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by Shelli of Hairscapades

Kendall asks:
I’ve been used to having the freedom to change up my hair style whenever I feel like it. I cut it short, I get bangs, I get a weave to change up my style. But now that I’m trying to transition and want to focus on retaining length, my usual methods of keeping my hair/look interesting are out the window! So now I’m thinking about adding color, BUT I don’t want any chemicals. Is there a way to add color without the use of harsh chemicals or the slight tint you get from Henna?
Why yes. Yes there is! *lol* I’ve often read comments from women who indicate that the would like to try henna, but don’t want the red/orange tint that accompanies it. Well, there is a relatively easy way to obtain a variety of auburns, browns and blacks with henna and it simply involves adding cassia, amla and/or indigo to your henna mix. Now, one thing that you must understand about henna is that it will never lighten your hair as it does not lift color from your strands. Rather, henna colors by depositing a dye molecule which bonds to the keratin in hair. So, the tone/color you achieve is dependent upon your starting hair color, which may be your natural color(s) or color achieved through other chemical processes (commercial dyes, bleaching and/or highlights) and your henna mix ratios. You can go deeper/darker than your starting color(s), but never lighter.

Henna/Indigo Mixes:
So, what are your options? There are so many, I can’t go through them all here. But, here is a list of some color possibilities and the henna mix ratios if your starting color is medium brown:
  • Red highlights: Equal parts henna and cassia
  • Dark Auburn: Henna only
  • Warm Brown: Equal parts henna and indigo
  • Dark Brown: 2/3 henna, 1/3 indigo
  • Darker Brown: 1/3 henna, 2/3 indigo
  • Blue Black: 2 step henna-indigo (henna applied alone, rinsed and then followed with indigo applied alone)
  • Cooler Browns: Mix 1 part amla with 3 parts henna prior to adding indigo
If you’re interested in learning more about the colors you can achieve on your hair color, check out Catherine Cartwright-Jones’s very informative and free e-book, Henna for Hair. The ”Quick Mix Chart” on page 55 provides ratios for obtaining various color results on everything from grey to blonde to black hair. For example, if you have light brown hair with grey that you’d like to turn into blonde highlights, you can use cassia, which has a yellow dye molecule. Or, perhaps you’d like to make your blonde highlights or grey strands a strawberry blonde? Try mixing equal parts henna and cassia. The Henna for Hair e-book provides a vast amount of information regarding the benefits of this wonderful little ayuverdic herb, how to use it and many pictures that demonstrate the color possibilities.



More Henna Mixes:
In addition, some add common household ingredients to their henna mixes to enhance color. For example:
  • Add cognac, grape juice, beetroot powder or ground cloves for more intense reds.
  • Add strong black coffee,strong black tea or walnuts for deeper browns.
  • Add red wine for chestnut brown color.
See this post here for more options, recipes and mix ratios. However, I offer this information with the caveat that I’ve never tried any of these! So, I would recommend that you research your choice of “additives” before experimenting and do a strand test as I’ve read that some additions make for a very stinky henna experience and may not impact the color results!

Precautionary Advice on “Natural” Hair Dyes:
One final note, when searching for natural hair color options, be cautious and do your research when contemplating using “boxed” dyes that are purportedly “natural.” I went to a salon last February and, after I explained that I use henna, the stylist began singing the praises of a “new,” ammonia free, natural dye system: L’Oreal Inoa (standing for “Innovative – No Ammonia” … allegedly). Well, a quick internet search when I got home revealed that, although the dye might not contain ammonia, the post-color shampoo does and the ingredient label clearly lists ammonia hydroxide (see article and image of bottle here)! A little more searching also revealed multiple sources that indicate it also contains a high level of PPD, a potential carcinogen.

Ironically enough, Organic Hair Systems, Inoa’s competitor that provided the prior article “exposing” the misnomer, does not appear to be a perfectly natural alternative either. An article on Green Talk explains that Organic Color Systems is simply a trade name and although this hair color line does not contain any ammonia, it does contain small amounts of PPD as well as other chemicals. Therefore, it is neither an “all-natural” nor an organic color option.

So, if you are looking for truly all-natural hair color and are willing to spend a little more time with the process, BAQ henna mixes may be one of your best options. And hey, maybe you’ll end up liking a little red in your life. I know that I LOVE it;)!


Do you mix henna with indigo, amla and/or cassia to dye your hair a shade of red, brown or black? What’s your starting hair color(s) and your mix?

43 Chime in!:

Anonymous said...

Hi Shelli,
I'm with you on this one! Love me some RED in my life too! I actually mirrored your process: henna, then Indigo in the back. This will be a nice summer look 4 me!:) However, I will most likely go back to black during the cooler months! Love me some henna though!

