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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Get cheap, lasting, beautiful red hair with henna!

Today I'm finally bringing you my much-anticipated (and super long!) henna post.  Henna is a really incredible product that has been used for centuries and can be used to dye your hair, skin, fingernails, etc.  If you've ever seen people with brownish-red art on their hands or feet, you've probably seen henna.

For a very scientific and broad overview of henna, I suggest you read the FREE eBook provided at Henna for Hair.  I'll just be hitting the high points here!

Ok, let's get some facts straight first:
1)  Henna will ONLY dye your hair red.  ONLY RED.  If you see henna that promises to dye your hair dark brown, black, or any other color  - run away!  Henna only makes red and if you find a product that promises something else then it means that you are not getting 100% pure henna.  This can be bad, bad, bad since some chemicals put in henna blends can severely damage previously color-treated hair.  If you're looking for a color other than red, don't look at pure henna as an option.
2)  Henna is permanent.  Really permanent.  If you've ever dyed your hair red you know that it fades rather quickly.  (When I dyed mine red it lasted about a week and a half.)  Henna will NOT fade.  This is because it binds inside your hair.  For a more accurate explanation, read the eBook.  This also means that you need to be confident that red is the color you want.  If you like to change up your look every few weeks then this really isn't the method for you.
3)  Henna is messy.  You need to have lots of spare towels to clean up.  
4)  Henna stains everything, not just your hair.  If you get henna on your floor, countertop, skin, etc. you will want to wipe it off very quickly or it will start to stain.  
5)  Henna doesn't have the most pleasant smell.  It's something you have to deal with if you want to have great red hair!
6)  You can buy henna online or at most Indian grocery stores. 
7)  You HAVE to do a strand and skin test.  This is mandatory!  (More explained later!)
8)  Henna has to oxidize on your hair.  Think of it this way:  when you slice an apple it has to sit out for a bit before it turns brown.  Same thing happens with the henna in your hair.  So, don't be afraid if your hair is carrot red right after you wash the dye out.  I promise it will calm down a bit.  
9)   Another great benefit of henna?  No nasty chemicals in your hair!  Henna is a ground-up plant!

Ok, now let's get started!  Here's what you'll need
  1. 100% pure henna (body art quality)
  2. Lemon juice (or other citrus juice)
  3. Plastic bowl
  4. Shower cap
  5. Plastic gloves
  6. Saran wrap
  7. Conditioner
  8. Spare towels
  9. Disposable utensils
  10. Not pictured:  An awesome sister to help you apply!!!  Seriously, you'll probably need an assistant for the first application.  Touch-ups can usually be done by yourself.

First, pour your henna into the plastic bowl and then slowly begin adding in the lemon juice.  You want your consistency to be very creamy and without chunks.  Add the lemon juice slowly - you can always add more but you can't take any out!

Once you have the desired quantity and right consistency (like creamy pudding) then you need to cover the bowl with saran wrap.  Set it out on the counter and wait 12 hours.  YES, 12!  This allows the henna to release the dye.

Now for the strand and skin test.  Take a small bit and dab it onto your wrist or ankle - somewhere sensitive.  Then, take the hair out of your brush and apply henna to it.  Wrap it in saran wrap and set it aside.  After four hours wash off the hair and make sure it is the desired color.  This will also tell you if your henna is not 100% pure because it will probably damage the hair if the hair has been previously color-treated.  Now check the spot on your wrist or ankle.  Is it red?  Inflamed?  Itchy?  If so, you don't need to use henna.  If everything looks good then move along to the next step!

Before you apply your dye, make sure your hair is free of all products and oils.  Also, you want your hair DRY.  I usually take a shower the night before and don't use any products.  I let it air dry overnight.

Begin applying the henna at the back of your head and work forward.  You want to start at the roots and work down.  Feel free to massage the product into your scalp - it's perfectly safe and you'll get the best color coverage that way.

This was from my first batch ever.  I forgot to get a snap of the most recent batch but this will give you an idea!  You want to get even creamier than this.

Once you've applied all over check to make sure that you've gotten everywhere.  Next, wrap your entire head in saran wrap so that all of your hair is covered.  Finish it off with the shower cap.

Now the hardest part - leave the dye on for FOUR HOURS.  Yes, you'll have to walk around with dark brown, stinky goop on your head for four hours!  I promise it's worth it.  I get compliments on my hair all the time from perfect strangers.

After four hours, you'll need to rinse it out.  The best way is just to get in the shower and work fast.  Be warned that it is possible for you to stain your tub.  I haven't experienced it (I've used three different showers, too!) but I don't want to swear that it won't happen to you and then you tell me your tub is dyed!  Of course, if you're really scared about it staining your tub you can wash it out with the hose outside!  WEAR GLOVES while you wash!

This is where the conditioner comes in - it's easier to wash out when you just scrub with conditioner.  I skip the shampoo because I have to do it about eight times (at least) and don't want to dry out my hair with the shampoo.  I just use cheap conditioner since I have to use so much at once.

Wash until the water runs mostly clear.  I promise that it won't run entirely clear the first time but you have to give up eventually lol!  For the next few days (2-3) use a spare towel to dry your hair after you wash it.  (I also suggest sleeping with a towel on your pillow for the first few nights after you dye.) 

If this seems like a work…well, it is.  But I really think it's better than regular dye.  I mean…I spent $65 to dye my hair red at the salon and it only really lasted for about 1.5 weeks.  I spent $XX to dye with henna and it will last pretty much forever.  In fact, the next time you dye with henna will be to cover roots - not to bring back the red to the rest of your hair.

Let's break down the expense:

  • I spent $4 on henna but only used half this time.  I'll use the other half for next time so let's only count $2 for that.
  • I spent $1 on a bottle of lemon juice and only used about 3/4 of it in this mix.  I only used half the mix but I'll be generous and round up to 50 cents for this time.
  • $1 bowl that I'll use both times.  50 cents.
  • Bought a 6-pack of shower caps for $1.  17 cents.
  • Bought a 5 pack of gloves for $1 and used 4 pairs.  80 cents.
  • Plastic spoon from my cabinet.
  • $1 bottle of conditioner.  (Only used half.)  50 cents.

So, that's $4.47 for this dye job.  Yeah…pretty miraculous!

Here are some before and after shots of my hair!  

Before:  Color-treated blonde
After:  Henna-treated red
Remember that the starting color of your hair will determine what color the henna makes your hair.  If you're blonde, brunette, or have gray hair then you'll probably get the bright, copper penny color.  If your hair is dark brown or black you may get a more auburn color.  That's why the strand test is so important!!!

Questions?  Comments?  If I haven't explained something well, please tell me so I can clarify.  Good luck and happy henna-ing!



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All items were purchased by Orange Lipstick for personal use and review purposes.


  1. I currently have blonde hair that has been color treated. If I use henna over it, will that result in a weird shade? or orange?


  2. you can add several herbs to darken the color, Indigo and Hibiscus are very common additives to darken the color.