What is henna?

Henna is a flowering plant whose dried, powdered leaves can be turned into a paste to create beautiful temporary body art and permanently dye hair an orangish/reddish/burgundy tint.

Extremely important note!

When purchasing henna, whether it be for body art or hair treatments, always purchase body art quality henna + from a reputable vendor. This means the powder is 100% pure and natural. Vlogger Chemese recently shared her severe allergic reaction (view here) to henna containing para-phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical ingredient common in hair dyes. Chemese’s video of her update about her allergic reaction is posted here.

Benefits of henna treatments

For those seeking to dye their hair reddish tint, henna is a great, natural method (or henna+indigo for black tint). Henna also enhances shine, strengthens hair, thickens hair by coating it, and may loosen curl pattern by weighing down hair.

Alternative to henna: Cassia

I used cassia back in 2010 and I loved the results – cassia thickened and strengthened my hair. Cassia is often called neutral henna but it’s not derived from the henna plant. It’s actually derived from the Italian senna plant which has a low yellow dye molecule, dying lighter hair colors (blond, gray). When applied to dark hair it will not show any color. Cassia will give you the same benefits of henna but the results do not last as long so cassia applications must be done more frequently.

My Henna Plan

I purchased 100g of Rajasthani Indian henna powder ($7) and 100g of indigo ($9) from Henna Sooq (pictured above). Henna Sooq makes it super easy to browse what ratios of henna + indigo one needs to achieve red, golden, brown, or black tones (you can view HS’s guide here). Based on the chart for brown hair, to achieve reddish-brown tones I will need to mix 70% henna + 30% indigo. To achieve brown tones, I will need to mix 50% henna + 50% indigo. My mother tried henna a couple years ago and I loved her results so maybe I’ll try to achieve a similar tint?… decisions, decisions.

Here’s the color of my hair in indirect (left) and direct (right) sunlight. The photos were taken in April and May 2015 and pplleeeasseeeeee ignore how dry my hair looked. On the right was my hair after a long morning run and altogether I was still figuring out how to keep my newly all-natural hair moisturized. Anywho, as much as I love the brown of my hair, I’m open to trying something new.

My natural hair color April and May 2015
My natural hair color – April and May 2015

I have all the ingredients I plan to add – coconut milk and honey. All of the straightforward henna instructions I’ve read have advised to mix henna with a dye releasing agent, like apple cider vinegar, black tea, or green tea but I’ve decided to mix in coconut milk instead after reading Minimalist Beauty’s experience with adding the usual dye releasing agents vs adding coconut milk. Check out her post here.

Rinsing out henna can be chore (rinsing out cassia from my hair certainly was) so I have lots of cheapie conditioner to rinse it out – Alberto VO5 Moisture Milks Moisturizing Conditioner Strawberries and Cream. The only thing I’m missing is my favorite moisturizing deep conditioner – HairVeda Deep Conditioning Hair Masque (formerly named Sitrinillah Deep Conditioner) to stave off henna’s drying and protein-treatment like effects.

As excited as I am to try henna, I’m honestly still hesitant and nervous that it’ll cause breakage, that the color will be too red, that it’ll turn my hair into a big dry cloud of hay. I think I’ll try henna this weekend but don’t be surprised if I post that I chickened out 😛


Have you tried henna? Have any tips to share?

P.S. I’ve been doing my researching on henna for the better part of a week and have a more detailed post on the pros and cons of henna treatments coming up.


  1. Go for it. Henna is great for hair once mixed, applied and rinsed thoroughly. I haven’t had an unfavourable experience. Granted, I’ve only completed 2 henna applications. Both times with the same Henna mix (I made enough to freeze half, and followed MaiCurls method for henna bars https://maicurls.wordpress.com/?s=henna). I mixed straight henna (no indigo or cassia etc) with lemon juice as was recommended on the packet. Various sites suggest ACV or green tea as you indicated, and I have also seen the suggestion to use coconut milk (however, this may take a longer time for dye release.
    My results: From what I could tell, there was no visible colour difference the first time. I have really dark brown hair. When relaxed it always looked lighter than it does now, but that’s the effects of chemicals and sun, right.
    The second time, after melting the henna bar I mixed with conditioner to make ‘henna gloss’ (as I was preparing for a protective style installation). As a result, I haven’t been able to ascertain if there was any colour change.
    My hair however, responded very well to the treatment both times. I left the henna in overnight and I followed with moisturizing deep treatment on both occasions, as was suggested on every website, blog, post, and in comments.
    I don’t believe you have any reason to be apprehensive. As always, I’m sure you’ve done your research, and knowing your hair as well as you do, the decisions you make will be most beneficial to you, leading to amazing results.
    Can’t wait to see!

    1. Author

      Thank you sharing your process and results! I’m leaning towards mixing in coconut milk (thank you for the tip on longer dye release) and a moisturizing conditioner, and definitely deep conditioning afterwards. I really want to avoid any risk of dry hair.

  2. I love Henna. I have used it for about 5 years. I apply it every 6 weeks for color. I mix with aloe vera juice and let sit overnight to release the dye. I deep condition after using it. I also use Henna with other ayurvedic powders (amla, neem, brahmi) and use as a conditioner. Then I will mix it with coconut milk and oils. I also will add to cheap conditioners with mustard oil, my ayurvedic infused oil and castor oils for a pre poo. I infuse oils with henna, neem, amla and brahmi. I also add it to my cleansing mud (soapnut, rhassoul or indian healing clay) to help with conditioning. My hair loves it. I have not had any issues with loosening my curl pattern.

