The Henna Lowdown For Your Hair: What It Is and How To Use It

July 16, 2012  |  


Most people have heard of henna, but many remain curious.

What exactly is it? Simply put, henna is a plant also known as lawsonia inermis that is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia and northern Australasia (yeah, that’s real). It is most widely used to dye skin and of course, hair.

A lot of natural and relaxed heads use it for the awesome benefits that it offers. The most widely known benefit is that henna imparts a lovely red color into strands that is not chemically based, so there’s no damage to your hair. If your tresses are really dark, henna can’t lighten it, but there will be a nice tint in the sunlight. Depending on the region that it was grown, the color will vary from an orange-red tone to dark burgundy.

Henna usage also results in smoother, shinier hair because it is able to completely coat and fill in any rough spots on frayed cuticles. Many believe that this locks moisture out, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You can still oil and condition your hair as needed.

Henna is also one of the safest and most natural ways to strengthen hair since it is able to penetrate the shaft and bond to the keratin in each strand. By doing this, it makes the hair thicker and less prone to breakage.

The best type to use is body art quality (BAQ). BAQ henna is of the utmost class in terms of dye release, sifting and purity. You can find this at most local Indian stores or at trusted online shops such as and Make sure when purchasing that the box is dated. If it isn’t, it may be old or not pure henna. As a general rule of thumb, buy 100g for shoulder length hair, 200g for bra strap length and 300g for hip length.

Henna should ideally be mixed with an acidic component in order to release the dye effectively. There are plenty of mixes that you can make which use multiple ingredients. It really depends on what your individual hair likes and takes a bit of trial and error, but if you’re just starting out, the standard mix will do.

Standard henna mix:

  1. Pour the henna into a ceramic or plastic bowl.
  2. Mix with a half-cup of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice until there is a yogurt-like consistency. For a richer stain you may use only lemon juice.
  3. Wrap the bowl in saran wrap and let sit for a few hours. Keep out of direct sunlight.
  4. The henna will be ready when there is a slight brown film on the top. Sometimes this can take as long as 12 hours.
  5. Use gloves to apply to hair in small sections. *Tip – Damp hair makes the application process smoother.
  6. Wrap your hair in saran wrap to lock in moisture and leave on for 6-12 hours. A lot of women apply it at night and sleep in the mixture. If you opt to do this, just make sure to cover your pillow to avoid any unwanted stains.
  7. Rinse out fully.
  8. Hair may feel a bit dry at first. A good, moisturizing deep conditioner directly following any henna treatment is highly recommended.

Sometimes it takes a few applications to reap all of the benefits, but more often than not, you should see an immediate change in your hair.

How often do you henna? What’s your favorite mixture?

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  • Have used henna about 4 times now and love it. It colors my grey a pretty red and though it took a while for me to figure out what conditioner worked best (henna will dry your hair if you don’t deep condition) but I finally found one that softens and moisturizes my hair after each henna treatment.

    • Mayathe

      Hello. Thank you for your post. I have decided to use henna on my hair and I need help in figuring out the best options to do so. Would you please tell me what conditioner you use. and how do you use it when you do your henna treatments?

    • Anisa Lord

      what is your after henna deep conditioner? I am looking for a good one.

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  • myName

    i knew some women who would use henna to dye the gray strands in their hair a lovely coppery/maroon/burgundy color. it was beautiful!

  • Candacey Doris

    If you add honey with the lemon it comes out brighter. And I’ve never had to let it sit longer than 1/2 an hour. My hair turned pretty red just from that. There are several types made especially for hair so you don’t have to use skin henna which can contain additives to make it last longer on skin. Some of those things you don’t want in your hair, trust me. It took a while to rinse it all out too since i made the mix thicker than usually recommended to make sure it penetrate fully.

  • Anon

    If you make your mix with fresh brewed green tea instead of plain water, the mix rinses easier. I use actual tea flakes and then strain the leaves from the water. Using green tea from tea bags is cool but idk what it is about using those actual leaves in the water that helps the rinse. I also put honey and extra virgin olive oil in my mix. I wouldn’t recommend putting lemon juice in it, thats a little too acidic. I mean I know people use lemon juice to intensify the dye release but I personally use henna for the conditioning benefits and not for color. Also, this article made it seem as if deep conditioning after rinsing the henna, was optional. LOLOLOL don’t play yourself and end up with hay stiff hair. You must deep conditioner after you rinse the henna. Oh and that rinse…. depending on your hair and its length, is gonna take about an hour to an hour and a half to completely rinse. I liken it to how long it used to take me to rinse relaxer out of my hair.

    • Mayathe

      Hello. I am so happy I stumble on your post. Thank you so much. You have been the deciding factor on how I will proceed with my henna treatment (first time). I would like to know the measurement of the ingredients you add to your henna? How often do you do your henna treatments? How long do you leave the henna on your hair? Please if you could be so kind to answers these questions for me, I would truly appreciate it.