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Common Mistakes And Tips: Henna For Hair

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After so many years of doing henna and natural herbs for hair, and getting all sorts of questions, I really felt we could use a good post on common mistakes and errors, when it comes to henna for hair (and herbs). We’ve included some amazing tips that everyone should know.

Beautiful Rich Henna and Indigo'ed Hair

This list will never be complete, and we’ll need all of you to help add to it. Henna and natural hair care is all about being open, having a good vibe, being natural, and accepting each and every recipe as special, and unique to every person.

  • Henna is a plant, not a chemical, or ink. Henna is a natural plant, and it grows in very hot climates. As a natural plant it makes only one color: orange-reddish tones. Plants don’t give us more then one color. Typically blueberries stain blue, just as henna stains red. Commercial boxes of henna will tell us they are henna “colors”, but in fact they are pre-mixed boxed of henna that contain other herbs, and ingredients (sometimes even chemicals, additives, or metallic salts). It’s also not an ink. Henna powder is mixed into a henna paste, which can be used to dye your hair (permanent until it grows out), or to create henna body art designs (temporary) on the skin. Please read our recipes and how to’s section to find out how.
  • Henna colors, is this possible? A lot of commercial boxed henna hair dyes will have a variety of colors available. Natural and 100% pure henna only dyes orange-reddish tones. Please always read the list of ingredients on the boxes you purchase, or just purchase 100% pure henna powder from a reliable supplier.
  • Henna will not lighten your hair tone. Henna is a chemically-free all natural hair dye. It doesn’t contain chemicals, or bleaching ingredients that would lighten your hair.
  • Neutral Henna. Cassia obovata is sometimes called neutral henna, but in fact it is another plant that has a low yellow dye molecule, that can color grey, light, and blond hair. On dark hair, cassia obovata will not usually show any color. Using cassia obovata will give you all the benefits of henna, but it does have to be done a bit more often, as the results are not as long term as henna is.
  • Black Henna. Indigo is sometimes called black henna, but this is yet another plant that will color the hair brown to black tones (must be used with henna to give these results). Indigo does not have dye release the same way that henna does, so it must be mixed and used right away, or within 15-20 minutes. Please make sure your indigo does not contain PPD, which is can be quite damaging to the hair, and skin.
  • If I use henna I won’t ever be able to use chemical dyes/treatments on my hair. As long as you use 100% pure henna powder, then yes you can use chemical dyes/treatments as you normally do. You won’t have to wait months to do your chemical treatments/dyes as the hair dresser would like to tell you. Keep in mind, that the hair industry is run by major companies that push all types of chemical products. They are in no way trained, or specializing in henna, and natural hair care (for the most part). You should give your hair a break in between treatments. Roughly about 1-2 weeks.
  • How much henna do we need to use for our hair? No, you don’t need 500 grams of henna powder to color (treat) bra strap length (BSL) hair. First thing that needs to be asked is, how long is your hair, and secondly, how thick is your hair. Those are questions that need to be answered first in order to access how much henna powder you’ll need. You also don’t want to spend more money on products then you have to.
    General speaking, shoulder length hair needs about 100 grams of powder, bra strap length about 200-250 grams, hip length about 300-350 grams, and so on.
  • Should I use lemon juice in my recipe? No, you don’t have to use lemon juice as your primary, and only liquid ingredient in your henna (herbal) hair recipe. So many people would have turned away and abandoned henna and natural herbal hair care, if they thought they could only use lemon juice. Lemon juice is acidic, and can be very drying on your hair. You can add a small splash of lemon juice, if you’d like. We usually add a bit of lemon juice. The most highly recommend liquid to use is warm water. You can even use tea (any variety of your choice), or coffee brews as well (for dryer scalps be careful with these as they can also be a bit drying). Chamomile tea has become quite popular to use in henna hair recipes.
  • Is henna a temporary hair dye? No, henna is not temporary. It is a permanent hair dye. Henna alone only dyes orange-red tones. The only way to remove it is to let it grow out, or cut your dyed hair. That is why it is always recommended you do hair strand tests before making the “full head” committment.
  • Can henna, and herbs for hair be drying? Yes they can be drying. If you have a dry scalp, then you will need to moisturize. You can add moisturizing oils, yoghurt, or a conditioner to your henna recipe, or use a good hair oil after your herbal hair treatment.
  • Does henna lock out moisture? Some people believe that because henna coats the hair strand that no amount of moisturization can reach it. In fact no, henna will not lock out moisture from your hair. Oil, and condition your hair as usual, and as needed. The results will be amazing, and your hair will get all the moisturization it needs.
  • Using a metal bowl, or spoon is it safe or not? When using pure henna powder (body art quality), and herbs for hair, you can use stainless steel bowls. Traditionally, they have used iron bowls, as it has shown to bring our more dye release. We typically use a spatula to mix it. We don’t usually use plastic bowls because they are porous, and the herbs will stain the bowl. The commercial boxes of henna, and henna “colors” that contain other ingredients, herbs, additives, metallic salts, etc..would more so cause reactions with metal bowls, then 100% pure herbs would.

