Susanne's Crafty Corner: Cosmetics

Coloring your hair with henna

henna pic

For over a year now I  color my hair red with henna. This because I had some really nasty experiences with chemical dye before... I'm really fond of copper-red, but the chemical dye rinsed out within in week. The remaining pigments had to be bleached out which left my hair remarkably similar to straw. Also, my hair got platina blonde because of that, while I am a natural dark-blonde. To camouflage the color difference I dyed it dark-blonde after a few monts, but this in turn made my hair go grey.... It was then that I decided that I would never color my hair with chemical dye again. But I still wanted to be a redhead... The solution? Henna of course!

You see that I have had some catastrofic experiences with chemical dyes to color my hair, which made me switch to henna: with full satisfaction, I must say. Before you go and color your hair with henna, there are however a few important things to know. Therefore I will give information and tips on this page to make sure you do get that desired red color and not some ugly green.... For starters I'll point out what exactely the difference is between chemical dye and henna.

The difference between chemical dye & henna

The basic difference can be found in the way both dyes work. Traditional chemical dye contains amonia, this base strips the hair “open” to enable the color pigments to penetrate the hair. This is also the reason that the hair often looks dry after repeated dyeing: the outer part of the hair can’t close again. The working of henna is quite the opposite: henna releases it’s pigments in an acid environment and doesn’t damages the hair itself by stripping it open, instead it creates a transparant colored layer around the hair. This is also the reason that hair colored with henna always is rather shiny! Besides that, henna is a great way to condition your hair and get it (or keep it) in great shape.

What color will I get?

As I said before; henna creates a transparant colored layer around the hair. Therefore henna will give a different color result on every womens hair, depending on the color you had to begin with. If your hair is blonde, henna can make it a nice dark orangey red. The darker your hair originally was, the darker red the final result will be. Totally grey hair may get ugly orange though, if you don’t get a good quality fresh henna. Fresh henna you can recognise by the color and the smell: if it’s green and smells like fresh hay, it’s alright. If it is more browny: don’t use it! You can keep your henna longer fresh by keeping it airtight in the fridge.

When shouldn’t you use henna?

Because of the differences between henna and chemical treatments (like perming, dyeing, straightening and bleaching) I would strongly advise NOT to use henna on chemically treated hair. The result can easily turn out more terrible then you ever imagined: I suppose you don’t want blackish green hair?!!! If you are really anxious to henna your hair but don’t know if it’s safe yet: plunder your hairbrush and henna half of it. Comparing both halfs should tell you enough! The same is by the way the case if you want to perm (etc) hennaed hair: don’t even think about it!


Ok, now it’s time to get started! First, go get fresh henna: I buy mine at the nature-store from the brand “Piramide”. I don’t know if it’s sold outside the Netherlands, though. Make sure you have PURE henna and no other ingredients, because some can be harmfull. For shoulder-length hair 50-100 g of henna should be enough. Mix this with something acidic like lemon juice, vinegar or red wine to a thick paste. Leave it alone for 15-30 minutes on a warm spot or just leave it overnight. The warmth and the acid environment help to release the pigments from the henna. After that you ad enough hot fluid untill it gets the consistency of yoghurt. As the hot fluid I usually just use hot water and sometimes red zinger-tea for red highlights, but there are much more possibilities. You can also use:

  • Water from boiled pomegranite husks for bright reds
  • Coffee for less red
  • Arabic spiced coffee for darker red
  • Tea for golden highlights
  • Chamomile for blonde highlights
  • Turmeric for gold highlights
  • Paprika for REAL RED
  • Clove for darker reds
  • Indigo for near black 
  • Yoghurt for protein and less color 
  • Walnut powder for darker brown 
  • Eggs and olive oil for protein and less color
  • Rosewater for brides 
  • Orangeflower water for brides 
  • A few drops of rosemary oil for silkiness
I got this list from a really great website (Click here!), which also has lots of information about coloring your hair with henna; so check it out!

Before you put the hennapaste in your hair, make sure you have done the following: remove everything textile out of your bathroom and don’t wear anything you really like, because henna stains are for life! Also have a pair of gloves, a plastic bonnet, an old towel, a hairpaint-brush (I bought mine at the drugstore, it isn’t really nessary but it makes it a lot easier) and very rich, greasy cream. Apply the cream on your forehead and ears, it prevents the henna to stain the skin (if you do get henna-stains, remove them with a little bit of lemonjuice).

Ok, showtime! Put on your gloves and use the brush to get the paste in your hair (wet or dry, what you prefer), direct at your scalp. Therefor I always divide my hair in half and do the first half inch by inch, then the other and finaly the back of my head top-down. The rest of the paste I put on the hair that isn’t covered yet. Make sure you cover everything! After that cover it up with the bonnet and over that the towel. I let it rest for 30 minutes to 2 houres. The strandtest on your brush should tell you what time suits you. If you keep your hair warm by sitting in the sun (for example) the color will get more intense.

After that you rinse it out and wash your hair with a mild shampoo. You can use a conditioner to untangle all the hair you messed up by putting in the henna. Et voila! A “natural” redhead is born! The color will gradually fade over weeks, but if you color it again every 4-6 weeks,the color will be building up to a beautiful red. If you are impatient you can color it for the second time after 2 or 3 weeks, that way the color will be rich sooner.

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