So I’ve had a few searches on this site pertaining to my hair colour and I thought it was about time that I shared my henna routine with you! I choose henna over other hair colours because of these reasons:

  • It’s cheap (a couple of dollars per application)
  • It’s healthy for your hair
  • Complete coverage (it will also hide greys) but multi-tonal, so it will work with your natural highlights
  • Ultra-permanent (not for the fickle)
  • It looks awesome

I always get the loveliest comments about my hair and the colour and it’s not hard to see why. Henna absorbs right into the hair and reflects the light, so just after I have had a treatment, the next few days I walk around with a halo of light in my hair. I really do feel like a goddess after a fresh application!

It’s been so long since I started dying my hair that I’m not even sure what my natural colour is. I think it’s some kind of horrible ash blond colour or something under there–Why some people purposely elect to have their hair dyed that colour at the salon is beyond me–but I can’t really tell. I went through quite a lot of changes to my hair as I was growing up; I was born with flaming red hair, which grew out to a white-blond, then grew into strawberry gold, and it’s been getting darker since.

So in a twisted way, I like to think I’m returning to my newborn roots (ha, get it?) when I’m use henna.

For your very own henna-at-home salon treatment, you will require:

  • One sad little muffin with scary amounts of regrowth
  • A comb
  • A brush for applying hair colour
  • Bowl
  • Henna (duh)
  • Boiling water
  • Glad-wrap
  • Newspapers
  • A towel (If there’s anything I learned from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is that you should always have a towel on your person)

As to what kind of henna to buy, first and foremost, I must stress not to buy henna from Lush (unless you enjoy the feeling of being ripped off). It has many other ingredients in it apart from henna that make it a nightmare to wash out, and the results aren’t as awesome as they would be if you were using the real deal. In addition to that, it’s just too much added work to try and get the block to melt right, smells worse than normal henna, and fades faster. There’s really no reason why you would choose it over the powders. I can’t think of a single benefit.

I get my henna straight from the Indian grocer. My favorite is a brand called Neha Herbal, but it doesn’t matter what brand you use, so long as the ingredients are natural and there are no nasty metals or chemicals hiding on the label. You can get many different shades of henna, from bright orange to red to brown and black. To get the different shades, they mix different kinds of plants and in the case of true black henna, they SHOULD be using indigo or walnuts.

Because I want to keep you safe, if you’re planning to use anything labelled black henna, do a spot test on a piece of paper with a bit of water and if it bleeds blue, that’s the indigo. If it doesn’t, stay away! The black dye is probably para-phenylenediamine, also known as PPD, and that can hurt you.

Dyeing your hair with henna is not an exact science, so it sometimes takes a bit of time and experimentation to get that right shade for you (and the right amount!). I know that Neha Herbal is more orange-y than I like, so I mix 2 parts Neha with 1 part henna body-art powder that says “RED” on the packet that I know delivers a dark, candy-apple red. This is my tried and tested super formula!

For short hair, you’re going to want about half a cup worth of henna. Pour in your boiling water and mix thoroughly. It is at this point that your mixture will start to take on the vague smell of cow manure. I must warn you not to be alarmed, because this smell doesn’t linger in the hair for too long after it’s washed out, and your hair should return to its normal, deliciously-smelling self within a couple of washes. Once I got used to the smell, it  now reminds me of the strong scent of grass clippings, which isn’t too bad.

Anyway, I usually do the mixing with the brush, but sometimes if it’s particularly lumpy, I’ll use a fork to smoosh out the lumps. You want it to be firm enough to have some hold, because if it’s too runny, it’ll run right off your scalp! However on the flip side, if it’s too thick, it’ll be a nightmare to wash out, so a good consistency is key!

Make sure you lay down some newspapers wherever you’re doing this and make sure your resident dog is comfortable. Be wary that the henna won’t wash out if it lands on linoleum floors or carpeting, so take care to cover your floorings (and yourself)! I just throw a towel over my shoulders and peg it together at the neck.

After you’ve combed your hair thoroughly, you’ll want to find your most common hair parting and start brushing on your concoction there. We do this in case we miss any other areas, so at least we know that the area that sees the light the most will have full coverage, haha.

Working front to back, make sure to cover every strand..

Pay close attention to the area in front of your ears and the outer edges of your hairline.

Once you’re done, grab a large amount of glad-wrap and wrap up your hair securely.

Cover with a towel turban, and that’s it! The towel is used to trap in heat, which is always fun during the bi-polar tendencies of the Summer days in Brisbane.

How long do you keep it in for? My mother is done with an hour, but it doesn’t last as long. My sweet spot is 3 hours, but if I can afford to, I always try to keep it on for as long as I can. I just read a magazine and watch a movie and by the time they’re done, so is my hair! Some people have been known to SLEEP in it, but I can’t even begin to imagine how uncomfortable that would be.