Anonymous said...

I cannot STAND the reddish tint from Henna, it's just not a good look in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

TO EACH THEIR OWN!!!

Anonymous said...

To each their own, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I don't prefer the reddish tent from henna either.

Anonymous said...

Sad face. I have black hair and have no greys and would love to be brown for the summer. Wish it could lighten hair.

Anonymous said...

i mix henna and indigo to make my dark brown hair black. my grays turns a deep red color, i love it! but next time i will just do a protein boost without adding color. kinda wanna go back to brown.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Shelli, I may try and do brown for the summer! But then again I don't know how black and brown streaks would look together?0-O I may have to stick with the indigo!

Anonymous said...

I did my first henna treatment this past weekend after doing alot of research and reading. I however, didn't want the red tint as my hair was chemically dyed a medium brown. I reached out to Khadijah at Hennasooq, and she suggested 50% henna with 50% indigo with some amla powder mixed in. The results were great!! My hair is a nice dark brown but it's has a nice shine and volume...I think I'm going to become a "henna head" :)

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:08..... So you said "50% henna w/50% indigo w/ alma powder... Did you mix all 3 together in 1 container? If so that seems easier and I would love to try it.

Anonymous said...

I love henna. My hair has always been naturally light (dark auburn) and it lightens during the summer. So when I henna the color is very noticeable regardless of if I am outside in the sun or inside with low light. I really want to try indigo and cassia though, so I may try some of these color combinations. I also think I want the henna to be slightly more reddish so I like the idea of cassia and henna mix. I've also heard that cranberry juice with henna can also give a nice red. The options are limitless. Thanks for the article!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 12:26...First I mixed up the henna and added the amla powder and let sit for dye release, which was 2 hours (I used moroccan henna). Then I mixed the indigo and let sit for 20 minutes for dye release (during this time I was prepping my hair and bathroom)...then I added the indigo paste into the henna mix and mixed thoroughly. It's a long process but in my opinion is totally worth it...and it covered my grays! You can find information on the site Shelli recommended "hennaforhair" or hennasooq.com

Anonymous said...

I have henna in my hair from a gloss about one month ago, its a little too auburn for my taste. I really would like to get a jet black look (or the closest thing to it). Can I just apply straight indigo to my hair and skip the pre-henna?
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Shelli,

Have you ever heard of or tried mixing your henna with coconut milk and an oil? I read on minimalist beauty that she does this and it aids in rinsing the product from the hair much easier with no grit. I plan to apply henna for the first time this weekend and would really like to do this the best way. I'm also a new natural and really trying not to revert back.

Thanks for your help!

Elaine D. said...

Mixing the henna with indigo is great for maintaining a nice black...i find :)

Anonymous said...

Are there any options out there for someone who wants to go a little lighter like myself?

Nikki H said...

I love my henna! Just wish i had more time to do it. i really dont have any grey--maybe a couple stands so my hair is not red, more of a plum.

Nique said...

I've tried various hennas from Hennasooq like Jamilla Henna, Cassia, Amla and Red raj with no avail. I know only the red raj and Jamila color the hair but my black hair stayed black and the only thing that changed was the color of my blonde highlights.
I heard that if u want to color your black hair, then u have to use Jamila over and over again and then you'll color your hair but i dont like how it loosens my curl pattern. I've just about given up on henna for color.

DiJah said...

I love red and had my hair dyed red a few times but since i'm on my henna kick i've been trying to get that reddish color and it hasn't been happening (except for my greys..which I only have 3 strands of grey hair lol)

After cruising thru a few sites, i'm gonna boil some hibiscus(sorrel for you yaadies) teabags and see if that will give me the color i'm looking for. The directions said hibiscus powder but i can't find it on the ground and i'm not paying s+h for a $4 item so the teabags will do

Anonymous said...

Are there any salons in NYC that use Henna?

Anonymous said...

Not a huge fan of the red with my complexion so I mixed my henna with cocoa powder and got a really nice medium brown color

Anonymous said...

I will try the cocoa powder. what was your mix ratio?

Katrina A said...

I've never henna'd before. I'm not sure I would as I don't particularly care for the hue. I've never been big into coloring my hair anyway.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:37 - I used the Cocoa Brown Henna Bundle from Butters-n-Bars. I believe I used 100g henna, 100g cocoa powder, and warm green tea. I mixed with conditioner after dye release (24 hrs) for a gloss. The color was close to my natural highlights which is why I loved it, plus my hair smelled delicious.

hairscapades said...

