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So You Want to Try Henna...

Amanda is a wife and mom who loves all things geeky, and doing some occasional writing.

For most people, when they hear the word henna, they automatically think of the amazingly detailed and intricate body art designs you usually see on Hindus. While that is henna, the henna I'm referring to is the plant that is ground into powder and used to color your hair.

I have been using henna hair color for the past year. I actually just hit my "hennaversiary" and I've never looked back. If you have been searching for an all natural, chemical free way to color your hair, look no farther! Henna is hands down, the best thing I have ever done for my hair. And I have abused it, let me tell you! I have been a from the box redhead, and let's just say I've had all the shades of red covered. That puts a lot on anyone's hair. I'm amazed I have any hair left at all.

First things first - when it comes to purchasing your henna, be on the lookout for those that are not BAQ (body art quality), because this is the absolute worst henna to put on your hair, much less your body! Non BAQ henna has a tendency of turning your hair that lovely shade of "baby poop green" or worse yet, chemically frying it! Notice I said "chemically frying"? "But I thought henna doesn't have chemicals in it?" 100% pure henna does not have chemicals, and that is what BAQ henna is. Henna that isn't BAQ has metallic compounds and other chemicals that do far more damage than good. Also, please be aware there is no such thing as "better than BAQ henna". It simply doesn't get any better than 100% pure henna! If you happen to purchase henna and pull out a bottle of developer, beware and DO NOT USE IT! Pure henna does not need anything but water (or lemon juice) to mix it.

I'm sure you've probably heard of "black henna". There really is no such thing. There is only one true henna - red henna, or Lawsonia Inermis - is the leaf of the henna plant that has the red-orange molecule that will stain your hair. I prefer to use BAQ henna because this has a much higher dye content than henna usually sold for hair. This produces a much richer color. "Black henna" is actually indigo. In order to color your hair black with henna, you must use indigo after the initial henna application. Most people do henna first, and depending on what kind of henna you have will depend on the wait time. After the first henna application, mix up the indigo and apply it generously on your hair and wait. After you rinse it out, you should have a beautiful rich blue-black color. Once I get around to doing my hair black again, I will certainly be taking the lazy way out and using the Natural Black from Henna Color Lab. I have an issue with patience and waiting 6+ hours to let the dye release like other hennas I have sampled, plus, they also combined the indigo with the henna. They do recommend to do a second treatment if you are going for a jet black look, since the indigo will leave more of a blue-black hue. For the record, many other hennas recommend the same.

I love HCL hennas because they are instant, meaning I just mix it with water and I can use it immediately. Plus, the process time is significantly shorter than other hennas around. I can still have a beautiful rich color with all the glorious henna benefits after only 1-2 hours versus sitting around for 6 hours waiting for the henna to set. I typically use a single packet on my wavy hair that is mid - back length, but they do recommend to use two packets if your hair is longer than shoulder length. I have only used the Wine Red henna on myself from HCL, but I have used their pure henna on others. The biggest reason I went with Henna Color Lab is because I had almost black hair at the time, and after the hours and hours of research I had done, 99% of what I read told me I wasn't going to get a vibrant red that I was going for if my hair was really dark. I was getting pretty discouraged, until a quick Google search pointed me towards Henna Color Lab's Wine Red henna. All the reviews told me exactly what I wanted to hear - dark brown or black hair was turned a beautiful shade of deep red. I've always been partial to red hair, but I've never really cared for the Carrot Top look (on me; it looks amazing on other people). I love the deeper shades of red to burgundy. So I bought the Wine Red, and man oh man! When I dried my hair, I had a very intense deep red. When I stepped outside, my sister literally let out a high pitched scream because it looked like my hair was on fire! I was in love!

Very first application with Wine Red from Henna Color Lab. My hair was almost black before this.

Very first application with Wine Red from Henna Color Lab. My hair was almost black before this.

Showing how vibrant my Wine Red henna from Henna Color Lab is indoors vs. in the sunlight. I hadn't done a henna application in several months by time this picture was taken.

Showing how vibrant my Wine Red henna from Henna Color Lab is indoors vs. in the sunlight. I hadn't done a henna application in several months by time this picture was taken.

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Did You Know?

  • Henna is an excellent natural conditioner! Your hair will feel so soft after!
  • Henna helps get rid of and treat ringworm, lice, and dandruff.
  • It can help rebuild and repair dry, damaged hair. It can also help with shedding.
  • Many people report that helps with growth as well.
  • You can treat your hair to all the amazing benefits of henna WITHOUT changing your hair color!