Naturally Curly Hair

  • Can henna loosen my curl pattern? Yes, a lot of people have seen loosening effects of their curls when using henna and/or cassia obovata. There is a small percentage of people that don’t get any loosening of their curls. If you prefer to maintain some of your curl, then add amla powder to bring them back. Keep in mind, that amla powder also tones down the red of henna. You can also use amla powder in your henna/cassia recipe to maintain the curls in your hair, in case you don’t want to lose your curl pattern.
  • So many henna powders. How do I choose? Keep in mind that some henna companies do re-name their henna powders, and this causes more confusion then necessary. The basic, and most important information would be which country is the henna from, how fresh is it (current crop year is best), and how well sifted is it? Please read: How to Choose the Right Henna Powder. There is no henna for a particular race or culture. Henna doesn’t discriminate. It is for everyone to use. If you were to say that a particular henna powder is very well sifted and therefore better to use on curly or african hair, then that we’d understand. But giving a henna powder a new name, is just for marketing purposes. If your henna comes marked with Jamila henna powder in red writting in any format on the foil packaging, then that henna is Jamila henna powder, not any other generic name that it has been re-named. Please read more on Jamila Henna.
  • Body Art Quality: What does that mean? This is another marketing term that basically means 100% pure henna powder. This pure henna powder is safe enough to use for body art, and most likely finely sifted. Body Art Quality can’t apply to any of the other herbs we use on our hair, because that would mean we are using these herbs for body art, and we aren’t. They are being used for hair usage. Make sure you get yourself 100% pure henna, and herbs. Getting organic herbs is even better because you are guaranteed that the company/farm has gotten proper certification, and inspection that there are no pesticides used, and is an overall healthier, and safer product.
  • My katam/indigo didn’t work for me. Indigo and Katam should be mixed seperately from the henna paste, in a seperate bowl. They are fussy herbs, and need to be started out in their own bowl. Allow it to sit 15-20 minutes, and then put the indigo/katam paste into the henna paste (bowl).

Sarah smiling with deep rich henna'ed hair

Tips that work!