Anon @ 1:14, indigo needs henna to "stick." I think you can do an indigo tx up to about a week after henna. But, given that you haven't done a henna gloss in a month, I think you would need to henna again. You could do a henna/indigo mix though to take the color down to a brown instead of doing a two-step for black.

Anon @ 1:34, I've never used coconut milk and oil in my henna mix, only green tea and honey. I know some have had great success with that combo, but coconut milk has protein in it and given that henna acts like a protein, I'm personally wary of the combo as I'd be afraid of excessively hard and brittle hair akin to protein-overloaded hair. However, again, some love the combo. I'd suggest seeing how others with your similar hair thickness (strand) and porosity did with it. My hair is fine with about normal porosity, except my crown, which is highly porous. If you have a similar hair type, maybe try a coconut milk and oil conditioning treatment first and see how your hair reacts. If it does well, maybe mixing it with henna will work for you. If your hair reacts badly, I'd suggest doing the henna with a liquid that is protein free.

I've heard of the cocoa powder mixes before!!! I'd like to try that one day!! Sounds so cool!! LOL!!

Anon @ 4:22, I don't know any specifically. But, I suspect if you find an Indian salon in the city, you'll find a salon that does henna treatments. I'd just make certain to check that they are using BAQ quality henna (ask to see the box or bag or something. I recently had a reader who said she got a bad batch at a salon she visited and she had problems after the treatment.

Anon @ 2:41, I don't know of any completely natural options to lighten hair except lemon juice, and that can do more harm than good. Though, I believe I had read of some having good results with lemon and honey? If you decided to go that route, I'd suggest researching first to know how to protect and moisturize your hair as anything that pulls color out of your hair can effect the structural integrity of the strands.

Thanks for all the feedback all!!

Shelli

hairscapades said...

Anon @ 2:41 I'm back!! There's a thread on Nik's forums for a honey/cinnamon lightening treatment. It indicates that honey is the best natural substitute for hydrogen peroxide.

http://curlynikki.forumotion.com/t6708-lightening-hair-with-honey

No lemon in this recipe ... which is good, I think, because lemon under the sun can turn hair really brassy and make it dry and brittle! Remember "Sun in?!?!" LOL!!!

Shelli

hairscapades said...

Okay, I'm back ... this is what I do ... go off on research missions;)!! So, I found this:

http://www.wikihow.com/Lighten-Your-Hair-With-Cinnamon

And in the comments was this video tutorial of a mix done with conditioner, honey and cinnamon ... the youtuber also indicates that honey must be diluted with water to work to lighten:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqGmwdqkPZs&feature=player_embedded

She indicates in the video to stay tuned for part II. Sorry, I didn't dig too hard for that. But, if you're interested, sure you can find more info:)!!

Good luck!!

Shelli

Shannon said...

where can you purchase the henna and the amila and the other stuff at?

KJ said...

I haven't tried mixing anything with my henna. Since I am in the Hairscapades Grow Out Challenge, I am planning on using henna monthly. I will have to experiement with another color mixture.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 12:40pm... Thanx so much for walking me through that process. And no that still doesn't sound like a super long process compared to the others I've heard...but thanx again!...Can't wait to try!

Anonymous said...

Rajasthani henna, cocoa powder, amla and coconut milk, then indigo mixed in for one step application. Also add 2 tbsp of molasses and a little hemp oil after dye release,keeps the henna nice and moist on my head.

greatgraneecurl

Anonymous said...

I once saw an older, hippie looking gray haired chic at the grocery store with wavy MBL hair. It was the color on the far right, a pixy-stix purple.

DO NOT USE INDIGO BY ITSELF!!

kwnatural said...

I wish I could henna, but it makes my grey a retched orangy-red. Ugh!

Alyssa Joy said...

I have recently been looking into doing a henna treatment. There's a site called hennahut.com that I've been wanting to try. I just haven't really seem anyone else mention them so I'm kind of reluctant to do so. Anyone ever get henna from them>

Anonymous said...

@Alyssa Joy...I haven't heard of hennahut. The two most popular sites that I've noticed during my research are: hennasooq.com and mehandi.com
both are excellent sites and provide great information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shelli for the info on lightening.

Anonymous said...

I'm about 50% grey, have been since i was a teenager so the Henna turns my greys into a reddish/orange color. Which is cool, looks like highlights. I used to buy my henna from the Healthy Home Market but it was so gritty, i hated doing it. Now i buy it from the Indian store for about $1.50, no grit at all but my hair is more orangy/red. But overall love Henna!

LaNeshe said...

I use henna and three spoons of hibiscus petal powder for a nice red tint. My starting hair color is very dark, black usually, dark brown in the sun.

Decemberpumpkin said...

now i know where to go if i ever use henna

Hermione said...

