Natural Hair

Living Simple: Do you Henna? Why?

Do you Henna? How often? Why? Has it helped? Well, I will tell you my experience. It is actually not a bad one. I have applied Henna to my hair twice. Both times were in December 2011. Well, I take that back. Once in 11/2011 and then 12/2011. When I started doing the Henna treatment, I had every intention of doing this every month. I did like the results, even though it did loosen my curl. That didn’t bother me too much, because I wear alot of twist set, flexi rods and the very popular BANTU KNOTS (as pictured)!

Here is where the problem came in…….I wanted a new hair color! In October, my natural hair is black and I colored it a honey blond. But because my natural hair is black my hair just came out brown 🙁 Well, when I applied Henna, it turn a pretty brownish-red. I did like the color and received many compliments, but that is not the color I really wanted. I applied Henna for all the benefits it brings to my hair, not for the color. Although, I understood that the color was going to change. In October when I colored my hair honey blond (which came out brown), the plan was to re-color it a month later to lighten it even more! BUT WAIT!! I didn’t know that Henna is a permanent color and if you put Henna on your hair YOU CAN NOT or SHOULD NOT put another color (especially a commerical box color) over your Henna! It can take your hair out, damage it or turn it a weird color!! I was so mad! I wanted a Beyonce Honey Blond that goes from blond down to a pretty light brown! I went to color my hair again and saw in the instructions, “If you have HENNA in your hair DO NOT APPLY!” Screeeeeeeeeeetch!! HALT! WTH!! So now I am stuck with Henna in my hair, a color I didn’t want and now desiring a color I can’t have! I talked to a professional stylist who told me to wait at least 6 months and then the Henna still might have to be stripped off my hair! So basically, when I do get my color in June, I will have to go to a stylist. Say a prayer for my hair!

What is Henna? Henna, lawsonia inermis, is a plant. It is a large bush, or small tree, that grows in hot, dry climates. There is evidence from Egypt that henna was regularly used to dye hair five thousand years ago, and may have been used in Jericho as early as eight thousand years ago. Henna was used to keep hair healthy and to color gray hair. The dye inside this plant produces a red/brown stain on skin and various hues of red on hair. Henna can’t lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna, being darker than what is already on your head.  Source.

Pros, Cons & Other Effects of Henna:
Henna has some undeniable benefits for hair, which is why so many people use it and love it.

Some of these pros include:

  • Stronger Hair – The lawsone (dye) molecule penetrates the hair shaft, binding with the keratin in the hair. This makes hair stronger, but also is one of the qualities that makes henna removal near impossible. Henna also coats the hair and fills in rough spots on a frayed cuticle. This adds a second layer of strength, but it DOES NOT lock out moisture.
  • Smoother, Shinier Hair – Henna, as stated above, does coat the hair, but it is a permeable coating that does not lock moisture out. The henna helps fill in rough spots on the cuticle. With the cuticle rough edges smoothed over, the hair feels smoother and the cuticle takes a lot less damage during combing and manipulation. It takes several days for Henna to stabilize. It becomes more flexible and durable as it oxidizes and cures–it is in fact a plant resin that is flexible and solvent enough to penetrate the hair at the cuticle, carrying pigment with it.
  • Non-Fading Red – Anyone that has used red chemicals dyes knows how badly they fade. Henna may fade a little after the first application, but after the second application fades very little.
  • The Absence of Chemicals – Chemical dyes are not only VERY damaging to hair, they can also cause scalp burns, allergic reactions, and recently studies have linked long term use to cancer.

While there are benefits, there are also some drawbacks as well:

  • Application Process – Henna can be hard to apply evenly on your own, can be a huge mess, and is tiring on the arms and neck. It also has to be left on for a longer time than commercial chemical dyes (4-12 hours), so more time has to be slated for the process.
  • Experimentation – To find your ideal mix, dye release time, application time, rinsing method, etc. all require some experimentation. It is not out-of-a-box color, and it may take some tweaking to find your ideal results. Your perfect color is never a guarantee.
  • Dry Hair – Some people report dry hair after using henna. It mimics a protein treatment and you MUST follow up with a moisturizing deep conditioner.

These may be pros for some, cons for others:

  • Loss/Reduction in Curl – Many users of henna report a loss of curl. This is by no means a universal effect, and should be neither discounted, nor counted on. It seems that wavies (s curls) are the most susceptible to this, though some curlies are as well.
  • Cannot Lighten Hair – Henna cannot lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna being darker than what is already on your head.
  • Darkening with Multiple Applications – Henna will darken with multiple applications. If one wants to keep a lighter color, only the roots should be touched up, and repeated whole-head applications will progressively make the color less orange and more burgundy.
  • Cost – Depending on your mix, how much hair you have and how often you henna, it may either be more or less expensive than chemical dyes. Though that doesn’t factor in one very important thing… the price your hair pays on chemical dyes. Many people find that they only need to do a full-length application one or two times, and the because henna doesn’t fade much, they can save a lot of cost by only redoing the roots.
  • The Smell – Some people love it, some people hate it, but the smell of henna lingers in your hair for awhile after the application, often reviving when your hair is wet. Some herbs, such as ginger, can be added to shift the smell of the mix, but nothing will eliminate it entirely. Most people feel it has a smell somewhat like grass or hay.
  • Variable Color – Henna can and does shift in color depending on the light the hennaed hair is placed in. The same head of hair can go from burgundy to firey copper, just depending on the light.



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  • Tarsha
    January 30, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Bernetta I love the style of curl you have in your hair. I recall you said it s the bantu knots?
    How in the world do you do that, how long do the curls last and how long does it take to do?