  • Putting henna (and any herbs) onto damp hair really helps it go on much easier. Also applying indigo onto damp hair (with a dash or so of salt) has gotten the indigo to absorb better and give even darker, richer black color results.
  • Adding sugar to your recipe makes the henna paste smoother.
  • Pre-oil your hair, if you tend to get really dry when using henna, and herbs in your hair. This will give you the moisture boost you need. This also helps prevent dripping when dyeing your hair. Some of the best hair oils to use are olive oil, coconut oil, argan oil, and camellia oil.
  • In order to get deeper, richer red results use a good, fresh henna powder that is known for giving rich red results (such as yemeni henna). After 2-3 applications, the color will deepen further.
  • Wash your henna, and herbal hair treatments out really well. Use a lot of conditioner to help with the process. If you don’t wash it all out well, then your scalp will feel itchy, and gritty.
  • Rmemeber to always be opened minded, and if needed, adjust your recipe to suit your hair. Just because someone else does it, doesn’t always make it right for you.
  • Keep your recipe simple. Don’t get overwhelmed with a lot of the other ingredients that are added to recipes.
m4s0n501
  1. Hello. Both Jamila henna powders we carry (clear bag=hair quality, and foil bag= BAQ for hair and body art) have no metallic salts and no additives. They can both be safely used with chemical hair treatments.

  2. Want to know to get strong,long,healty and think hair..

  3. We recommend our Sukesh Ayurveda

  4. Hi …ive been doing a lot of researching and im still not sure on the effects of henna on recently bleached and chemically dyed hair…aswell as what henna is 100% ….my mother has been using a henna product called glory and I think it is metallic and additive based??

    Please help out…I have a huuuuge event coming up and my hair is highly damaged and im not happy with the colour…what can I do???

  5. Our product line is safe to use: http://www.HennaSooq.com. Please review your henna and colors there and then let us know via info@hennasooq.com if you have further consultation questions. Thank you!

  6. Can you substitute Amla Powder for lemon juice and Indigo since it is an acidic fruit and tones down the reddish color? Thank you!

  7. You can use amla since it’s acidic to boost the color of the henna, and you will still need a liquid such as water etc..
    For indigo you can only use water with this powder. Indigo won’t work well if using an acid to trigger the dye release.

  8. Hi, hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving. I want to hopefully achieve reddish-brown tones to my hair. I understand that Reddish Brown Tones: 60-75% henna and 25-40% indigo. So can I just mix the above powders together along with amla powder and just add water? Thank you!

  9. Good evening T. Thank you for your message. The powders can’t all be mixed together at one time. First you would mix the amla and henna and let those sit for the dye release. Then once achieved, mix the indigo and follow the directions for indigo for dye release, and then put both pastes together and use. Then you can apply.

  10. I have been using Henna on my hair for about 7 years. lately, sometimes after I do a treatment it looks like I have done nothing, other times it turns out perfectly. Is there a method to this madness? I always apply to wet, clean hair. The henna is less than hot, warmish. I don’t use metal, just glass and wooden spatula, bottled water. I can’t figure out why it does not work sometimes.

  11. Good Morning! Can you use henna on unwashed hair and it not decrease dye uptake?…I am feeling lazy today but have always applied after a wash.

  12. Hi My hair is natural and black. I’ve been experimenting with Henna and after some research, I have found out the rainbow brand that I’ve been using isn’t the best. My goal is to achieve a dark reddish brown/black color. Is this possible? What products do you recommend?

  13. Thank you for your message on our blog Susana. Do you use the same henna powder? It might be that you can try rotating to another henna powder to see if there’s a difference in dye content.

  14. Hello JaySeven. Yes you can apply onto unwashed hair as long as there is no product build up.

  15. Thank you for your post Candace. Yes absolutely. We’re recommend our Red Raj and indigo for hair for best results. I hope this helps. Find those at http://www.HennaSooq.com

  16. Good afternoon, Khadija. I am looking for a good henna “recipe” and I was wondering if you could help me. I have kinky/coily (“Type 4″) hair. I’ve used henna before and I found that my scalp does not like lemon juice…AT ALL. The last time I used henna, I used green tea and that seemed to work well. I have seborrheic dermatitis and am interested in using an essential oil in my henna (like lavender or clary sage) to help with this, but I’ve never used them before, so I’m a little hesitant. My plan is to henna regularly (hoping to loosen my curl pattern a little along the way, too), so I’m looking for something I can use long term. Thanks for your help!