While I like the reddish color the henna makes my grey, I did not care for how it changed the overall 'feel' of my hair. After the 3 application, it completely destroyed the color pattern in the front of my hair and now I have straight, straggly, strands that constantly stick up. I have since stopped using henna. My hair had difficultly retaining moisture this past winter. I dont want to use chemicals, yet I'm not ready to live with the grey streaks on the sides of my head! At a loss.

Anonymous said...

how do youkeep the henna from straightening the hair. I did the big chop 2yaer ago andmy hair has relly grown, However, U have come across a big problem. The henna treatments have totally removed my curl pattern. Now when my hair grows it looks like I have a relaxer with new growth that needs to be touched up. The Hennaed hair is bone straight. And now the differece between tthe 2 textures is casuing breakage. What.s a girl to do? Do I see another big chop in my future?

naturalily said...

I've been hennaing my hair periodically since back in the 70's (when it was SOOOO hard to find good, pure henna that wasn't adulterated w/ junk or dyes, etc) and I am also a henna artist. I have bought from a variety of sources -- mostly on the Internet -- since the 90's and one of the best sources with the most consistent quality is mehandi.com. They only sell body art quality henna (no gritties) and have a line of henna that is tested for high "dye" content. I'd like to buy from a source that is American grown but I don't think there are any. Anyway, I'd like to address some basics that everyone should know if they are going to henna their hair....

Henna dye (lawsone) bonds to the protein molecules in your hair so how much protein your hair contains will affect your color. Two people using the same batch with the same starting hair color may get different results.

Additives: adding things to your henna brew will only affect the color if the additive will actually change the color when used alone. It may work until the first time you wash your hair but if it doesn't act as a permanent color on it's own then it's down the drain with the first rinse or wash.

You don't need to let your henna achieve dye release before you put it on your hair. Your skin yes, because your skin doesn't have the same amount of protein to bind to as hair so dye release is necessary for body art. Make up your henna brew/mud and then put it straight on your hair. Four hours or so should be the max you have to wait for optimum color.

DO NOT add things such as lemon, sugar, terpenes etc, to henna that you are putting on your hair. It isn't necessary and will negatively affect your hair texture and curl. Lemon especially--it breaks up the protein molecules in your hair and the color will not bind as it should. Plus, four hours of lemon juice on your hair will turn it to straw!!!!! Just mix with warm water to a nice smooth paste and your good to go. And yes, you can use metal utensils to mix the henna, I always have and it makes NO difference. I have found it easier though to use a pro color mixing bowl and brush because they are dedicated and if they stain, well, so what, LOL!

Henna is a warm red (red/orange) NOT a cool red (red/blue). It will give the most beautiful highlights (even if you don't have greys or lighter hairs)to almost all hair colors. When my hair is hennaed it SPARKLES in the sun like no hair dye could ever make it do and I have had so many compliments on the sparkle.

It has a residual effect and will build over several uses to a deeper red but it doesn't have a fade out issue like most all chemical dyes. If your happy with the color you have use a lemon rinse about a week before you henna again.

Henna only ADDS to the color you already have, there is no lift. You can chemically lighten your hair if you like before hennaing to achieve a brighter red but that kind of defeats the purpose if you are using it to get away from chemical dyes. (I think you addressed this in your article also).

And, one last VERY IMPORTANT point: Never, ever, EVER chemically color hair that has been hennaed--EVER! Even if you hennaed it years ago. Lawsone permanently binds to your hair and chemical dyes will oxygenate the lawsone and turn it black.... a muddy, ugly black. I learned this to my chagrin about a year ago and I have beyond waist length hair I have no intention of chopping short so until I chemically remove the dye and henna my ends are a yucky dark mud color. You can, though, henna over chemically dyed hair with no negative effect. In fact henna can color correct a lot of ugly red chemical mistakes and the "root" effect is not as pronounced as when you chemically dye.

WOW!!! I feel like I just wrote my own article! I hope this will be helpful to anyone who is considering hennaing. Happy hair days!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying this blog, but I have a question. My hair is now more than 50% gray (I have been graying since I was 15). I would like to have brown with red highlights by using henna. My hair is completely virginal (I took the big chop twice). Your advice is welcome.

Anonymous said...

I want a brown reddish color but with no harsh chemicals. Ive noticed that the chemical dyes has caused my hair 2 grow alot slower. I want color but also health growth and 4 my curls 2 loosen a little. My hair is easy to comb thru with color as it loosens my curls but i still want curls. I have very brittle 4c type hair and it is 1b black, my skin undertones looks nice with a reddish brown color in my hair because of my chocolate brown complexion.how long would i need 2 leave the solution on 2 get a reddish brown look but not too radical of a red?

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