synthetic hair coloring. Henna, which grows in North Africa, Arabia, India, and South and Central America, has been used as a hair dye since ancient history — even Egyptian mummies have been found to have henna-dyed locks.
How to dye your hair with henna
Henna leaves contain a bitter tannic substance called lawsone, which is activated by water to bind with the keratin protein found in hair — not only coloring the hair but deeply conditioning it as well. The finer the leaves are ground the more lawsone is released to stain the hair a rich reddish-brown. The darkest, most permanent shades are obtained if the henna powder is mixed with a slightly acid liquid such as tea, to which 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon or vinegar are added. Adding several drops of essential oils such as tea tree, lavandin or eucalyptus will help the dye set better.
Once the henna paste is applied to clean, towel-dried (damp) hair, wrap hair in plastic to maintain a moist environment, and leave in place for a few hours. Then rinse well with water. This can take a while, and it’s helpful to have a hand-held spray nozzle. You'll need to set aside several hours to complete the process, so turn it into a spa-like occasion — have your favorite music lined up, give yourself a manicure or pedicure, or try a clay mask.
Important: Do not apply henna to permed, color-processed or otherwise chemically treated hair as damage can result. Only apply henna to your hair in its natural state.
If this is your first experience with henna hair dye, we recommend consulting with your personal hairdresser first, and to test a small amount of your hair prior to dying it all.
Henna Hair Dye
1/2 cup henna powder
1/2 cup freshly brewed, hot black tea
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
10 drops Aura Cacia lavandin essential oil (to activate the henna and provide a pleasant aroma)
Glass, ceramic or plastic bowl — do not use aluminum
1. Pour hot tea — a little at a time — over henna powder and mix with a wooden spoon to the consistency of thick oatmeal. Add more liquid if too thick and dry, or more henna powder if too wet and drippy. Add lemon juice and lavandin essential oils. Stir. Using hot liquid helps activate the henna.
2. Apply olive oil, lip or body balm to the skin around hairline.
3. Apply henna to hair, working in sections from the crown down the sides and back of the head.
4. Pile the coated hair on top of the head, wrap head in plastic wrap (to keep the application from drying out), and cover with an old towel.
5. Leave in place for 2 to 4 hours, depending on how dark you want the color to set.
6. After 2 to 4 hours, rinse thoroughly then dry hair naturally. Avoid shampooing for 24 to 48 hours to allow color to set.
Stain Protection Tips
- Wipe away any drips immediately with a damp rag.
- Wear plastic gloves, because henna will stain your hands and nails.
- Apply a generous amount of natural lip or body balm to mask exposed skin around hair line.
- Henna should not stain a clean tub or tile but it will likely stain any soap residue on these surfaces, so make sure surfaces are squeaky clean.
- You might want to use an old pillowcase on your pillow the first couple of nights, at least until you shampoo again.
Tips for best color:
- Make sure you use the real red henna leaf powder. Many henna hair dyes are sold that contain synthetic chemicals and metallic salts. If the product talks about other colors, it's not pure henna.
- Use a clarifying shampoo before applying henna to help remove any product buildup on the hair strands.
- If well-applied, your henna color will last for up to a few months with gradual fading. This will depend on how dark your hair is to start with and how long you leave the henna in your hair.
- Gray, blond and light brown hair will show color more easily than dark hair. If you have very light hair you may want to test a strand first or leave the henna on for no more than 30 minutes your first time.
- Warmth helps activate the henna, so you may want to sit in a warm spot (outdoors in the sun in the summertime, for example).
- Other possible addition: raw egg for added conditioning.