Thanks again for joining me on yet another adventure where I put my body (and hair) on the line for you as natural product consumers. So, normally I have my hair professionally done by Savannah Falk co-owner of Joy Hair Studio, and she does an amazing job of making me look my best. But we both took one for the team here while I tested henna hair dye for the very first time this week.
Henna is a dye rendered from Lawsonia inermis a tree grown in sub-tropical and tropical regions of India, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco. Traditionally henna has been used to ornament skin in the form of mehndi. Additionally it has been used for centuries to dye and colour hair.
How it works on the hair is by acting like a varnish coating the shaft of the hair. Unlike synthetic dyes, it doesn’t raise the cuticle of the hair, meaning it doesn’t penetrate down into the cortex. This means your hair will stay vibrant for about 4-6 weeks before fading. If you have chemically treated hair such as highlights, henna will show them through the tint and will not block out the original colour completely. This means if you have a harsh set of roots, those will also show through. Additionally, I read some mixed reviews about chemically treating your hair after henna, so I would consult with your stylists prior to beginning that process.
So how did it work you ask? Well, I purchased a box of henna hair dye by Colora from Roots Organic Groceries. They have a wide range of colours to choose from – 18 I believe. It surprised me that they had shades from blondes to strawberry blonde to auburn to brown and black. I chose auburn as I am a mousy red head and I thought this would deepen my natural colouring. I have also heard fairly good things about Lush’s henna products; however, online they only had a limited selection of 4 colours.
The most notable aspect of henna dyes is that they are mostly within the warm/red tones due to the fact that it’s base colour of henna is burnt orange. So if you’re looking for an ashy cool tone, this isn’t going to be for you. How companies create a variety of shades is through the use of additional ingredients like indigo, cloves and moisturizing ingredients like shea butter. The use of indigo with the henna allows for deeper and darker colours to be obtained.
So, let’s begin with the price. The box of dye was only $8.29 Canadian at Roots. Not bad at all. As someone with short hair, I could have used half a box of the powder as I threw out most of it.
Clean freshly washed hair is essential for even distribution and dying, so I began this endeavor with washed and towel dried hair. I recommend you do the same if you try this out.
The powder has a spicy earthy scent which made me sneeze a little when I poured it into the glass bowl I used as it is highly friable. I was sure to use a glass Pyrex bowl for this job as I knew it would be likely to stain my white kitchen mixing bowls. I recommend a fairly large bowl as well because mixing it is a somewhat messy endeavor.
The instructions just said to mix the powder with tap water until it was the consistency of soup. That’s it. Well, it was actually a bear to mix. It was clumpy with dry blobs of henna. I actually gave up on the spoon and opted for both a larger bowl (6 cup capacity) and a whisk. Once mixed I prepared my space carefully. I put down a towel under the bowl, changed my shirt to a dark one which wouldn’t show henna stains and diligently wiped Vaseline along my hairline, ears and neck, also to prevent stains on my skin. Additionally I wore nitrile gloves to protect my hands and nails.
Originally I thought I could apply it then brush it through from root to tip. I was mistaken. This stuff is gritty and difficult to spread through the hair. Eventually I just hung my head over the bathtub and began palming henna on to my scalp and massaging it throughout my hair. This method actually worked really well, and it fortunately didn’t take very long so it didn’t even make my back sore.
The instructions direct the user to cover the hair with a shower cap or plastic bag and wait for an hour. I grabbed a travel shower cap from a recent hotel stay and settled in for the hour. The henna stayed put with zero melting or dripping and didn’t have any smelly chemical funk.
After an hour I washed and shampooed the henna out of my hair and followed it up with a deep conditioner. Although the box touts that their product is moisturizing and good for hair, mine felt a little stiff and dry, so I used a healthy amount of conditioner which helped.
Well, let’s give it some perspective with a look at the before shot.
I have some roots, a little fading of the dyed copper colour and a lot of mousiness to my natural colour. Now for a look at the after shot, freshly washed and dried after the henna.
Needless to say, the colour is vibrant and full. I had highlights prior to this and the henna replicated those in just a lighter red tone. My roots are still present but definitely less noticeable and overall it produces a very even result over my whole head. The scent lingered for a day or so, but it was a sort of a pleasant spicy chai smell, so I didn’t mind. Do I like the colour? Yes actually! It made my hair vibrant and the following few days I received a lot of compliments on how natural it looked on my skin tone. Would I necessarily call the colour Auburn? Ummm, maybe not. However, it does explicitly say on the box that any colour that is underneath the henna will effect the final henna colour, and I did have a fair amount of blonde highlights from the summer.
Several days after this little experiment, we traveled to Mexico and I decided to postpone publishing this post. ** Yes, Mexico, and Yes, there will be a blog about the carbon footprint of air travel and what can be done about it. We will get there 😉 ** I thought the sun, salty air and water and chlorine would be a fantastic test to the longevity of the henna dye. Although I wore a hat quite a bit of the trip to protect my scalp and face from the sun, I did spend a lot of time in the pool and the ocean with my hair exposed. Also, it’s worth noting that I washed my hair 2-3 times more than usual that week due to all the sweat, pool water and salt.
I would say that it held up pretty well under all the circumstances! Although it does appear that it faded a little, it did maintain its vibrancy for the most part! It did feel a little dry when I came home as well, so I did a deep condition yesterday and it is back to feeling soft any shiny.
So what of the experience of using henna dye overall? I would say if you are someone who is content dying their hair at home, this is a fantastic option! I think if the colours that are available that you like, then there isn’t a reason to choose synthetic dye over henna dye. It was affordable and it lasts. Was it a little messy? Absolutely, but I think with a couple applications you will get the practice you need for future ease. Will I use it again? Maybe if Savannah doesn’t kill me first… haha All kidding aside, I think I would use it again if I decide that I just want an overall colour and not foils or highlights.
Have any of you had experience using henna dye? Anyone with grey’s have experience using it? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, I would love to know what you think.