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Natural Living

Henna for Hair 101

Easy, mess-free natural hair coloring tips using henna.

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Easy, mess-free natural hair coloring tips using henna

As far as hair colors go, there’s nothing more natural than henna. Also known as mehendi, this powder derived from the leaves of the Lawsonia inermis plant has been used since ancient times to enrich hair color and add luster and shine. Because it’s made only from plant leaves, it’s the most natural hair color you can get. And unlike ammonia and peroxide-based treatments, henna leaves your hair healthier than before you colored.

So why isn’t everyone using it? Basically, because henna can be messy. Really, really messy. But if you follow a few simple rules, you can pull it off—and we’re sure you’ll agree it was worth the hassle.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the easiest henna treatment ever:

Know your colors

The henna plant will yield only an auburn hue, but henna companies offer a range of colors by adding indigo, cassia, amla, and other natural plant extracts to the powdered henna leaf. These will only darken hair; you won’t turn your brown tresses to platinum with henna, but you can add richness and depth to dull blonde, mousy brown, or flat black hues.

Read ingredients carefully

You’ll find pre-mixed henna liquids and pastes that promise to make the job easier, but these may include chemical additives that are as bad as the ammonia- or peroxide-based formulations. The powdered versions are more trouble, but you’ll avoid all the toxins.

Customize your color

Add subtle highlights with common kitchen ingredients: apple cider vinegar or lemon juice increase brightness and deepen reddish colors; replacing hot water with hot brewed coffee or black tea adds dark tones and can mute the boldness of red henna; carrot juice adds copper tones, or use beet juice for pink undertones.

Take time to prep

Henna will stain absolutely everything it comes in contact with, so prep well. Cover floors in your coloring area with plastic—an old shower curtain is great for this—and don old clothes, plus plastic gloves. Other tools: a glass (not metal) bowl for mixing henna, plastic stir spoon, and a handful of old towels to wipe up spills.

Go step-by-step

Precisely follow directions on the box. Generally, you’ll mix henna powder with hot water or whatever hot liquid you’re using, and let it stand for an hour or so. This should yield a very thick paste. When it’s ready, smear the henna over (clean, just-washed) hair, covering it thoroughly.

Protect your face

If your hair hangs on your forehead, you’ll have blotchy stains that are hard to remove. After you’ve applied the henna, pile your hair on top of your head, secure with clips, and cover completely with a plastic shower cap or plastic bag. You can also lightly coat hairline and ears with cream. Then relax with a book for an hour or two; the longer it sets, the richer the color.

Rinse and cure

Thoroughly rinse henna out of your hair with warm water, but don’t shampoo. Towel dry with an old towel, and don’t wash hair again for at least 48 hours. Be prepared for hair to bleed after the first shampoo or two; when hair’s still wet, don’t don your favorite shirt.

Lather, rinse, repeat

Because it’s a natural dye, henna colors will “cure” over a few weeks; you might even like the color better, as it softens, deepens, and becomes more incorporated with your natural hue. Look for shampoos and conditioners that can extend, protect, and brighten your color. Generally, henna results last for 4 to 6 weeks. If you’re covering significant gray, you’ll probably need to apply it more often. Once you get the knack, and see how shiny and luxurious henna-treated hair looks, you’ll embrace the process (and even the mess).

Feed Your Hair

Seven supplements for strong, silky hair

  1. Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, is essential for hair strength, texture and growth. Low levels have been linked with hair loss.
  2. Hyaluronic acid, naturally occurring in eye and joint fluids in the body, nourishes dry scalp and hair, prevents hair thinning, and can increase the diameter of individual hair strands.
  3. Keratin, a fibrous protein found naturally in hair, skin, and nails, enhances elasticity and flexibility in hair and prevents breakage.
  4. Collagen, the primary structural protein in skin and connective tissue, is said to prevent hair thinning and increase shine and strength of hair.
  5. Horsetail has a high concentration of silica, which helps strengthen weak, dry and brittle hair.
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids prevent dry, flaky scalp, and nourish hair follicles, encouraging thicker, shinier hair.
  7. GLA(gamma-linolenic acid), in the form of black currant oil or evening primrose oil, helps stimulate hair growth and softens hair.

Henna Hair Coloring Products

Surya Henna Powder

SuryaHenna Powder

ShiKai Henna Gold Highlighting Conditioner

ShiKai Henna Gold Highlighting Conditioner

Nature’s Gate Rainwater Henna Shampoo

Nature’s GateRainwater Henna Shampoo