Having tried all colors of henna, from bright red to black, and getting asked often how to color hair naturally and safely, I enjoy telling about henna as hair dye. First, let's get acquainted with what henna is and how it functions as a hair dye.
What is henna?
The henna you see for hair coloring is likely in powder form; henna itself, though, is a flowering shrub. It's when the leaves are dried that they're turned into a powder. Using henna as a hair coloring option is far from a new concept. It's been used as a colorant for centuries and is still around - perhaps arguably increasing in popularity - because of people like you and me: we need natural, effective alternatives to the toxic products inundating store shelves.
Henna hair dyes actually bond with hair, not just coating them with chemicals. Henna can be blended with herbs that can help condition hair. Are you considering doing a little henna hair dying? Keep in mind these facts, anecdotes, and even warnings:
Henna hair dying requires preparation,
and a lot of it. Henna is often available in powder form. If you see a "henna" product in any other form, in fact, it's combined with other - often many - ingredients; read the ingredients panel carefully, Omianan! It involves more than just mixing two bottles out of a box as can be the case with conventional at-home hair dye kits. Directions will guide you, but it may be common to expect your needing to boil water. Yep, boil water, distilled water. Not just tap water, not reverse osmosis - distilled water, so have a jug or two on hand. Also, in case that's not a unique enough requirement, many brands indicate the need to use glass or ceramic, not metal, in this process. That includes metal utensils.
In my personal experience time after time, after having the water ready, directions told me to slowly mix the powder and water, stirring with a non-metal utensil, until the consistency was akin to pancake batter. I slathered the mix into my hair and left it there ... for hours:
Henna takes time to make hair turn color
Seriously, hours. We're talking from two to up to five or six hours! Again, it's bonding with hair, not merely coating it, and we're dealing with a ground-up shrub's leaves, so let's be sure not to expect a speedy chemical reaction here (though you will feel your hair start to heat up throughout the process, but it's nothing you can't handle!).
As it works its magic it can start to dry a bit and feel gritty. At this point, sometimes chunks would fall off my hair and onto the floor! Act quickly if this happens to you, what with henna's obvious staining power. Take heed during the prep process and actual wear time: henna can be messy, messy, messy. Using a good organic oil upon the forehead, neck, and other areas can help deter any henna from coloring your skin, which can take days - even weeks in my experience - to disappear.
Henna behaves differently than unsafe hair dye:
Henna is purportedly a safe alternative for coloring, but it has two major downsides, as if the messiness and long prep and cure time weren't enough of a deterrent:
- Henna will not 'lift' hair ... That is, if you're aiming to go lighter, henna may not be for you. Sure, it can enhance tone, add dimension, impart red or auburn or black to make your hair look more vibrant, but it will not turn black hair to light brown hair or brown hair to blonde, and so forth.
- Secondly, if your hair was two-toned, it will not bring the shades together to blend them. Dark roots you want light red to match the blonde hair you're wanting to turn red? Henna will not necessarily make them blend. This goes back to the previous point - henna will not lift a hair to a lighter shade, so if you have multiple tones now, prepare to have multiple tones after. This can look great, still, but simply know what to expect.
Henna as a hair dye can be a great choice when wanting something as raw as it comes to change or even enhance your hair color.
However, if you come out with a hair-do that's a hair-don't, after all, note that you shouldn’t use permanent dye atop henna. That's right, and perhaps a big turn-off to many considering using henna: if you don’t like the color resulting from your experience with henna, limited options exist. You could try a darker shade of henna if that suits, or you could go to a stylist, but - trust me from personal experience - no stylist will shrug her shoulders and say "no biggie" upon hearing she's helping you color over henna.
With these nuggets of info and caveats in mind, do keep henna on your list of how to darken or enhance your hair color safely. When choosing henna, avoid what is referred to as black henna in of itself (this differs from a mere shade - e.g., a reputable company selling the shade "Black" within their henna range is different and likely fine). Black henna product is often used for temporary henna tattoos and contains paraphenylenediamine, which can cause reactions and is not natural henna.
Omiana receives regular messages asking if we offer henna or a safe hair dye alternative; currently we offer safe, pure, fun cosmetic colors, albeit not hair dyes. If you'd love to see that from us, do message to let us know! On the note of clean, safe products, enjoy choosing among Omiana, which has one of the best reputations for being a go-to for even the most sensitive skin and ingredient-smart people. Happy non-toxic living!