What IS henna? Henna is a small shrub that matures after three years. During its juvenile stages, the leaves do not have high dye content, or lawsone (the red-orange color). Once it begins to mature in the third year, the younger leaves have much more lawsone. As the plant ages, the dye content is significantly lower. The only part of the henna plant that contains lawsone are the leaves. This means if you have a box of henna that claims it's "100% henna with henna bark, roots, twigs, etc.", you should probably skip using that henna. Body art quality (BAQ) henna often costs more because it has a much higher dye content, and it is a rather labor intensive job to remove everything from the henna plant. Once the leaves are ground up into a fine powder, it is sifted several times to make sure the powder is super fine. The more it is sifted, the higher the dye content. The henna powder I get from Henna Color Lab is triple sifted, so it doesn't clump up when I mix it up.

Henna is a very permanent option for hair color. It takes several months to fade, and each time you henna, the color gets even more intense. It will actually darken over time, due to an oxidization process. Henna does not cover evenly, so if you have highlights or multiple colors in your hair, you will have multiple shades of henna, as well. Most people find when they have highlights, the henna only makes it look more natural. Sometimes though, when you color your hair with henna, your hair or your roots especially, will be orange. This is completely normal. If it bothers you, try to stay in the house for a couple of days. After a few days, the color will darken from the oxidization.

Henna can also be very messy! It feels and looks like mud. Thankfully, I have never had many issues with it, but I like to think that's probably because I keep mine kind of thick. It also stains orange. If you're concerned about staining your face or neck, just quickly wipe it off as soon as you see it. And spend a few bucks and get the box of medical gloves. You'll thank me. Any time I have applied henna on my hair, I am careful to protect any surfaces I'm around. But since mine is thick, I don't have a lot of dripping to deal with. If I do get an occasional drip, I quickly wipe it up, and there's not much evidence left. Whenever I would use chemical box hair colors, there would be a stain for several months after, depending on what it dripped on. Henna stains disappear after a few days, so my bathroom thanks me for that. So do the people that share that bathroom. When it comes time to rinse your hair out, don't use shampoo to get the henna out. Buy the cheapest conditioner you can find (V05 works perfectly and it's cheap!), because you'll use a lot of it depending on the length of your hair. Before using any conditioner though, run your hair under the water and just feel how soft it's already made your hair! Proceed with conditioning your hair, and don't be surprised when half of your expensive bottle of conditioner is gone. I told you to get the cheap stuff for a reason! Live and learn, folks. I didn't listen when I read over and over to use something cheap because I didn't want to have to go out and buy anything else. Half a $18 bottle of condition later, I listened. Also, don't freak out when you go to wash your hair two months from now, you see yellow water. This is just the plant matter that is being rinsed from your hair. Some people also say their hair still smells like hay whenever it gets wet, so you're not completely crazy if this happens to you.

Say you want to have all the benefits of a henna treatment, but you don't want to drastically change your hair color. Cassia, or more often referred as "neutral henna", does just that. It looks very much like pure henna. If you mix it with just water and use it within an hour, it will condition and give your hair a nice glossy shine without changing the color. If you mix cassia with lemon juice and let it sit, the acid in the lemon juice will release some dye, but your hair will only have a golden color to it. If you have blonde hair and you mix it with a little bit of henna, the color will deepen and a strawberry-blonde will result. Cassia can also be used on top of bleached blonde hair to repair and chemical damage. In the following picture, each bunch of hair is white mixed with cassia and shows the colors you can create with lemon juice and henna.

1) Cassia and water only 2) Cassia and lemon juice only 3) 80% cassia mixed with 20% henna 4) 50% mix of cassia and henna

1) Cassia and water only 2) Cassia and lemon juice only 3) 80% cassia mixed with 20% henna 4) 50% mix of cassia and henna

If you feel confident enough to jump straight into hennaing your hair, feel free to check out these two sites I have used to purchase mine. will give you lots of information and show you many people who have used henna and what kind of mixes they used to get the shade they achieved. You can also purchase many kinds of henna here. If you don't want to wait the 6+ hours to be able to do your hair, check out and look around. I'm telling you, I have never been so happy with a product in my life. Mehandi has great henna, but like I said, I'm too impatient and I want to use my henna RIGHT NOW, so Henna Color Lab works best for me. Plus, they run specials throughout the year so you can get several packs and other hair treatments quite a bit cheaper than usual.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know! Happy hennaing!

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