Whenever I tell someone I use henna to dye my hair, it's usually followed up with two questions: 1. Hang on... That's not your natural hair color?" and 2. "Wait... The stuff people in parachute pants use for temporary tattoos at yoga festivals?"
No, I've been dyeing it for years, and yes, that stuff. It turns out that when henna (a ground-up powder created from the henna plant) is mixed with a few key ingredients and left on one's head for an extended period of time, it seeps into the follicles and creates a beautiful (yet natural-looking) reddish color.
Frankly, it's become the most important part of my beauty routine, and here's 6 reasons why.
1. It's genuinely good for your hair.
I'm big on heat-processing. Anyone who knows me knows that my overnight bag is invariably packed with a blowdryer, a straightener, and four assorted brushes, one of which is the general size and width of my torso.
Coloring my hair with henna (from the very first time right up through every subsequent dye-session) has helped immensely with revitalization. My hair is so much stronger, shinier, and healthier-looking than it was before, and for someone who refuses to embrace her bomb-exploded-in-a-poodle-curls and has no intention of giving up her straightener, this is a big one for me.
Henna coats each hair follicle, reinforcing its strength and locking in moisture. It creates shine like you wouldn't believe, and after I wash it out, split-ends are virtually undetectable. I know it sounds like I ripped this last paragraph straight from a Pantene commercial, but honestly, no conditioner, hair mask, leave-in product or finishing oil has ever made my hair feel this healthy.
2. It's entirely natural.
Chemical dyes are to your hair what the Disney Sexual-Image Conspiracy Theory was to your childhood. They'll take every last ounce of innocence and leave you feeling used and misled. I had a short stint with blue hair in high school, and after trying for way too long to get my hair back from scarecrow-status, I ended up just chopping it off and starting over.
Henna is, as previously mentioned, a plant, and there are no additives or chemicals. Depending on where you buy it, you'll just be getting a bag full of pulverized leaves and maybe some rogue sticks. You don't have to worry about breathing in toxins or burning your scalp, and it colors your hair without compromising the acid/alkaline levels of your skin.
3. The color.
I'm absolutely in love with the end-result color I get from using henna. I've been throwing around the word "dye" for the sake of convenience, but really, henna tints your hair more than anything. Think of it like putting an Instagram filter over your hair. Everything gets reddish, but it preserves the highlights and lowlights of your natural pigmentation. A dye, on the other hand, covers everything uniformly, creating a pretty fake-looking end result.
That's why hair that's colored with henna will look way more natural. It also means, however, that almost everyone will get a different outcome. People with very light blonde hair will most likely end up strawberry blonde, and people with darker hair will probably get an auburn color. Some people see this as a bad thing (ie., the whole life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates perspective) but personally, I think it's a great thing. It means that the color you'll end up with is never too far from your natural pigmentation (or eyebrow color, which is a whole other can of worms).
Before henna, my hair was naturally an ashy-blondeish brown. I didn't much care for it. Above is a picture I took today, at least two months after my last henna treatment. Henna has darkened it and brought out lots of red highlights, and despite straightening it every day, it still looks pretty shiny and healthy.
4. Roots are not a problem
I don't like things that require perpetual, demanding up-keep. I do take care of myself, but I like to do it on my own schedule.
Henna is one of those things that you can be lax with. If you're a couple weeks (or a couple months) overdue for a treatment, odds are no one will even notice. When my roots start to grow in, they're a little bit blonder on top, but because (as I said before) henna is a tint and not a dye, they flow pretty seamlessly into the red parts of my hair. I can leave my roots until I have a day off, and I don't have to worry about it.
5. It's permanent
Like any other hair coloration, henna will fade a little after time, but it is permanent. Henna entirely penetrates the hair follicle, so it will remain reddish until you grow it out and cut it off. For me, this is a wonderful thing. I have no intention of ever going back to my original hair, and so the fact that I don't need monthly-touch-ups makes my life so much easier.
6. You can personalize the recipe for your hair type
The coolest thing about dyeing with henna is that you make your own dye mixture. You know exactly what you're putting in your hair, and most recipes call for natural, probably-already-in-your-own-kitchen ingredients. Some of the most widely-used ingredients in a henna mix are lemon, eggs, avocado, and olive oil. If you want blonder highlights, you can use tea as a base liquid, but if you want darker auburn, you use coffee.
Depending on what you mix your henna with, you can hydrate dry hair, remove excess oil, target dandruff, or strengthen roots. Along with the coloration, you're pretty much getting a full-on spa-day for your scalp, and it's 100% tailored to your hair's needs.
A few things to keep in mind before dyeing with henna: Firstly, it shouldn't be used on hair that's already been chemically processed. Secondly, it's not a one-two-three treatement. It takes a good chunk of time (ideally a few hours, so make sure you've got most of the day free). And finally, like any other hair coloring technique, it can get pretty messy. Plastic gloves and old towels are essential.
If you're interested in seeing exactly how I do this whole process, I'll be posting a DIY How-To along with my next henna treatment, so keep an eye out. Happy Wednesday.