Did you know there are several schools of thoughts on how to use henna, on the preparation and application of herbal hair dyes?
Well, I’m going to share with you the method that I’ve been successfully using for many years. I obviously chose the simplest and most practical way, and, in my opinion, the most effective one, as well!
Everything I’m going to share with you in this henna guide shouldn’t be followed literally. In fact I ask you to do your own experiments and draw your own conclusions. Then, if you'd like, we can go deeper into the subject in the comments area down below.
My intention is to share with you in this how to use henna guide everything I learned in these past eight years during which I applied monthly henna and herbal hair dyes on my hair. I would also like to offer you a different perspective on the complex and fascinating henna world, other than the ones you may get by reading forums and blogs.
The above video-tutorial is in english with italian subtitles.
You can find brief indications on the preparation and application of henna and herbal hair dyes both in the above tutorial, and in the blog post: “F.A.Q Facts you should know about Henna & Herbal Hair Colors”, but this article should remove any doubt you may still have.
How to use henna: preparation & application guide
As you may know, there are two types of henna on the market:or
- henna with sodium picramate, a synthetic substance that enriches the color and intensifies the shades of red.
Sodium picramate is toxic for fetuses, so it’s not very healthy for us, too. But if you decide to use henna with sodium picramate because you’re looking for a deeper and more intense color, just remember that it can react chemically with your previous dyes, running the risk to obtain strange colors. Hence:
- To make sure you are completely happy with the results, always make a test, applying the mix on a hidden lock of your hair to find out what color you will obtain;
- Remember to verify, before the application, the Ingredients List of the natural hair dyes, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. On the label of pure henna, you should only read the Latin name of the plant, that would be Lawsonia Inermis.
Make sure to have at hand:
- A ceramic or glass bowl
- A wooden, plastic or ceramic spoon (avoid metallic ones)
- A pair of disposable, rubber gloves (you have to wear them as soon as you start managing the herbal hair powders)
- A hair-dying brush (you can buy it in any supermarket)
- A wooden wide-tooth comb (use it to prevent damp hair from breaking during combing)
- Plastic film or a disposable shower cap, to cover your head and to maintain a high humidity rate
- A wool hat (humidity and heat help the color release)
Clean or dirty hair?
Make sure to have clean hair before preparing the henna mix. It doesn’t matter if your hair is damp or if you have washed it within the previous 12-24 hours. What it's important is that it is not dirty.
I myself tried to cheat applying henna on dirty hair :D but sebum, dust and smog don’t help and the results were not satisfactory. Besides, another pro for applying the henna mix on clean hair is that you won't have to necessarily shampoo during rinsing therefore you don’t risk the color to be washed away.
How to prepare the henna mix - instructions:
Many people prepare the henna mix 12 to 24 hours before the application, adding to it an acidic ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice, but I insist on telling you that IT’S NOT necessary because it makes no difference in the color release but, if you want to make your life difficult, then do it :D
Lawsonia itself creates the acidic ambient necessary to the release of the color.
Please check out before proceeding this article: Henna Application & Preparation: Oxidation - Acidification - YES or NO? in which I fully explain whether the oxidation and acidification of henna is necessary or not.
If you think it might be useful to your friends, feel free to share it.
Add warm water (not hot!) to your henna powder ( decide the quantity according to your hair thickness and length) until you obtain a mix with a texture similar to yoghurt, not too liquid nor too dense, because the application should be easy and it shouldn’t drain while you have it on.
How to use Henna - Common Errors
For different reasons, it’s common to add to the mix various ingredients:
- Lemon, tea, yoghurt or vinegar to create an acidic ambient (but in the long run they end up drying your hair)
- Coffee or cocoa to intensify the darkest tones of the dye (it’s false because neither coffee nor cocoa contain dying agents)
- Honey, oils or vegetable butters to soften the hair and to contrast the dry / frizzy effect due to herbal hair dyes after the application.
- Essential oils to cover the herbal hair dyes scent.
You should NOT add anything other than warm water!
Each ingredient you may add, it only interferes with the dye, blocking the color release on your hair! Butter and oil, for example, film your hair.