I carefully pull the layers off my head, squat in the shower, and spend the next five minutes rinsing. Make sure you rub your scalp thoroughly to get all the lumpy bits out and when the water is starting to run clear, then you can shampoo and continue with the rest of your beauty routine. Dry your hair on an old towel because there will be orange staining. We can get these out using a hot wash and some Napisan, but all the same, I probably wouldn’t risk it on new towels!

And the results will be fabulous! I wouldn’t ever use normal hair dyes after discovering henna. My mother and grandmother uses henna and we’ve even gotten some of the greying men in our family to use the brown varieties! And at $10 for a 500G packet of henna, why would I switch to anything else?

Anyone wanting to try this technique should keep these three things in mind:

  • Henna stains skin, clothing, towels, and glasses. I had a pair of glasses with green handles that have slowly turned brown over the years of using henna so I would definitely not recommend it to someone with white glasses. Also your white towels will have orange splotches on them from drying your hair, so maybe warn your roommates before they walk in the bathroom to see a murder scene on your towel.
  • Henna is ultra-permanent. You will never get it out. If you try to bleach or strip your hair, you will end up with REALLY ORANGE (or sometimes worse–GREEN!) hair, so if you have a change of heart, your only options are to dye over it with some other kind of henna if you don’t like the colour or entirely shave your hair off.
  • Henna glows in direct sunshine. The reflections could kill or grievously injure distracted cyclists, so maybe consider wearing a hat in traffic.

I’m just kidding about that last one, nobody has died or been seriously harmed from my henna halo.. yet.

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14 Comments

  1. It doesn’t have to be hot coconut milk. Usually I just open a can of coconut milk and I use it at a room temperature (for my medium to short hair a half can it is enough). But when I remembered late at night to prepare the mixture for the next day I also used the coconut milk form the fridge and was rather like a thick cream – I needed to mix better after a half hour when was softer. It seem to work at any temperature, but i like it better when is like a soft cream; it is easier to mix for me.
    This is the blog where I found about coconut milk and henna: http://www.minimalistbeauty.com/category/hair/
    There is a lot of other useful information. I hope will be useful for you too.

    • Demi

      Thanks, Anca, I’ll check it out! :)

  2. Hi!
    I just found your blog searching for sewing inspiration (by the way I like your creations).
    I dye my hair with henna too and ever since the second time I tried it I switch the boiled water or tea with coconut milk, as I found out online. It makes the mixture more creamy and easier to apply or wash out of your hair. Also, instead of letting it on my hair overnight, I do the mixture and I let it on a bowl overnight, and I stay with it for 2-3 hours. I really like the effect it is having on my hair – I only used it for a year and a half, but my hair is much more softer.
    I really like your color!… and the clothes you create.

    • Demi

      Thank you so much, Anca! I really like your tips! I have never heard about coconut milk, I imagine it would have to be hot coconut milk to work properly? I am recently starting to experiment with putting citric acid and honey in the mixture as well, because I am finding my hair is unfortunately getting darker and isn’t that vibrant red that it once was. I also enjoy how nice it makes my hair feel, and none of the damaging effects of traditional hair dyes :)

    • Demi

      Me too, wouldn’t ever go back to ordinary dyes again :)

  3. Great post! Good to see how someone else hennas their hair. After mixing with water, do you leave the mixture to release the dye at all?
    Also, I leave my henna on overnight; It gets 10-11 hours on my head. I can’t stand doing anything with a very heavy head of hair and henna on my head, so going to bed is my best bet. It’s not that uncomfortable, just makes rolling over a bit more effort.

    • Demi

      Nope, as soon as it’s cool enough to go on my head, on it goes!

      I toss and turn a lot in my sleep and the package would get unraveled instantly, kudos to you for being able to put up with it :P

  4. I absolutely love your hair color. I’ve wanted to dye mine red for a while, but I’m a huge mega baby when it comes to doing anything permanent to my hair haha. It looks great on you though!

    • Demi

      Aww thank you! I’m a baby when it comes to things that may possibly damage my hair, i.e. curling irons, straighteners, peroxides and chemical-based hair colours. Mum always told me if you want to go henna you have to commit, because there’s no going back, haha!

  5. I love the shade of red you dye your hair! Possibly because I dye mine just about the same color. Learning about using henna was really interesting! My mom is a hairdresser so she gets the good prices on professional dyes and does my hair, but this is an awesome alternative.

    • Demi

      I’ve always admired your shades! Didn’t it used to be a lot darker though? :)

      Professional dyes are great if you have a very specific colour in mind, but I find it damaging to my strands unfortunately :(

  6. YEP. I love it. I am gonna use Henna next time I dye my hair – which is going to be a looonnng time away because I’m trying to grow all the bullshit out of it. I love your hair AND YOUR FACE.

    PS – that last photo of you is the most pretty. Good job, mysterious Robert the Photographer. (Also I suppose good job Demi on having a nice face.)

    • Demi

      I LOVE YOUR FACE TOO. Let’s get together when the bullshit is gone and I can slap henna mud all over your scalp :D

      That’s the merit of having a good photographer. Every day is a good face day. :P

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