Since I seem to have become a henna postergirl I thought I'd collect the info/tips/experience I have with it. I might actually shoot a proper tutorial at some point.

1a) henna doesn't cover previous colour like chemical dye does - it's more like staining your hair all over. I only get my bright bright red because I am blonde to begin with. If you have brown hair, you'll get the same shade of darkness, but reddified. The strength of the reddification depends on how long you leave the henna in your hair. On really dark brown hair you might only red a red gloss to it - that will mostly show in sunlight. It'll still condition your hair though.

1b) Henna doesn't dry out your hair. (no idea where that notion comes from!). It'll condition it and leave it in a far better state than repeated chemical dyeing

2) If you're blonde (or grey!), don't use plain henna unless you're prepared for fairly extreme results. Leave it in for half an hour for strawberry blonde shades. Longer and you are likely to end up with bright copper or even orange. It will darken out over the week after using it (something about oxidation I believe) but the colour I currently have (see icon) didn't happen until I'd henna'd about six times. The shade builds up gradually. This is what I got when I used henna the first time over my blonde hair. The annoying thing is that if I do my roots, I have to leave it in a long time or I get copper roots, which looks weird.

3) On light hair you can use henna mixed with indigo powder to get a darker red colour. sells both. has recipes and before and after pictures to get an idea of what does what.
If you have an important event coming up or would otherwise be mortified by orange, do a strand test first (or stick with chemical dyes.)

3) Because henna is a natural product, there are no 100% guarantees about results. I can only tell you about what I've experienced. You'll hear people swear up and down that perm and henna don't combine, but I've had a perm over (4 week old, not too recent) henna (faded the colour slightly, but nothing dramatic) and I've henna'd over recently permed hair without problems. Lots of people seem to do fine henna'ing over hair that's chemically dyed as long as the last dyejob was more than 6 weeks old. More recent (especially bleaching, I'd allow more time for bleached hair) and it gets less predictable. And chemical dye over henna appears to be a bit of a crapshoot. It's your risk to consider.

4) As mentioned, the colour needs to settle. A lot of people with light hair get copper orange the first time they do it and run to the hairdressers in horror - but that copper will deepen out over the next few days. Every subsequent henna session will deepen and fill out the colour. I started out with something coppery and now have deep, intense red especially in the older hair that has been done a bunch of times. (see icon for current colour). It's hard to get a proper picture of it because the light makes a huge difference in the tone. In sunlight, it's like flames.

5) Lush sells henna mix in blocks  that is basically henna and some oils. IMO it's overpriced and no easier than mixing your own, but I do hear that people have good results with it, and it might make you feel more secure to use something 'tried and tested'. Personally I am very wary of 'brand' henna (apart from Lush) that promises all sorts of shades, as often it's not real henna or at least doesn't behave the same way. Stay away from anything that isn't powder (or Lush blocks) and anything that is more complicated than 'make mush, put in hair, rinse out'. Dye packs with mixing bottles and after treatment and so on have little to nothing to do with henna.

6) I add some scent oil to my henna. Usually clove oil and something fruity like satsuma or mango oil. This avoids getting the henna scent back every time your hair gets wet. I also hear ginger powder recommended for this, and intend to try that next time.

7) Some recommend that henna needs to stand overnight for the dye to release before you use it. It does seem to make the colour more intense in a shorter time.

8) you can freeze any leftover henna

9)  I find the easiest to apply method is to make it a smooth mix of about yoghurt thickness, put it in a squeezy bottle, make my hair damp and pull a coarse comb through it, and then squeeze lines of henna into the grooves the comb has made. I get much better coverage with this method and I apply the stuff in my bathroom and very rarely spill more than a drop or two. When I made it thicker, I had lumps of henna all over the place. With the mix thinner I also use a lot less henna and the result is just as good.

10) On yoghurt thickness henna I put some cotton pads on the hairline at my forehead and parting (if necessary with some extra henna on the pad) because that needs extra good coverage at the roots. Without that sometimes the hairline doesn't quite get coverage. Then I pile the rest of the henna'd hair on my head, cover the whole thing with a black turbie towel (with the turban backward so there's no open space at my forehead) and leave it for about 8 hours. If I use clingfilm, I get drippiness (which is horrible!). The towel absorbs the excess moisture while leaving the henna itself in place.

11) It can be a bit of a pain to get out, because it's a little bit gritty, especially lower quality henna. The best way to rinse that I've found is to take a bucket into the shower. Fill it, bend over and dip your head in, and just hold/swish for a moment to let it all get saturated. Use your hands to loosen the hair. Chuck the dirty water, repeat. When the water is mostly clear, slather on a lot of cheap conditioner and leave it in for a few minutes, then do the bucket rinse thing again. The conditioner will make your hair so slippy that the leftover grit comes out really easily.

12) My 'recipe' is 100 gr henna, about a tablespoon lemon juice, about 5 tablespoons olive oil, clove and mango scent oil, and enough water to mix it up to the right consistency.

This is a really good site about henna:



July 2011

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