How to Use Henna to Naturally Condition and Color Hair
I started applying henna on my hair back in 2008. I have applied before that as well but not regularly. Later, I got my hair chemically straightened in 2009 and stopped using all natural things. Again, I picked up using it regularly from 2012. The reason I started using henna for hair was to get the auburn/burgundy tint. Naturally, I have brown hair, and I do not like that. The reddish tone is something I strive for. So, I have never been picky about the brand I use. The usual Ayur one does the job for me. But, then the usual ones started changing their formula. Each one began to market them as ‘Contains Amla’ or ‘Boosted with 18 other herbs’ etc. Then, it started to go bad for me because every one added Alma in their formula and Alma due to its high iron content turns hair into black. Around the same time, I stopped using chemicals for hair, and one thing that I had to part my ways with was conditioners. But, anyone with hair long enough to cross their shoulder knows how unmanageable it can get. I still have to use a little bit conditioner at times but it is no longer a ritual followed each time I shampoo. I use henna as a hair mask to condition my hair. Now, many of you are disagreeing with me now. I know many who have got dry and brittle hair because of henna. Frankly speaking, there are too many myths linked with the use of henna. So, here I am trying to debunk the myths with the wisdom I have acquired by using henna for around a decade.
MYTH 1 – Henna is only for dying your hair red – FALSE – It depends on how you use it, how long you use it and what you mix with it.
How to condition with henna? If you want just condition your hair, use it for just an hour or even less. Mix lots of curd and egg (if you can tolerate the odor).
How to dye hair black with henna? – Use black tea as the mixing agent. Also, add amla powder or buy henna which already have amla. To naturally make your hair black, use indigo right after you wash your hair.
Indigo is sold by Green Junction on Ebay and by Kama Ayurveda. It oxidizes quickly. So, mix just 8-10 minutes before applying. Also, keep in a dark and airtight place. It loses its quality soon. Henna and Indigo can be used to dye grey and white hair as well. I have done the experiment on my Aunt. It looks better than artificial black colors. As the color fades smoothly thought-out the hair strand, the grey roots do not stand out and look odd.
How to cover grey hair using henna? Use Henna and Indigo together to cover grey hair. If you are using for the first time, apply henna first, keep it for 3-4 hours to let the colors absorb completely, wash off with water (no shampoo!), towel dry and then apply indigo. From the next time onward use a mix of henna and indigo. You can mix then both in the required ratio of how black or red toned you want your hair to be.
What should one do to get vibrant red toned hair? Use black coffee as mixing agent. If you want it to be redder then add kattha that can be easily found in pan shops.
MYTH 2 – Henna makes hair dry, rough and brittle – TRUE (only when used incorrectly). The correct way to use henna is not to let it dry. Shocked? After you apply it to your hair, cover it up with a shower cap or (in worse condition) just any plastic bag. As the henna will not dry, it will be easier to wash off as well. The powder will not settle on hair and won’t be able to make it rough. If you still get rough hair then ask your friend - coconut oil - to help. When the hair is not coated with the powder, it retains its elasticity and hence won’t break or become brittle. As the henna will be in cream form for 2-3 hours on your hair, your hair will get smoother. Think spa hair type! The same is true for every powder hair packs.
MYTH 3 – Henna takes a lot of time, and something that takes overnight is not for me – FALSE. There is no need to soak henna overnight. I have applied it after soaking it overnight and also right after mixing as well. I fail to see any difference that it makes. Scientifically, the mix needs to sit and rest. But, as I do not get time for that I apply it without letting it sit. It is still better to use henna that has not sat than not using it at all.
MYTH 4 – I get colds and cough easily so, I cannot sit with henna on my head – FALSE. The trick is simple – use warm water for mixing. Not only will the color develop better but also it will be soothing to use during colder months.
MYTH 5 – Henna coats the hair and hence bad for hair – both TRUE and FALSE. If you wash it off correctly (read Myth 2), there won't be any issue. Even if you wash it off, you might see that the shampoo foam is brownish when you wash your hair for the first couple of times. After that, you won’t be able to see it there coating your hair.
If you have heard of anything that prohibits you from using henna then, please comment. I will try to answer that here.
How I use henna? I started henna to get red tint in my hair but these days I use majorly to cover the random grey hair that I discover.
- For making the paste, I use hot black coffee. I do not use kattha or egg. At times, I add a spoon of curd. If my hair is feeling too dry, then I also add a teaspoon of pure coconut oil (makes it easier to wash off).
- By the time, I have mixed it; I get a warm creamy henna. I find the warmth very soothing for my scalp.
- I apply it on my hair and cover it with a shower cap. Don’t forget the shower cap under any condition.
- Let it be there as long as I can keep it – generally around 3 hours – sometimes less and sometimes more.
- Wash it off without using any shampoo. CAUTION: Do to rub or pull your hair at this time. As the roots were wet for a real long time, it might break if your hair is not strong. Just stand under the shower and let the flowing water do its job. As the henna was wet, it washes off on its own like a breeze.
- If you do not want color, then use a mild and chemical free shampoo. When you don’t shampoo, the henna gets more time to color and nourish your hair. The next day, you see the actual color.
FabIndia Henna - I got the tub of this henna back in December (FabIndia Haul). The plastic tub packaging attracted me. The price is also not too much. Rs 295 for 190 g is a good bargain. For my hair, the tub can last for around 4-5 usages. The powder is fine and easy to mix. Along with heena, it contains Amla, shikakai, reetha, katha and methi. One of the thing that makes it different is that it turns my hair brown and not red. The colors develop the next day and then it gives the red tint. Maybe it is because it is free of chemicals and free to artificial red dyes. It conditions well and washes off easily. I also like that it comes in a tub packaging. You can store the rest of the powder easily in the tub. The other brands retail henna in pouches, and it is difficult to store the remaining amount. Overall, it is a good product. As it is easily available in FabIndia stores, comes in a tub and it is priced properly, I do recommend this.
Other options are -
- Green Junction Henna (Rs 240 for 200g) Pure henna. They also retail Indigo.
- Godrej Nupur Henna (Rs 165 for 500g) Henna with nine other herbs. Better for mehendi on hand than hair
- Lush Henna - No more retailed in India. I purchased it once but found it impossible to wash off. I had to return it to the store.
- Kama Ayurveda Organic Henna Powder (Rs 455 for 100g) - I have not used it so, cannot comment if it is worth the price.
This post turned out to be much longer than I expected it to be. But, if I have missed any point, then please comment or shoot me an email. I will update this post :)