  17. I’d recommend you keep it as simple recipe so that way you know what your hair likes and what it doesn’t. You can add an EO if you’d like or even a moisturizing oil and one that is healing like our Cocoveda hair oil. You can henna every 3-4 weeks. The average person might only do it every 4-6 weeks but you do what feels best for your hair without overprocessing. Green tea or ACV are great liquids and you can stick with those. I hope this helps

  18. MommyAlpha says:

    I have wavy, damaged hair that is very puffy, frizzy, and dry. I also have A LOT of hair, which doesn’t help with the puffiness. I used the Shielo Hydrate Conditioner last night and it smells AMAZING. I also love love love how it is cruelty free and sulfate free.

    While my hair was drying, I put some of the Shielo Oil on my ends. I woke up this morning and saw a huge difference. My hair is definitely less puffy, shinier, and feels so so so soft.

  19. Hello,
    I used Reshma Henna about 2 weeks ago. After doing some research I was afraid that it was a compound henna. The weird thing is that it did darken my hair to a very rich brown, the greys turned reddish..but my scalp did not stain red and I do not have any red highlights at all? I did not wait after mixing it for a “dye release”. My hair does feel softer but no red?! Did I do it wrong or is Reshma not a quality henna??

  20. Good day MommyAlpha. Thanks for sharing a product you love. We carry an amazing line of deeply moisturizing products and our Sweet Honey hair Nourisher is a must have. http://www.HennaSooq.com

  21. Hi Jessie! Thanks for posting on our blog. I’m not sure about Reshma as I personally don’t use it. But if you’re looking for a nice over all reddish tint/tone then our Red Raj is really amazing. It’s organically certified and 100% pure henna. I do know some Reshma products do contain other ingredients that I’ve been told since they do carry “henna colors”. Just review the ingredients on your henna you used.

  22. As a grey hair family, we have been using many different hair dying products over a period of time. Some of them gave somehow satisfied results and rest disappointed. Most of them included chemical irritants, including those with satisfied results.
    Meanwhile one of my cousins searched for 100% natural products and she told about pure henna. We all started using this product. But still there were irritants unless we reached to some fabulous products from (deleted). They have quality 100% natural henna and other hair color products with Body art quality satisfaction.
    They are 100% natural and chemical free which caused NO HARMS since we are using them. I give them 5 stars for every product.

  23. Thank you for sharing your feedback on companies you like Meagan. We don’t think you have had a chance to try out Henna Sooq’s product line as we don’t have you as a client. We’d really love for you to compare ours to what you’re using as we also do carry an amazing and effective line of henna natural hair coloring products since 2005. We hope you’ll try us out at http://www.hennasooq.com
    (Please note some of your content/links were deleted as we don’t allow outside advertisement).

  24. Hello,

    I bought henna, indigo and amla mixed together. Should I add cold, warm or hot water? Can I let this mixture sit for some time to release the dye? I mixed it with lukewarm water and applied it immediately on skin, but it didn’t stain very well.

  25. Hello. We really recommend you follow the instructions that came from your order with Henna Sooq for these products. They are really exactly on how to mix and liquids to use, etc… That blend of herbs is not to be used on skin and it won’t really stain well on skin. It’s for hair only. Henna is mixed on it’s own and indigo also on it’s own, then combined. Please email us at info@hennasooq.com for our copy of instructions.

  26. mandry rojas says:

    hello am a 4c girl, and I want to dye your hair with henna but I want only highlights and not the full hair and i do not know how to use it, if I put henna on full head would have the highlights or alone should put henna in some parts?

  27. Mandry, thanks for your post on our blog. If you want highlights like sections then you have to do hair in sections, like strips/bunches of hair, color it, and then wrap it in the same way you would do if you were doing standard highlights. I hope this helps.

