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Colour your Hair with Henna Dye

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by Juliana (subscribe)
A budding scientist and freelance writer, I'm willing to get my feet wet and explore all life has to offer.
Published September 1st 2012
Spice up your hair with natural henna dye
Last weekend, I had some spare time and decided to treat myself to a henna hair treatment. Ever since I permed my hair, the curlier portion has become a lighter shade and more fragile than my original hair, with split ends and constant breakage.

Since I know people who regularly henna their hair (and have seen the results) I decided to give it a try to improve my two-toned hair. So I bought some henna for just $3.50 and spent an afternoon pampering myself. My hair is now a lovely gradient of dark brown with reddish highlights. Read on to learn Henna 101.

What is Henna?

Henna is a permanent to semi-permanent yellow hair dye. It coats the keratin in your hair with a layer of colour, giving it more shine and smoothening static prone hair. Indian women normally use henna to colour their hair, skin, and nails. It is also used for body art for lovely temporary tattoos.

Why Henna?

Henna is a natural hair dye that will colour your hair without damaging it with harsh chemicals or ammonia. In addition to colouring your hair, it will also nourish and condition it, preventing hair loss and dandruff. If you have curly hair it will soften and loosen your curls, making them easier to handle. Henna is also very effective at hiding grey hair newly hennaed grey hair looks red or strawberry blonde and will get darker with repeated use.

There is a whole range of colours that you can use to colour your hair with henna. Depending on your hair colour, it will colour your hair from a lovely coppery blonde to a rich auburn or burgundy. This is achieved by using the henna alone, but you can also use it in combination with indigo (indigofera tinctoria) to create brown to black combinations.

Keep in mind that it darkens your hair, not lightens it, so if you have brown or black hair, you won't have light red hair, rather your hair will be a deeper colour with a glossy red sheen in sunlight.


Body art quality (100% pure) henna
Lemon/lime juice/vinegar/red wine (bottled lemon juice is ok)
Plastic gloves
Shower cap/towel to cover your hair
Wide toothed comb

Optional to mix in:

Essential oils/rosewater for scent (normal henna smells like green tea)
Sugar for smooth application


1) Mix the henna, lemon, and water to a yogurt like consistency, then cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for about 12 hours. The acid in the lemon juice and letting the henna 'cure' will allow for dye release. I've also tried using henna straight away - it works, but it's less strong.

2) Wear an old shirt and gloves. To prevent the henna from staining your face, put some Vaseline or oily cream on your hairline, forehead, and around the ears.

3) Cover your hair with henna, combing through with the wide-toothed comb, then wrap in a towel/shower cap. If it leaks, tie it up with a scarf you don't mind getting stained or pad it with cotton swabs/tissue paper.

4) Keep the henna on for about one to two hours for a lighter colour or four to six hours (or even overnight) for a stronger colour
5) Try washing a few strands to test the colour (strand test).

6) Wash the henna away. Make sure to do several washes. Do not use shampoo or hot water as it will open up the cuticles and allow the colour to escape. Use conditioner to moisturise your hair, henna can feel like a protein treatment and some people experience dryness after henna application. Your hair will be a little gritty after the treatment, but just keep washing it all out.

7) Your hair colour will darken a little during the next few days while the henna oxidises.

Experiment till you find the colour you love!

Tips and warnings:

1) If your hair is a very light shade and you don't like the resultant orange colour, repeat the application till it is redder or more auburn. The colour will also darken as it oxidises within the next few days.

2) If you want to make sure you have a light colour, mix the henna with three quarters of a tablespoon of yogurt and keep it on for one to two hours. If you want a dark colour, mix it with one tablespoon of coffee and keep it on your hair for six to eight hours.

3) To remove the dye, rub warm olive oil onto your hair as it will absorb the excess henna. Also use shampoo to help remove the colour.

4) Do not keep any unused henna, make it fresh each time.

5) Indigo does not release dye like henna does, so it must be mixed separately and used within 15-20 minutes. Make sure your indigo does not contain PPD (paraphenylenediamine) as it is damaging to your skin and hair.

6) If you stick to 100% pure henna powder, you can use chemical dyes/treatments on your hair without waiting.
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Why? For a fresh new look without emptying your pockets!
Your Comment
Really informative and helpful article on henna dyeing your hair; it is so good for the condition of your hair... I do find that doing it yourself is so messy though, so have preferred to have it done at an Indian salon - more later.
by curiouser&curiouser (score: 2|526) 2895 days ago
I use Nazeer Henna, which works a bit differently to how you described and is alot more expensive about $15 for a pkt...yes i love Henna so much cheaper than commercial dyes and better for the hair, I have used Henna for last 13 years and I wouldn't go back!
by carol (score: 0|6) 2893 days ago
Hi, can you please tell me where you buy body quality henna in Adelaide?
by sonja (score: 0|2) 2745 days ago
great idea..where did you purchase the henna from??
i am in sydney city
by purep (score: 0|2) 2238 days ago
I would like blond henna (if that exists) where do you buy Henna hair dyes in Newcastle area?
by dshsk (score: 0|4) 1028 days ago
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