Quick Guide on how to improve the consistency of the henna mix
If the mix you’re applying falls into pieces all over your bathroom, it’s likely that your henna mix contained sand. Unfortunately there are a lot of dishonest sellers that add sand to the mix in order to increase its weight.
How can you tell if your herbal dyes are pure?
You can only understand it during the preparation and application of henna, by looking at how the mix appears. 100% pure herbal hair dyes make creamy mixes, that can be easily spread on hair, that don’t drizzle and don’t fall in pieces staining you, your clothes and the room you're in.
To improve the henna mix consistency, I boil flaxseeds in water (1 tablespoon every 300g of water) and then I filter the water when it becomes a not too dense gel. You have to pay attention because if you leave it too much on the gas, the gel becomes too dense making it too difficult to spread on your hair.
Just remember that adding any type of "solid" ingredient (cassia, cocoa or any other powder) to improve the consistency of the mix, dilutes the final color you may obtain. I strongly suggest you not to do it if you want to dye your grey hair.
How to use Henna: application instructions
Once you added the warm water to henna or to the herbal hair dyes mix, you have to mix well until you obtain a creamy texture. Then you have to proceed with the application on clean hair immediately, dividing your hair into sections. For best results, work from the roots to the tips.
In the video tutorial linked at the beginning of the article, you can find my application method.
Remember to use latex, rubber gloves when you’re using herbal hair dyes. Lawsonia Inermis stains your hands and fingers yellow or orange. Fortunately, henna doesn’t color the skin around the ears or the forehead. But, to prevent any accident, I recommend you to use old clothes because the stains made by herbal hair dyes can't be removed.
How long should I keep the herbal hair dyes on my hair?
Make sure to cover all your head with plastic film or with a shower cap to maintain a perfect humidity rate. Then wear a wool hat (even if it’s summer!) to keep a high temperature and to help the color release easier.
The ideal would be to leave the mix sit on your hair for 3/6 hours, but it’s subjective. It all depends on:
- How intense we want the color to be
- The hair's porosity and its absorbing power
- How delicate our skin is.
Even though I have a 75% white regrowth I manage to get a good coverage of the white hair by letting the mix sit only about 4 hours.
How to use Henna: Rinsing and washing instructions
Not using shampoos would be ideal because henna and herbal dyes are applied on clean hair, so it’s not really necessary.
If I massage and rinse the scalp for a long time, I can avoid using shampoo even though I use a tiny bit of conditioner on the ends, to make the combing easier.
If you have a delicate and sensitive scalp, I suggest you to diminish the sitting time to 3 or maximum 4 hours (henna and herbal dyes are natural, but after a long time on the scalp they are no longer so gentle on the skin) and to use a delicate shampoo (which I recommend you should dilute in a separate bowl) to wash away every little piece of herbal dye that may cause redness and itching after the application.
Please check out the blog post "Allergic to Henna Hair Dye? Henna Itchy, Sore & Burning Scalp? Here's what you can do!" in case you experience itchy sore scalp after applying henna.
Lastly, I always rinse my hair with cold water and vinegar (one tablespoon of vinegar in 1 liter of cold water) to fix the color and close the hair cuticles. This trick leaves my hair shiny & silky. In order not to get aggressive in the long run, I only use this trick when I henna my hair.
In all the other occasions when I wash my hair I use the Beautilicious Delights Hair Spray which thanks to its acidic pH substitutes the vinegar, but without running the risk that it may become too harsh on the hair because of the acidic pH.
Remember that you will see the real and final color of your hair only after 3 or 4 days from the application, when the herbal hair dyes finish their oxidation process.
Henna hair colour is safe to use as often as you like. Use multiple applications to build an intense & bright color.
And, considering the percentage of grey hair that I have, I might say the results are pretty nice, aren't they? :) In the end, all that matters is always our satisfaction.
This is my guide on how to use: prepare and apply henna and herbal hair dyes that I’ve been successfully using for more than seven years.
It doesn’t mean that any other application method is wrong or that it’s less successful, but between a complex life made of oxidations / acidification processes (resulting in dry and frizzy hair) and a simpler and more practical method, I obviously chose the second option!
And what about you? How do yo use henna? What’s your application and preparation method for henna? Do you have any suggestions or any tips that made the difference for you or that could improve my guide to henna & herbal hair dyes preparation?
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