Henna Hair Dye: Your Guide To Dying Hair with Henna at Home

If you are reluctant to damage your hair with chemical dyes but still want to change up your hair or cover up grey strands, then henna hair dye is the way to go. As far as hair dyes go, there’s nothing quite as natural or gentle as henna.

Chemicals dyes can possibly cause irritations and even damage the hair with excessive use. But, henna is a great all-natural alternative for those who want to dye their hair without damaging it. So, if you want colour vibrancy and shine without the damage, then this is the natural product you need!

Henna is made when the leaves of the henna plant are dried and ground into a powder to be used as a dye. Also known as mehndi, henna has been since ancient times in Asia and Africa to enrich, colour and add shine to hair. However, natural henna can be difficult to use, not to mention messy… Worry not, if you follow this guide, we’ll show you how to choose, prepare and apply henna properly to ensure that you achieve optimum results.

What is Henna?

Green henna powder in a bowl with henna leaves near it.

Henna is a natural substance derived from the plant which is native to the Middle-East. It grows in hot climates, and it can also be found as far as India, Northern Africa and Northern Australia.

It has been used for over 5000 years for hair dying and produces a reddish-brown stain when crushed, which is what gives your hair its colour.  Also, it is often used to adorn the body for decorative purposes and to dye the hair.

As it is a natural plant, it only makes one colour, which is an orangey, reddish tone. For this reason, brands often add other natural ingredients to it to create more varieties of colours that can be used to dye the hair.

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Why Is It Better for the Hair Than Chemical Dye?

Henna dyes when applied to the hair coat the cuticle and outer part of the hair shaft without penetrating the inner part of the hair. So, it is a great alternative to synthetic and chemical hair dyes.

The colour will build after every application, giving it a denser and rich colour after every use without changing the texture of the hair by sealing the shaft. In comparison, chemical dyes can actually harm the hair by swelling the shaft of the hair to allow the artificial ingredients in the dye to penetrate the hairs cuticle. This can change its texture to cause impairment. Furthermore, conventional chemical dyes contain allergenic preservatives and harsh ingredients that can irritate and cause reactions to the scalp.

Unlike chemical dyes which can damage and dry out the hair, henna dye also seals the oils in your hair to leave it conditioned. The result? Hair that is smooth, strengthened and soft to touch.

henna being applied to a persons hair, close up.

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What Type of Henna Should You Use to Dye Your Hair?

Many boxed henna products are produced by companies by adding synthetic dyes, metallic salts and other additives to it. This is usually done to enhance or change the colour of the henna, but doing so can cause the henna to lose its quality. Instead, we recommend that for the safest, gentle and highest quality results, look for a 100% natural henna dye.

The best quality of henna you can get will be labelled ‘body art henna’, which has the highest content of natural henna. Doing so will ensure that you get the richest colour from the dye.

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How to Ensure the Henna Works for Your Hair

The very last thing you want is to go ahead and dye your whole hair with henna and be unhappy with the results. In addition, you may not be able to go back to chemical dye until the hair has grown out fully.

Depending on the texture and colour of your hair, henna can work differently for everyone. This also depends on the quality of the henna and the other ingredients and additives that have been added to it. So, to make completely sure that the henna works for your hair and that you are happy with the results, always do a strand test first.

How to do a Strand Test

To do this, apply a little henna mix to a small strand of hair that is hidden behind the rest of your hair. Leave the mixture on for a few hours before washing it off properly. Then, wait a few days to really let the colour develop. This will allow you time to find out what colour you will really get. Once you are happy with the results, you’re good to dye the rest of your hair.

loreal colour result chart with henna.
Pictured: A loreal colour results chart, showing the before and afters of using their Henna Dye.

How to Prep Before Applying the Dye

You’ll definitely want to take a little time to prepare before you apply the dye.

Making sure that you prep your hair and the henna properly before you apply. This will ensure that you get the best possible results from the dye. So, keep reading as we show you what to do before applying the dye to your hair.

Start off With Clean Hair

Make sure your hair is clean before applying the henna. Note that if your hair is slightly on the oily side, this can prevent the henna from staining the hair properly. Any smog, dust and oils that have built up on the hair certainly won’t help with the results of the dye. Furthermore, this means that you could end up with patchy areas where the dye doesn’t catch well.

So, make sure you wash your hair with shampoo and let it dry fully before proceeding to apply the henna to your hair.

Tip: Try and skip conditioner when you wash your hair as this can cause the hair to become slightly oilier, which can prevent the pigment from penetrating the hair properly.

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Prepare the Henna Dye and Let It Set

Make sure you leave plenty of time before applying the henna to let it set. Be sure to make sure you plan in advance before deciding to dye your hair with henna.

In preparation, you should decide on the quantity of the henna you need. This will vary depending on the length and thickness of your hair.

Before preparing the Henna we advise making sure you have access to a non-metallic bowl to combine the ingredients. To prepare the henna, add warm water to the henna powder and mix well until you obtain a gentle, yoghurt-like consistency. It’s a good idea to make sure that the mixture isn’t too runny or too dense.

If it’s too runny, it can drain while you have it on, however, if it’s too thick, the mixture can be hard to apply.

Woman preparing henna hair dye and pouring it into a bowl.

Once the henna has been prepped and combined, cover it up with some cling film and leave it to develop at room temperature for around 12 hoursThis will really let the colour and pigment develop to give you a rich shade. After this period of time, you may notice that the mixture has become incredibly thick. But, don’t worry. Just mix in some water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture becomes a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Protect the Skin Surrounding Your Hair

As henna has natural staining properties, it will adhere to the skin when it comes in contact with it. So, before applying the dye, you want to ensure that the skin around your hair is protected from staining so you don’t get marks where you don’t want to.

