In the East, especially in India, men and women have been using henna to color their hair for centuries, if not millennia. You will often see men and women in the subcontinent with rusty red locks, which could scare you away from trying henna all together. But henna actually comes in several colors and preparations and is a natural and safe alternative to harsh chemical hair dyes.
Henna is a plant native to the Middle East and is prepared by crushing the leaves and twigs into a fine powder. Left untreated, this will dye skin and hair an orange, tan color. However, most henna intended to be used or hair dying has been mixed with other herbs and natural dyes, such as coffee, gooseberry, and musk root, depending on the brand and color your purchase.
The most common way henna dye is sold as a powder, which is then mixed with hot water to create a thick paste. It is also available as a hard block from Lush or a pre-made liquid from Surya Brasil. Both brands offer a variety of colors.
Henna is easy to apply yourself – there’s no need to visit a salon, so it’s also a more economical choice. Once the paste is prepared, you simply apply the henna all over the hair using gloved hands (it will stain if left on your skin). Let sit in a shower cap for one to two hours, depending on the depth of color desired and then rinse and condition your hair.
Why use henna for your hair? Simply put, henna is a naturally derived dye that does not contain harsh chemicals. Whereas chemical dyes open up the hair cuticle to deposit color, henna stairs the outside of the hair and will fade over time, anywhere from one to four months depending on how often you wash your hair.
Henna has the added benefit of softening hair. Infused with a mix of oils, it is like a deep conditioning mask for the hair. You’ll find that after rinsing and drying your hair, your locks are silken and smooth.