You smell like a dirty hippie. But at least you showered.

I was asked by several people about the henna process. How does it work? How long does it last? Do you notice a difference in your hair? Texture, conditioning, curl? Is it worth while? Does it fade?

And every time I get a question my brain starts to go in a million directions and my poor thumbs have a hard time keeping up with it as I text out the process.

Let’s make it easier, friends. Let me tell you about it.

Please note, everyone has a different experience. But I can proudly say that now I can do a henna application in less than 5 minutes, start to finish. And when you see how messy it could be, the fact that I make nearly zero mess whatsoever, it’s really worth the time.

Why do people henna? That’s hard to say. I can say why I do. I was tired of my dirty dishwater blonde hair. Moreover, I was tired of putting chemicals in my already thin hear, leaving it broken, limp, and sad. I don’t do a lot with my hair. Truth be told, I pull it back more often than not, but just because I pull it back, does that mean the color has to be blah? I read about henna for a few years and finally, several months back, decided to bite the bullet and commit.

Henna is a commitment, guys. An honest to god commitment. Why? Because henna doesn’t invade the hair shaft like chemical dyes. It binds to the hair shaft. So if you decide that henna is not for you, you will have to google how to break those bonds. Read: a lot of chemicals.

Please know, henna, pure henna, will only turn your hair red. So if you buy it at some store and it says “chestnut brown henna” or “mahogony red” chances are it’s mixed with other items, and probably chemicals. Henna in its purest form turns hair red. One color. The color of red you get depends entirely on two things: natural hair color and frequency of hennaing. The more you henna, the darker it will end up, because the henna just adds on to the already binded-to-hair-shaft hair, thus creating a deeper color.

If you want brown or a reddish brown, you can mix in Indigo and get those results. I have never used that, or Cassia, so I won’t comment on how that works. Though I will someday probably go into using Cassia (because not only is it a fantastic name) but it will enhance blonde hair.

The benefits of henna are simple. It will strengthen your hair, condition your hair, and give you a beautiful color all without harming your body. It strengthens because it binds to the hair, as I previously mentioned. I have naturally thin hair. I have noticed a difference. Is my hair super thick now? Heck no. But it is improved and I have far less breakage.

The biggest question I get is usually: How long does it take?

Hennaing isn’t something you up and decide to do on a Saturday morning. You have to pre-plan. When you mix the henna, it has to release the dyes, which takes time. It can take anywhere from 4-10 hours. You know it’s ready when the henna goes from moss green to a solid brown, and when you put a drop on the palm of your hand, it rinses off, leaving a yellow stain. I get my henna only from because it’s tested, honest and super quality customer service.

What do you mix your henna with? I’ve hennaed my hair four times. The first time I mixed up far too much for my hair and used apple cider vinegar which smelled absolutely awful. Henna dyes release best when mixed with an acid. Lemon can be too drying, so that’s why I went with ACV. Never again, guys. Never again.

I’ve also used OJ. The smell wasn’t so awful then.

What I now use is a mixture of henna, nutmeg, cinnamon, hibiscus tea and amla (which acts as the acid, while improving hair tone and curl.) I have been satisfied with that mixture. The smell is tolerable, and I’ve been able to henna during the day.

That leads to the next part of the question, how long do you leave the henna in? It totally depends. I’ve left it in over night, for up to 10 hours. I’ve left it in for as little as four. My results have been the same.

Henna not only conditions the hair, but the scalp, too. It has anti fungal properties that can cure dandruff.

The last big question I get is, doesn’t your hair turn orange?

The answer is yes. Yes it does. Immediately after hennaing your hair, if you’re a natural blonde like me, your roots (or entire hair should you be a henna virgin) will be OMG WHAT DID I JUST DO orange.

But my hair ends up such a neat red, why? Science, baby! Henna takes three days to settle on what color it will end up being. It needs to oxidize. Like Mars. The red planet, people. It takes three days to do that.

So yes, immediately for the first 12 hours or so, you will have a coppery orange hue and it will make you question why you’d ever in a million years do that. Then it calms and deepens. In the beginning I used to henna at night. But henna is heavy and it made for awful sleeping. On top of that, when you rinse it in the morning, you have to suffer with the orange hair for a day. When I henna in an afternoon, rinse in the evening, then I only have to deal with the orange until I go to bed. I smell like a barnyard, yes, but it goes away once your hair is dry (mostly.) When you wake up, your hair will be a much more subtle ginger, and by the end of the day, it should be a red that you can tolerate. By day two, the hair should deepen, and by day three, you should be pleased.

Does henna fade?

Technically, yes. In four months. So you have one of two options, touch up the roots (because like me, blonde hair roots with red base hair looks awful) or do an all over henna. I just do all over henna because it’s easier.

How do I apply my henna? Super simple. I get disposable gloves, (a must!) my prepared henna, my henna towel (the one I use over and over,) a shower cap (I’ve heard garbage bags work,) and one of Matt’s old white undershirts. On damp hair, I take a glob, I put it on my head, I massage it in. I do that until all my hair is covered. Then I cover with the shower cap, and then create a cover with the old tee. Henna works best when warm, so the cover not only makes me feel not so ugly during the process, but it keeps the heat in.

But I hear it’s messy! Sure it can be! Anything can be. But if you make your henna a pudding like texture, not too thin, not too thick, you shouldn’t have any problems. Just lay an old towel on the floor and wipe up anything you spill quickly.

photo 1 (15)

Then you rinse. I call it the four phases of hennaing. First you start with the dead sexy cover. Then you uncover the even sexier shower cap. Then there’s the poo like mud. And you end up with a nice head of hair. (Note, my hair is wet in the last photo, so it’s darker.)

Here’s day two of this application:

photo 2 (13)

Tomorrow it’ll be a little darker. And brushed. Because I haven’t brushed my hair yet today. I’m lazy, so sue me.

The henna process isn’t for everyone. But if you want red hair, and you don’t want to ruin your hair or watch it go down the drain wash after wash, it’s really something to consider.

Something to take note, if you’re a person who uses shampoo, try not to shampoo for at least two days post henna, so that the oxidization can take full effect.

If you’re on the fence, look into doing henna glosses. It’s when you want a subtle color change and the conditioning effects. It’s kind of the way to dip your toes in the water before jumping all the way in. Also, the bonds are easier to break should you decide it’s not for you.


Happy hennaing!


About Cassie

Two sisters from two misters. What could be more fun?

Posted on April 22, 2014, in Cassie and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. So henna is the monogamist of hair dye? Once you go henna, you never go back? That’s love right there. Good thing you totally rock it. Seriously, love it on you.

  2. Interesting! I was talking the other day about dyeing my hair, specifically dark red, and never even considered henna. Good thing I finally checked your blog after a non-blogging hiatus and saw this. I’m still scared, though. I think my experience might be even easier than yours because my hair is already dark, but . . .

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