The Benefits of Using Henna To Dye Your Hair

Henna is a plant that has been used for centuries by cultures in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia as both a hair dye and hair treatment. It is also used for temporary tattoos. Now many people use Henna (sometimes in combination with other plants) as an alternative to chemical hair dyes and as the main ingredient in the treatment of various hair problems such as dry, brittle, and/or weak hair, dull hair, and hair breakage and thinning.

What is Henna?

Henna is a plant native to the dry climates in North and East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the southern areas of the Middle East, and South Asia. Henna’s leaves have a red-orange dye molecule called lawsone. When mixed with a mildly acidic liquid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, and applied to the skin or hair, the lawsone will bind to the protein (keratin) in the skin and hair leaving a red-orange stain. This color is translucent and will not make darker hair lighter but will turn lighter (light brown/blonde) hair red and give darker hair (dark brown/black) a "reddish hue" in the sun.  

Why Should I Use Henna Instead of Hair Dye? 

Henna does not contain any chemicals so you are less likely to experience an allergic reaction. For the same reason, henna also does not damage the hair the way that chemical hair dyes do because it does not remove pigment. Because the lawsone binds to the keratin in the hair it also fills in any damaged areas of the hair strand and forms a protective layer. This is what makes henna treatments great for increasing strength, shine, and moisture retention. The fact that lawsone binds to the hair also helps make curly and frizzy hair more manageable not only by making it stronger and able to hold more moisture but also by physically weighing it down. Some experience a slight loosening of their curl pattern due to the weight of the lawsone on the hair. 

But What If I Don't Want Red Hair

If you don't want red hair there are other plants similar to henna that can be combined with henna or used separately to create other colors. Cassia (also called Senna) stains the hair and skin a pale yellow or gold color. This can be combined with henna to dye blonde hair darker blonde or light brown and can be used alone on both lighter and darker hair colors to enhance shine without adding the red-orange hue that henna adds or on very light blonde hair to add a golden tint. Indigo is a plant that stains the hair black. When mixed with henna (and even cassia) in different proportions it will dye hair different shades of brown (depending on the natural color of the hair). Dying the hair with henna and then indigo will result in black hair (even when starting with blonde). Though indigo does not have the same benefits as henna and cassia when it comes to conditioning (though if you're are mixing it with henna and/or cassia their benefits remain), it also does not contain the disadvantages of chemical hair dyes. So as long as you are not trying to lighten your hair, you can achieve a natural looking hair color without using chemical dyes. 

I'm Sold! So Where Do I Get This Stuff? 

Because henna has increased in popularity there are a number of henna brands that are not pure henna. So I will recommend some brands that are 100% natural henna (I will include cassia and indigo as well). When buying henna (if for some reason you want to go to the store) look for body art quality henna. It is ground finer than henna marketed for hair, making it easier to wash out of the hair. Here are some brands that I recommend on Amazon. One of these brands has a lot of information on their site including tutorials for application as well as more in-depth scientific information on how henna, indigo, and cassia work as well as history on the use of these plants by different cultures, health benefits, and allergy information.  That site is This is also where I purchase my henna and they do have a shop on Amazon for your convenience. 

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