We all know that dying our hair chemically is really bad. Right? Your hair will just get thinner and more brittle for each dye. And let’s not even get started on all those chemicals. Really, let’s not.

Let’s instead get started on what you actually can do to dye your hair without the suffocating in your bathroom. The most common way to naturally dye your hair permanently is to use henna (lawsonia inermis). Unfortunately (whatever your beliefs were before) henna will only dye your hair one color, and that’s red. More on that soon.

There are also these things called neutral henna and black henna. While these products are all natural and nice, they are not henna. The so-called “neutral henna” will probably be Cassia obovata, that will have all the other benefits of henna except for the color. Black henna, in turn, is the indigo plant.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit about henna and how to use it.

Why use henna?

There are lots of advantages to using henna as opposed to other traditional hair dyes.

  • Price. Henna is a lot cheaper than other hair dyes. A lot.
  • Good for your hair. Unlike chemical dyes, henna is nothing that you should be cautious of using too often. In fact, it is only good for your hair! Apart from the color, henna will also strengthen and add texture and shine to your hair, and help remove dandruff.
  • Permanent. Henna color is permanent and is not as affected by shampooing, blow-drying etc. as chemical permanent dyes are. Also, the color will intensify when redying.
  • DIY-friendly. I have found that getting an even color on my hair is a lot easier with henna than with chemical dyes. So no need to go to the hairdresser. Sure, it’s a bit messy and time-consuming but the results are always great.

Red and red only

You have probably seen the boxes of hair dye in organic shops with “henna hair color” in all shades imaginable. Also when googling for ”henna hair dye” or ”henna hair color”, most image results that show up are color charts with tons of shades to choose from, everything from black to bright purple. This is not henna. Henna will only dye your hair in one hair color, and that is red. These henna hair dyes will probably contain a small amount of henna, and then the rest is chemicals or, if you’re lucky, natural plants (although if the dye will give you a color like these, rest assured it is not thanks to chamomile).

By the way, if you ever heard the rumor that henna causes cancer, there is no real evidence for this. This statement is based on a poorly made study from the 1920′s. What you should be afraid of, however, are henna mixtures that don’t have ingredient lists on them. Some might contain PPD (p-phenylenediamine) which is extremely allergenic. Do a patch test on your wrist to make sure your powder doesn’t cause you any reactions!

So are you curious to try out henna your hair then? First of all, make sure you really want to. As I said, this is a permanent hair dye and is really hard to get out of your hair (there are apparently ways, contact me in case of emergency!).

How to use henna

  • Henna can be bought from Indian shops or, ten times pricier, organic shops or beauty shops. The henna powder should be a light algae-y green.
  • Mix about 3 tbs henna with a bit of very hot water in a bowl that you’re not too fond of (it will be stained by the henna). The consistency should be a quite thick paste, not too runny.
    Then you will need to let the mixture stand for at least 12 hours. If you want to, you can do a test to make sure it’s done, by adding a teaspoon of the mixture to your wrist. Rinse off after a minute – if you have a yellow spot on your hand, the mixture is done.
  • Then apply to your hair, wrap some plastic foil around it and let stand for at least an hour. The longer you have the mixture on, the more color you will get.
  • To get the mixture out of your hair, I found the best way is to apply heaps of some cheap conditioner to the hair, massage for a good while and then rinse out.
  • If you make too much, just freeze the rest of the mixture and use in the next time. I always make at least a double batch so I won’t have to make the mixture too often.
  • If your hair is a weird color the first time you do it, wait a couple of days before panicking. When the henna gets into the strand, an oxidation process takes place which means it might be a bit strange at first. My hair was a bright blond-orange for a couple of days before it became the red it is now. Luckily I was at my summer cottage that weekend