    1. Author

      You’re a henna veteran! Brahmi seems like a frequently added ayurvedic powder *jots reminder to grab some for later henna treatments*. Thank you for sharing your mix! You’ve made me interested in the various ways henna can be incorporated.

  3. I can’t WAIT to follow this journey with you, I would really like a natural way to darken my hair, but like you mentioned, I’ve seen mixed reviews on ladies’ experiences – good bad and ugly. So this introductory post was perfect, lots of good info and I will be following along!

    1. It should turn out fine as long as you aren’t doing it for gray coverage or a deep black. I use henna + indigo to color my husband’s hair and, after trial and error, have found the only way to get the dark brown he needs to blend his grays is to do the indigo as a separate process. Oh and to add salt to the indigo mix…natural stuff is hard lol

  4. Sorry, full recipe:3TB brahmi and 1 TB henna, hot water, evoo and cheapie conditioner. I skipped the honey as I have been trying to keep things simple.
    Maybe the henna doesnt dry out my hair because I always prepoo with coconut oil before washday?
    Or maybe it is just the conditioner in the henna gloss mix 🙂

    1. Author

      Your recipe sounds great! Mixing with conditioner sounds like the best route to go to avoid dryness. I wonder how mixing henna+indigo+coconut milk+conditioner would turn out.

  5. the first year of my transition to natural I used a mix of cassia, amla, brahmi (each 2 TB) and henna (1 TB). I added few TB of hot water, Evoo, honey and a cheapie conditioner. I never waited for dye release and left it on for 1 hr max.
    I stopped a year ago, but recently I noticed my very fine strands needed fortifying so I made another henna gloss mix. This time 3TB brahmi and 1 TB henna, applied immediately to hair and used my body heat and plastic bags. I rinsed after 45 mins and my hair has a tiny bit of a reddish glow in direct sunlight but is otherwise not noticeable at all.
    My strands however feel much better. Strong but smooth and I never experience dryness because of the conditioner. Cowashing the powders out is definitely smart (I shampoo and DC after)
    Ive never done a full strength henna treatment.
    Very excited to see your results!

  6. I love Henna, although It is a huge effort to rinse out. I only tend to resort to it when my hair is feeling fragile. And even then mix with moisturising conditioners and coconut oil and it doesn’t dry out your hair too much. I leave it in for 2-3 hours.

  7. Go for it Jen!
    I started using henna about 5 months ago. I use henna to get a black colour for my hair, I love the colour result but I am combating the dryness and shedding. So I will be trying to 1. incorporate a deep conditioning treatment straight after the henna indigo 2-step process (even though its not advised so as to allow the indigo to oxidise) and then 2. include black tea rinses on usual wash days.

    1. Author

      I think I’m going to go for it! Black tea is great for shedding (but it can make hair feel a bit stiff).

  8. Hi. Can a pregnant woman use henna?

    1. Yes! It’s safer & gentler than any chemical dye. I would recommend doing a patch test first though.

  9. I started using henna recently, I’ve done 3 applications so far ( once a month) and I’m loving it. I started off on very dark or rather black hair so the red tint isn’t so obvious except on my grey strands, which are the reason I became a henna head anyway.
    looking forward to seeing your results!


    1. Author

      Does the henna dye your grays a soft red?

      1. Not on first application; turns them light auburn/orange. I usually do another application on just the grays right after I rinse the first to get the darker color. Over time, all of my grays have turned a deep burgundy red.

        1. Author

          Deep burgundy red, that sounds so pretty!

  10. I love henna! I use henna every 1-3 months. I love the color it gives my hair in the sunlight and the additional shine.

    1. Author

      How long do you leave henna in before rinsing?

      1. I’ve been using henna since I started my transition 3 years ago & my method has gone from über complicated to easy breezy! I used to leave my henna on for 4-6 hours then discovered you get the same amount of dye uptake after 2 hours. Also, I used to add all kinds of moisturizers & whatnot to my mix but I discovered ACV=stinky henna (& you don’t want that concentrated funky smell heating up on your head & tickling your nose for 2 hours lol!). I now just mix my henna with lemon juice or green tea if I’m out of lemon juice for some reason. Last but not least, I used to leave my henna to cure overnight but have since found by trial & error that I can put it on right after mixing and just let it dye release right there on my head! I’m lazy…#dontjudgeme. Henna builds on itself, so over time, the color deepens. I primarily use it to cover a few disrespectful grays and I do a spot treatment every week (yes, they’re that rude AND I hate orange grays) and a whole head treatment monthly when I clarify. I spent months researching henna before I took the plunge then proceeded to make the whole process way more complex than it needed to be. My advice is keep it simple, moisturizing DC afterwards & WEAR GLOVES. Make your mix thick enough that you can apply it with a dye brush to minimize splatters & plops because the stuff stains like nobody’s business! Put newspapers or old towels down and wear clothes you don’t mind staining. I hope this novella helps you on your henna adventure! Be brave 🙂

        1. Author

          Thank for the detailed comment and all the helpful tips! It’s definitely helped me be less apprehensive about the process! I have a couple sprushes I have no use for anymore now that I no longer relax my hair and wondered whether I could use them for henna. Your suggestion to use a dye brush is perfect.

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