Aim 4 Natural Henna Photo
Original Image: Getty Images

Hey Sisters,

Several of you asked what methods I use to color my hair – specifically the little “sprigs” of gray that tend to surface occasionally. As you know, I used permanent, commercial hair dyes for many years before noticing how the chemicals were slowly eating away and damaging my hair.
I also tried semi-permanent colors (or rinses) which weren’t as damaging but the color only stayed through 3-4 washes.

After my first big chop (BC) in Feb 2011, I researched and tried a natural alternative to commercial dyes called henna. Studies have shown, this method of coloring was not only safer to use for my natural hair but would also cover the gray AND make my hair “shiny, healthy and strong.”

Wow! What’s in this stuff?! I was eager to get started.

Well, my first attempt was less than favorable. I expected a noticeable color change than what I received. Yes, my gray turned a copper auburn color but the rest of my hair was sort of blah. Nothing exciting.

After the second BC in August 2012, I again researched natural methods to covering the gray. I was reluctant to go the henna route again due to my previous experience. However, all my research lead back to henna as the color of choice among naturals. After months of scouring the web, reading natural hair forums and books, I discovered my mistakes:

  • I did not follow all the instructions contained within the kit. Instead I relied on YouTube videos
  • I did not mix and apply the entire contents since my hair was still in its TWA (teeny, weeny afro) phase. I figured I could use half and save the other half for next time
  • My expectations were not realistic
  • I did not ask questions

A few months ago I decided to re-visit henna as a natural colorant to covering my gray “sprigs”. So far no regrets.

Lessons learned from the first experience: 

  • Read and follow ALL instructions contained within the coloring kit
  • YouTube is a great source of information but should not be the only source
  • Conduct a thorough research consisting of reputable sources of information
  • Have realistic expectations and do not compare the outcome of my hair to someone else’s
  • Join the henna forum and ask lots of questions

Henna for Hair: The Natural Colorant For Covering Gray Hair 

What is Henna?

Catherine Cartwright-Jones, Owner of  mehandi.com, provides her definition:

“Henna, lawsonia inermis, is a plant. It is a large bush, or small tree, that grows in hot, dry climates.There is evidence from Egypt that henna was regularly used to dye hair five thousand years ago, and may have been used in Jericho as early as eight thousand years ago. Henna was used to keep hair healthy and to color gray hair. “

During my research, I found mehandi.com was the best source of high quality henna and a wealth of respected information. Henna FAQs is a good place to start your research.

Benefits of Henna (as described by mehandi.com)

  • Great for relaxed or natural hair
  • Wonderful conditioner.  Makes hair heavy, thick and silky.
  • Penetrates the hair shaft, strengthens it, smooths the cuticle, thickens the hair, making it more resistant to breakage.
  • Helps control dandruff
  • Permanent hair color (until your hair grows out)
  • Will cover gray hair permanently (until your hair grows out)
  • No professional stylist needed
  • There’s no limit to how often you can henna (i.e. once a week, once a month, etc.)
  • Can apply henna right after a relaxer. No need to wait the standard 2 week period
  • Simple to apply at home but time-consuming (Mix sits for 12 hours or overnight. Once applied, henna sits on your hair for 4 or more hours)
  • Affordable. However shipping costs are a bit pricey

Important: There’s a difference between Body Art Quality Henna (or BAQ) and the other 90% of henna sold on the market today or in beauty supply stores. Mehandi.com only sells BAQ which is what you want when coloring your hair. Read here to learn more about the differences→BAQ Henna

Here’s a link to the first kit I used→ Henna for African Hair. The kit is good for one application. I now buy in bulk which has enough for five applications.

There’s a TON of good information available at the mehandi.com website and too much to discuss in this post. If you are interested in learning more about the history of henna and how it could benefit your relaxed or natural hair, mehandi.com is a great place to start. Ms. Cartwright-Jones also offers free eBooks. Here’s a link to her Henna for Hair “How to” book.

Note: I only endorse products or services that I believe, based on my experience, are worthy of such endorsement. I received no compensation or complimentary products for this post. The products used were purchased by me. See the full disclosure here→Aim 4 Natural disclosure

Below are a few pics showing the method I used to mix and apply henna.

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Henna comes in this plastic wrapper.

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Slowly added about 1.5 to 2 cups orange juice to activate the color

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Mix is lumpy at first. I kept stirring and adding juice until mix was like mashed potatoes consistency

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

The smell is somewhat “earthy” kinda smells like hay. I added a little ground ginger to mask the smell a bit.

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 hours or overnight

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Section hair and prepare to mix indigo

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Indigo packaging

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Mix indigo in a bowl with 1 tsp of salt and spring or distilled water

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Mix indigo well

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Mix indigo into bowl with henna. Notice: overnight henna turned from green to reddish-brown. Mixing indigo with the henna gives me a deep, dark brown shade

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Henna and Indigo mixed. Important to mix well to ensure an even application

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Wearing gloves, I applied a thick layer of mixture to each section from root to tip.

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Cover entire head with the mixture

 Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Wipe excess mix from around the edges, nape and ears. Henna will stain skin if left on too long.

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Cover entire head with plastic wrap and let sit for 4-6 hours. The longer its left on, the deeper my color

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

After 6 hours my head felt very heavy. The edges dried and became crusty. Time to rinse

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

 After shampooing and deep conditioning, here are the results. Thick, curly and dark brownish strands

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

 I moisturized my hair using the A4N Specially-formulated Moisturizing Hair Cream and sealed in the moisture with the A4N Revitalizing Herbal Hair Oil. I placed my hair in big chunky two-strand twists

Aim 4 Natural Henna Application

 Two days later I removed the twists and fluffed a little. The coils will loosen more in a day or so.

there you have it…

A long process I know but well worth it. After each application, my hair gets thicker and stronger. I’ll probably do another application in a month.

Tips: 

  • Read ALL instructions 2-3 times before starting
  • Set aside at least an hour of “me time” to mix and properly apply the henna. Do not rush
  • Having someone assist with the application is a good idea
  • Cover the area and floor with an old sheet or towels
  • Apply Vaseline or olive oil around your edges, nape and ears
  • Keep an old wash cloth nearby for quick clean-ups
  • Always wear gloves. Henna will stain your skin.
  • Make sure your entire head is covered with the mixture. Apply like you’re icing a cake
  • Hair will appear stiff after rinsing. Deep conditioning afterwards is highly recommended. One A4N member conditioned first before shampooing then deep conditioned.
  • There are many variations of henna application around the web. Find the method and added ingredients that works best for you (i.e. I read where some people add conditioner, oils or other additives to the henna mix). Again, find the combination that works for you
  • If you are new to henna, I would suggest following the directions supplied with the kit before adding other ingredients. This will ensure you know what works and what doesn’t work for your particular hair type.

More questions about my henna experience? Drop me a note below or through the contact page. You can also start a discussion thread in the forum. However, for more specific questions about henna, please visit mehandi.com. Most questions can be answered just by clicking through their site.

The post, Henna for Hair: The Natural Colorant For Covering Gray Hair first appeared on aim4natural.com.

What are your thoughts about henna? Have you ever tried this method or coloring? If not, would you consider trying this natural colorant?