  28. Lisa-Marie says:

    Question… I have ridiculous thick curly hair. In the winter, it takes up to 5 hours to air dry. I’ve heard of direct heat darkening henna in hair. But what about a hooded dryer? Since it’s indirect heat, will it be safe on hair? I got one and it’s ceramic tourmaline 1875W, because these 5 hours a day to dry my hair before heading out into below 0 to avoid a head of icicles is getting annoying.

  29. It seems as though everyone mixes henna powder with amla, indigo, etc. I have light brown hair with a slight wave, normal to oily. Can I just use the henna powder alone? I am looking at the Red Raj or the Organic Rajasthani Indian Henna Powder. I am wanting a deeper/brighter red color. This will be my first time coloring with henna or using any of these types of products. Thanks for your help.

  30. I have 70 percent grey I want my grey to be colour brown .. My hairs are straight but on henna application it becomes slightly curl, I put amla, rita shiqaai nagarmota in it , my hair colours orange plz give me the recepie to get brown colour

  31. Hi Shani! Amla is what makes the curls come. For a nice brown tone, the best choices are our moroccan henna, and indigo for hair. You need both herbs to make brown tones and don’t add many other herbs to it as it dilutes the color. You can get those at http://www.hennasooq.com

  32. Hi Jennifer. Yes you can use henna powder alone. Especially for the tone you’re trying to achieve. We’ll have both of those back in stock in about 2 days from today.

  33. I’ve been using henna,cassia,amla on my grey roots for the past 14 months or so. I used to have thicker and more coarse, curly hair. I keep saying my hair seems thinner, but I think maybe what’s happening is the henna and cassia are filling in my porous (coarser feeling) hair and making my curls looser. There is definitely less volume, which I’m not happy about. I didn’t want to lose any curl, but the amla doesn’t seem to be preventing it. I want to cover greys and NOT lose my curl (and get it back)…what should I do? I don’t want to go back to chemicals, but could I if I’ve used pure plant dyes?

  34. Michelle says:

    What do I do if I put too much water in the mix..it’s close dr to a liquid than a paste?

  35. I use henna from India and Indigo from here to color my 40 percent grey hair.I did 2 step process.I also added oil to my henna so my hair does not dry out.After my 2 step process, my grey hair was not black, it was dark/red brown, but that dark red/brown washed out in two washing and my grey hair is orange now. I originally have black hair. And now my hair is very dry. What should I do to make the color stay in my grey hair longer and not dry out my hair.

  36. santhoshini says:

    how to use henna… before applying oil or after applying oil???

  37. Hi Khadija,

    Great helpful post – thank you so much for this! I have medium to dark brown hair, which I have never dyed before. I want to get a deep wine colour, sort of like deep mahogany or dark cherry red. I am looking to buy the best quality henna (+ organic). Is there anything I can add into the henna mixture to make the colour closer to a deep wine red? I’ve heard yogurt, vinegar, tea, coffee, lemon, freezing it?. I’m not really looking for it to be a shocking red colour. Your help would be much appreciated.

  38. Hi Maria. You would absolutely love our Organic Rajasthani Indian henna powder. I’d really recommend you keep the recipe simple and read this article on liquids as some heavy liquids cause the color to dilute: http://hennablogspot.com/how-liquids-affect-your-henna-recipes/
    Let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

  39. You can apply henna before oiling or after oiling. It’s really up to what your hair likes and recommend you try both to see how your hair feels.

  40. You may just need to use a stronger henna and indigo with a very high dye content for better coverage. Please Nipa, try our Red Raj and indigo for hair which will really cover your grey hair effectively as they both have a high dye content.

  41. If you add too much water to your henna paste, if you have leftover powder then add some more to thicken it? Or if not you can try cornstarch and even flour which won’t affect the color too much in small quantities.

  42. Danica have you tried to add more amla powder to your recipe to maintain your curl pattern? You can add it or use it as a stand alone recipe to get those curls back. I’d probably recommend just doing a amla treatment by itself to get the full affect of the amla and getting your curls back. I hope this helps.

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