What is henna, and why would you use it on your hair? Excellent questions. Henna is plant-based powder that has been used for hundreds of years as a natural hair conditioner. It is reported to strengthen hair, increase growth and shine, and diminish dandruff.
Straight henna has a reddish color, although you can buy it mixed with indigo for brown to black, or with marigold for blonde hair. It will never lighten your hair, since it isn’t a chemical dye, but it can add darker/reddish highlights, or if you have light hair, can turn it quite red, depending on the shade you buy.
I don’t usually spend much time on my hair because I’m far too lazy, but a while ago I saw a friend with a head of the most gorgeous shiny hair, and I found out that she had recently done a henna treatment on it. Naturally, I had to try it too, because what could be more fun than mixing green goop into your hair? I tried brown henna first, then recently I decided to see what happened if I used the original red henna. So here you go, the results of my experiment.
Step 1: Decide on a henna color to use. If you’re like me, this will involve much hesitation and slight terror of getting the wrong shade and ending up like Anne of Green Gables with her green hair. Fortunately I lucked out, so I’m still green-hair-free. The straight red I used this time is available here, and you can find lots of other colors as well. This shade is just straight henna powder, no additives.
Step 2: Collect your supplies. You’ll need:
- Henna powder
- A glass bowl
- A plastic or wooden spoon
- Hot water
- A shower cap or plastic bags
- Clips or bobby pins
Some people say henna does not stain your hands. Some people are wrong, so use gloves unless you want brown-orange hands. Trust me, I know. Also, you can’t mix your henna with a metal bowl or spoon. I’m not exactly sure what happens if you do, but I’m assuming a puppy dies somewhere.
Step 3: Mix your henna powder and hot water, until you have a consistency like runny yogurt; it’s easier to apply slightly runny than too thick. You can also add an egg if you want added moisture and shine, vinegar if you’re trying to cover grays, or coffee for a darker stain, but for the sake of the experiment, I just used hot water. I have mid- to lower-back length hair, and I used half a can of the henna powder.
Step 4: Now, the fun part! Coat your hairline with vaseline to avoid ending up with orange ears. Or if you’re me and don’t have vaseline, you can use plantain salve. Extra healthy. Hah. Now, separate your hair into sections and apply the goop, coating all the strands as well as possible. It’s basically like making a mudpie on your head- very messy and very fun. You’ll end up with a green head which you can then wrap in a shower cap and a towel to hold in the heat, or if you’re cheap like me, in multiple plastic bags and a towel. Hey, it works great!
Step 5: Time to wait. During this time it’s recommended to eat a Reuben sandwich and a bowl of popcorn while watching October Baby, because you’ve had a rough day and want a sad movie that makes you cry. Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. Hey, stop judging, “I can feel you down there judging me.”*
I left the henna in about two hours, although the directions recommend a little over an hour. You can play around with this part, doing longer or shorter, but I was afraid of ending up with a brilliant red head, so I didn’t do it overnight like some of the people on the internet do. Also, how would you sleep with a mud pie in your hair?
Step 6: Wash, wash, and wash. The first time I used it, I was quite unprepared for how long it would take to wash all that goop out of my hair. I’ve tried under a faucet, in a bucket, and just in the shower, and I’d have to say the shower was the easiest, although that took quite a while too. Rinse until the water runs basically clear and condition. Henna can have a drying effect, so I use quite a lot of conditioner after washing it out.
Step 7: Don’t freak out if your hair is rather brighter than you expected. Okay fine, you may freak out a little bit because I did. But as you can see above, the henna does gradually darken as time passes. Left to right we have: before, the day after, and four days after. I expect it will darken and fade a little more yet, till it’s nearly my original color.
- Set aside at least three hours to do it properly.
- The treatment is supposed to last about four to six weeks.
- My hair felt a little tangly at first, but after a few days, it’s not an issue. It’s soft and shiny now.
- The first few times you wash it, the color will run a little, so maybe avoid white towels for a while.
- Since all hair is different, you can’t tell exactly how it will react until you try it yourself.
- The smell is surprising, and you can expect your head to smell like a hay field for a few days, but it wears off. Just stay away from hungry cows till it does.
- It’s cheap. A package comes with two cans, which means one application costs a little over $3, and if you have shorter hair, it would stretch even farther.
Would I use it again? Certainly. I really like how soft and healthy it makes my hair feel, and the slight reddish glow. I probably wouldn’t do it every month, because it is time consuming, but it is a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening.
*Quote from October Baby.
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