To do this, all you need to do is apply some petroleum jelly around your hairline, forehead, ears and the back of your neckline. It’s important not to forget to apply it to the back of your neck as this is the main spot where henna stains can occur. Using petroleum jelly around the hairline will create a barrier between the dye and the skin to prevent any leaks or drips from staining your skin. However, if you don’t have access to such a product then we also recommend that coconut oil, balms or lotions will work just as well and do the job.

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Protect Your Walls, Floors and Clothes

Applying henna dye can be a very messy process, so you need to prepare your workplace.

With Henna being able to get on anything and everything around it, the last thing you want is for the dye to stain your surfaces and clothes, so it is important to take precautions. For this reason, make sure you use plenty of newspaper to protect your walls and floors.

Once henna stains any surface, it can be incredibly hard to get it off. You don’t want your shiny, clean, white sink to have permanent orange stains on it, so make sure it is fully covered. As well as this, you want to keep yourself and your clothes protected from these stains too, so make sure you have dressed appropriately by wearing old clothes that you don’t mind getting stained or ruined when you apply your dye. There is a good chance that you will get some stains on it!

Tip: Don’t forget to have an old cloth or tissues nearby in case of any drips. If you spot or any, try and clean it as soon as possible to stop the tint from settling into any surfaces or your skin.

How to Apply the Henna

As the henna is a lot thicker than regular dye, it can be harder to apply. Just follow our simple hacks so can make applying henna dye easy and fuss-free.

Cover Your Hands with Gloves

Don’t forget to wear gloves to cover your hands before you proceed with applying the henna. Doing so will prevent you from getting orange hands as the henna stains it. Choose some thick, disposable gloves and simply throw them away once you have finished using them.

person applying henna dye to their hair whilst wearing protective gloves.

Section Your Hair

Sectioning your hair will make the henna dye easier to apply. It should also ensure that you don’t miss any strands or sections. 

Start off by combing your hair gently and thoroughly. You should use a wide-toothed comb to get rid of any knots or tangles. Start by working from the front and make your way towards the back of the head. Then, section your hair into little bunches or strands. This will ensure that you get even coverage while making it easier to manage.

Work Section by Section

With a tint brush or your hands, distribute the product. Be sure to do so from the roots to the ends of each strand of hair. 

Tip: Using a brush will give you more precision and ensure that every bit of the hair is coated properly.

Remember to coat the product from the roots to the edges of the hair. This is to make sure you don’t miss any areas. Once you have evenly applied the dye to each section of hair, twist and wrap the sections into a bun with your fingers to keep it out of the way. Repeat this to each section of hair until you have covered your whole head.

Cover the Hair with Cling Film

Covering your hair with cling film after adding the dye is the best way to ensure that you get the best colour release. Doing this will allow the hair to maintain the perfect humidity rate which, in turn, allows the moisture to set the dye slowly.

Let it remain this way for one hour to four hours. Again this depends on how intense you want the colour to come out.

henna dyed hair strands, close up.

How Long Should You Leave the Dye on for?

Henna is not a one-size-fits-all type of dye. The amount of time you leave the dye in your hair is subjective to each person. So, this completely depends on the colour and type of hair before the application of the dye.

However, the longer you allow the dye to set, the richer and deeper the colour will be. Therefore, it is best to do this before you sleep and leave the dye overnight. Doing so will let the dye achieve maximum vibrancy.

Tip: Don’t forget to cover your head with a cloth first to prevent the dye from staining your sheets. To be extra careful, put an old t-shirt over your pillow too.

How to Wash the Dye Off

Once the product has had a few hours to set, you are ready to wash it off. 

Step into the shower and thoroughly rinse the mixture from your hair. This can be quite a long and messy process. However, we do recommend that you can apply a conditioner to the hair. Using conditioner here will help loosen up the henna, as it may have become quite solid once it’s set. We do, however, recommend that you skip using shampoo as this may strip the colour.

Don’t be disheartened if the colour of your hair isn’t what you expected it to be once it dries. Because it is a natural dye, the colour can take time to develop. Importantly, Henna can take up 48 hours to oxidize, so try and be patient until then to see what the true colour is like.

person pictured from behind cleaning their hair, with soap suds.

How Long Does Henna Dye Last?

Henna is a permanent dye, so you don’t generally have to worry about the colour fading over time. However, this can typically depend on how often you wash your hair and also the hair’s structure.

When you layer the colour over, it builds after every application. This leads to a rich, dense, multi-dimensional colour whilst keeping your hair looking shiny and healthy.

Bonus: This makes growing roots far subtler than chemical dye. However, make sure you keep touching up the roots as the hair grows, to achieve an even application all over your head.

Aftercare

Henna dye is pretty low maintenance. This means that there’s not much you have to do once the colour has been applied. It is recommended though, that when washing your hair, it is best to use products that are intended for colour treated hair to maintain your hair colour and ensure it looks as good as possible.

What to Avoid

Do not use henna dye on chemical dyed hair or visa-versa as the results could be disastrous. This is because henna and synthetic dyes can react with each other. When you synthetically process the hair before or after using henna, it lifts the natural cuticles to push the henna dye inside. This can cause an unpredictable and potentially disastrous outcome. So, the best thing to do is to avoid it!

Now you know how to dye your hair with henna at home! Be sure to keep reapplying the dye every few months to really build a rich, glossy colour!

Loreal Henna, Before & After pictures of womans hair from behind.

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