Henna hair dye is growing in popularity due to increasing concerns over safety with traditional chemical hair dyes. That’s because pure henna is considered 100% natural and for many is a safe alternative to the chemical hair dyes that can cause allergic reactions for many people. Plus, some celebrities made it very popular! (see "Clara Bow".)
SO, for those of you wanting red hair color with fewer risks, henna hair dye might be worth considering.
WHAT IS HENNA? Henna (Lawsonia inermis) is a tall flowering shrub/small tree with green leaves, scented small whitish flowers, and dark-colored fruit. It’s native to and thrives in tropical and subtropical areas like Africa and southern Asia. However, it's cultivated commercially in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, and especially India.
Henna hair dye has been around a very long time, thousands of years....perhaps even since the Bronze Age.
THE DYE The burgundy-red dye molecule (from the Lawsonia leaf) is found concentrated mainly in its leaves and seems to bond well with protein. As a result, henna is used to dye things that have the protein like wool, leather, silk, fingernails, hair, and skin (henna tattoos). [NOTE: For info/concerns about Henna Skin Tattoos, visit my "Tattoos" web page.]
Henna leaves are dried and ground to a fine powder. The powder product is mixed with hot water to form a paste (about 1 part powder to 3 parts water). The paste is applied to the hair, and after about 5 minutes the hair is combed to help the dye reach the roots. It's left on the hair for less than an hour, perhaps 30 minutes, followed by thorough washing and repeated rinsing of the hair until the water runs clear.
The result is a pure natural product that produces a red-brown or orange-brown color to hair.
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST? Consider henna hair dye a semi-permanent to permanent hair dye. That means it will gradually fade and/or grow out with time.
WHO IS IT FOR? You can ONLY go darker in hair color, so if you want to go lighter in shade or blonde, henna is not the right product for you.
Plus, BEFORE dyeing your full head of hair, you might want to do a "strand test" FIRST to see if it bonds with your hair proteins. This is especially true if you’ve already dyed your hair in the past, bleached it, straightened it, or chemically treated it beforehand so consider waiting a few months before trying henna on your hair.
REPORTED BENEFITS -- SAFER: Many feel that henna dye is a much safer, nontoxic alternative to the popular chemical hair dyes. When used correctly and nothing is added to it, it can provide great results. Only hot water is needed to make the henna paste, and no ammonia or peroxide is necessary to activate the whole coloring process.
BE AWARE -- It’s known as ‘natural henna’ when the henna is in pure form without chemicals or additives. Apparently, premixed henna paste may have dangerous additives to it and not recommended! Fewer side effects seem to be reported from 100% natural henna paste.
Also, realize that henna supplies come to the USA from overseas, and it reportedly should have been tested before coming to the United States. Check your supplier to be it has been tested and is 100% natural, without ammonia or peroxide! Make sure there is a money-back guarantee as well.
-- NICER HAIR: Users feel the henna paste helps condition the hair -- making it shinier, soft, and more manageable. It is a bit messy to use at first, but many users say they get used to the process and like the results without the chemicals. (Read about more hair care tips on my other web page.)
A henna shampoo can bring out the natural red highlights or even boost fading natural red hair color. (You can even try using beet juice or cranberry juice to boost red highlights.)
WHERE TO GET IT? Henna hair dye can be purchased many places like beauty supply stores, health food stores, and online. Be sure to read labels for purity!
HOW TO APPLY IT Below is a video of Paula Pennypacker, the founder of "Just for Redheads" beauty products, showing how to apply henna hair color.
FROM THE eMail BAG: Julia from the U.S.A. wrote to ask: "Awesome website! I'm one of the many who's in their 40's and my once bright red hair is starting to fade. I have used chemical products on my hair maybe 10 times in the past 5 years. My hair dresser refuses to color my hair back to the color it once was stating, "people pay me good money to give them your color". We agreed to disagree until I finally convinced her to color my long "wings" of gray/white/I prefer your terminology of "champagne". How dark or copper can I get my hair using the Henna? This change in hair color came on suddenly and I am not comfortable with it, even though I get compliments almost every day about my natural color. I just want to know how dark I can go and with Henna, will I be more likely to achieve my natural color from when I was younger as opposed to using a chemical product??"
READERS?? If you've had experience using henna hair dye, please pass on what you've learned via my "Contact Me" page and if appropriate I'll post your comments!