Truthbutter

How I dye and condition my hair with henna

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I’ve been meaning to post about my experiences with using henna on my hair for a while now, and what better time than while my hair is coated in henna and wrapped in a Turbie Twist? (In case you’re wondering what the heck a Turbie Twist is, it’s this thing.)

I actually became interested in henna a couple years ago, primarily for the conditioning and curl-taming effects as opposed to the coloring effects. I had read that henna could help reduce frizz and relax curl pattern, and the nice reddish color was more of a pleasant ‘side-effect’ :) (By the way, I think the henna has relaxed my curl pattern over the past couple years!)

But even after deciding I wanted to try henna, I spent a few months hemming and hawing before I finally got up the courage to do it. A large part of the reason for that is that there’s so much conflicting and confusing information out there! The process seems simple enough:

  1. Mix henna with liquid to form a paste
  2. Wait for dye release
  3. Put in hair
  4. Let sit
  5. Rinse out

But there are so many different opinions on the best liquid to use, the length of dye release, how clean your hair needs to be before applying henna, how long you need to let it sit, and even the best way to get it out of your hair, so I had to do a ton of online exploring before I felt comfortable enough with a method to actually try it out. And there were enough henna horror stories online that I couldn’t bring myself to take the plunge without doing extensive research first.

Choosing a brand of henna

The first step in dying your hair with henna is choosing a henna powder to use. Quality is actually quite important here, because lots of manufacturers claim to be selling “henna,” when they’re actually selling a suspicious cocktail of herbs and chemicals. I decided to go with body art quality henna from Mehandi.com, which is 100% pure henna powder with nothing else added. They have different types of henna (based on the dye content of each individual batch), and I first bought “Celebration” henna, which had a very high dye content. When I needed to buy more, they didn’t have Celebration in stock, so I bought “Rajasthani Twilight,” and both have been great!

If you want to read more about why henna quality is important, this article is very helpful. Also, be aware that “brown henna” or “black henna” or any color henna other than red isn’t pure henna. Henna can only dye red, so if it claims to dye hair a different color, then it has other stuff added to it. You can read more about that here.

Creating your henna mix

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The next step is figuring out what you want to mix your henna powder with. I usually use green tea, but today I used chamomile tea because I didn’t have any green tea on hand. I just pour boiling water over three or four tea bags and let them steep until the water has cooled off, then I mix it with the henna powder until it’s about the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. I use a glass bowl and a plastic spoon for this, because apparently it’s a bad idea to use anything metal with henna.

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Henna powder

I also add a tablespoon or so of melted coconut oil to my henna mixture. I’ve found that this makes it much easier to rinse the henna out, and it makes my hair much happier afterwards. It usually only takes about half an hour for dye release to occur with this mixture.

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The final mix…try not to think about what it looks like

Let’s henna!

Before I apply the henna, I use an apple cider vinegar rinse on my hair and then rinse it out well with warm water. Usually I’m careful to use only cool water with my hair, because warm water raises the cuticle of the hair shaft which can lead to frizz. However, in this instance, it’s desirable to raise the cuticle because it will allow the henna to penetrate the hair shaft better!

I then put on gloves (don’t forget the gloves!!) and just smoosh the henna into my hair the best that I can. It’s not an exact science, so just squish it around your head until you’re happy with the level of coverage. I’d recommend not wearing your favorite cashmere sweater and designer jeans while doing this.

Then I use a wet paper towel to wipe off any excess henna that got on my ears or forehead, cover my hair with a shower cap and then a Turbie Twist, and let it sit for at least four hours. Often, I’ll let it sit for six or seven hours to get maximum conditioning effects!

To rinse it out, I just hop back in the shower and let the water run over my head until most of the big chunks are out. Then I’ll use a few rounds of apple cider vinegar rinse to help get the rest out and seal in the color. Be aware that you will smell like hay for the next few days, but the smell will fade eventually! I follow up with my homemade hair gel.

I put any leftover henna paste in snack baggies and wrap them in foil (to protect the henna from being oxidized by the light) and store them in the freezer. When I’m ready for a root touch-up (which I do about every six weeks), I just defrost one of the baggies, snip a corner off of the bag, and apply it by squeezing it onto my head like icing.

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It’s kind of ridiculous how difficult it can be to learn about henna online, so hopefully hearing my process is helpful for you. To give you an idea of the color here’s what my hair looked like a few years ago (before henna):

hair before henna

Just disregard my thumb and my brother’s wrist and the pixelated PhotoBooth backdrop

And here’s what my hair looks like with henna:

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You can see how much my curl pattern has relaxed! Although I think other factors have contributed as well.

Feel free to post questions, and I’d love to hear your experiences with henna and your own routines, so please share in the comments!

 

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