I talk about henna often on Minimalist Beauty for healthy, strong, and shiny hair. I wanted to break down my henna process step by step from choosing body art quality henna, mixing and applying henna, rinsing henna, and styling my hair afterwards. For all those new to henna, this article is especially for you. For those who have been doing henna for years like myself, I hope that you will enjoy the article and maybe even add a few tips of your own. The process of using henna for hair can seem tedious at first, and almost too much work than it is worth, but believe me that it gets easier the more you do it, and is definitely worth the time that it takes.
It is so important to pick a henna that is body art quality. Pure henna comes in one color… red. Although henna can be mixed with other natural ingredients to create other natural colors, it cannot lighten your hair. When you see henna that has “color modifications” make sure that it is only mixed with cassia, indigo, or other natural ingredients such as coffee, hibiscus petal powder, amla etc. Otherwise it is possible that the henna is mixed with chemcial hair dyes or even worse metallic salts.
You are best off going with henna specifically for body art because it is chemical free and safe for both skin and hair. Body art quality henna is also finely milled which makes the application to hair as well as rinsing the henna out very easy. You will get the best color results from body art quality henna.
I’ve tried a few different brands of henna. I have noticed that because henna is a plant, depending on the crop, where it is grown, and how fresh the henna is can all be factors to determine the color of dye release as well as if the henna process is enjoyable. When I first began using henna I started with Karishma henna. Karishma henna is premixed with some amazing Ayurvedic herbs for hair strengthening and conditioning. My new favorite is Nupur 9 henna which has nine Ayurvedic herbs. Next are some brief descriptions of a few body art quality hennas.
Jamila henna sold in a shiny box with the date of the summer crop on the bottom of the box is body art quality henna. This henna gives a rich burgundy color release especially when adding hibiscus petal powder to it. The other Jamilla henna sold in a matte colored box is simply henna for hair without the dramatic color results and not as finely shifted. Jamilla Henna For Hair still provides good conditioning results just not equal color results. “This popular henna from Pakistan yields a wonderfully dark color for both hair and in body art.” ~ayurnaturalbeauty.com
Godrej Nupur 9 is my favorite body art quality henna made from 100% pure Rajasthani Henna and containing nine Ayurvedic herbs.
Shikakai – Leaves hair clean & shining
Aloe Vera – Moisturises hair & makes it silky
Methi (Fenugreek) – Conditions, nourishes and revitalizes hair
Bhringraj – Makes hair luxuriant
Amla – Darkens hair colour, adds shine & luster
Neem – Fights scalp infection and prevents dandruff
Hibiscus – Rejuvenates hair, making it silky and shiny
Jatamansi – Prevents graying of hair
Brahmi – Promotes hair growth
Karishma contains “pure henna, amla, shikakai, aritha, bhringraj, and selected herbs as described in century old Indian Vedas. Regular use of Karishma Herbal Henna darkens hair, acts as natural hair conditioner, controls dandruff and prevents hair loss. Due to natural cooling effect of the herbs used it improves eyesight and gives sound sleep. Karishma henna gives a warm red brown color release.” ~ayurnaturalbeauty.com
Reshma henna naturally produces a dark brown color with hints of dark red. I found Reshma henna at my local Indian grocer and felt pretty good with the conditioning and color results.
Rajasthani is “100% pure henna, grown in Sojat, Rajasthan, an Indian region thought by many to be the source of the world’s best henna…Expect bright copper red hues when used on light hair. Darker hair will experience varying tones from reddish brown to deep coppery tones depending on the usage.” ~ayurnaturalbeauty.com
I’ve only use Rajasthani henna in the Nupur 9, yet believe it will also give amazing results expected from quality BAQ henna.
Dulhan is another great option for hair color and conditioning properties. Dulhan is probably the most reasonably priced henna I’ve ever seen with a golden coppery red color release. I was suprised how finely milled this henna was for the price. It has more coppery tones than any other henna that I’ve used.
My Henna Mix
150g Godrej Nupur 9 Henna
1 can of coconut milk
1/4 cup of hemp seed oil or natural oil mix (Optional for extremely dry hair only as the oil will prevent the full amount of henna dye release but not all of it. Adding oil will also add extra conditioning to your henna treatment. You can read an update on this here.)
I mix about 100-150 grams of body art quality henna with a full can of coconut milk. Any oil of your choice can be added for more conditioning after the dye has been released from the henna. I allow the henna and coconut milk to sit overnight or for about 8 hours adding 1/4 cup of the oil to the henna before applying to my hair. Using coconut milk with henna creates a thick conditioner consistency for easy application and rinse out. It will not feel heavy or dry hard on your hair.
I used to cleanse my hair prior to applying henna, yet now I apply henna to dry hair in four sections. This works well for me especially since all of my hair products are 100% natural or literally made in my kitchen. The henna does not have to penetrate silicones or other heavy chemicals. (Detangle your hair before applying henna.)
After applying henna to all of my hair, I cover my hair with a plastic conditioning cap or plastic wrap. (I know that using plastic isn’t eco-friendly, but I haven’t figured out a more earth friendly solution when using henna. Suggestions please!) I also cover my hair with an old or dark colored stretch fabric and/or an old or dark colored beanie. This increases body heat and better henna penetration into the hair strands.
I leave henna in my hair for 3-6 hours or even overnight for intense color and conditioning. If I plan to keep henna in overnight I make sure to cover my pillow with a towel. Leave henna in for only one hour for conditioning and less color application.
To rinse out henna I simply run my hair under running water in the tub. Henna is unable to dry hard on hair when mixed with coconut milk which makes it extremely easy to wash out. After my hair feels well rinsed I use a conditioner to co-wash hair. At one point I was using the DIY Green Tea Cleansing Hair Rinse with marshmallow root extract to cleanse my hair after henna which also works well. I sometimes leave conditioner in hair for about 10-15 minutes for more conditioning, then rinse again and style as usual.
Henna Use Tips
1. Remember to always use gloves to apply and rinse out. Henna will dye your hands and nails otherwise!
2. You can use cassia, neutral henna, for those who do not want to color their hair, yet desire an amazing conditioning and strengthening treatment. Cassia gives the hair golden highlights over time especially for light colored hair. Even alternate henna and cassia if you like.
3. When the dye has released in henna the top layer of your henna mix will be brown and underneath a nice green color. I doesn’t always take up to 8 hours, but that is the average dye release time.
4. If you are using a henna that does not have extra Ayurvedic herbs, you can always add amla or brahmi powder for extra conditioning and hair strengthening.
5. Plain yogurt is another great option if you can’t get your hands on coconut milk. I would then use about 16 oz of plain yogurt.
Like I said earlier, I’ve written about henna for healthy hair on Minimalist Beauty many many times. If you’d like to read more then here’s the list of henna related articles to check out!
(Image by Wikipedia)