Shelli's Henna Story

Shelli's Henna Story

Shelli of Hairscapades gets detailed about her reasons for using henna, her experience thus far, and her mix!


How long have you been natural?
I’ve been natural for 11 years now.

How long have you been using henna? When did you start?
I began using henna around May of 2010, so for a little over a year.

What made you begin using henna?
A friend recommended CurlyNikki.com to me as she indicated Nikki had hair that was similar to mine. She thought I might enjoy the site. Wow, was that an understatement!! I started visiting the site in February of 2010. I was blown away by Nikki’s hair! It was so lush, voluminous, shiny and defined. It also had a great shape and consistent curls. I began to read every post she had on henna. I was especially interested in the strengthening, thickening and conditioning claims. After three months of research and growing intrigue, I bit the bullet and ordered my first six boxes of Jamila henna from Mehandi.com. Yeah, when I go, I go hard;). Nikki indicated that henna has a cumulative effect and it takes three treatments to see appreciable thickening and strengthening. She also stated that when she began using henna, she did weekly treatments in order to get these benefits as quickly as possible. So, who was I to question perfection;-)?

How would you describe your first experience with henna?
I’ll admit, I was very nervous as the process seemed involved, messy, long and overwhelming. But, I was well prepared. I’d watched Nikki’s video tutorial repeatedly. I had my old towels, plastic gloves, bonnet dryer, plastic spoon, bowl, green tea, honey, Sally’s GVP Conditioning Balm and HE HH. I was ready to go. I made a little bit of a mess the first time around, but most of it was caught by the old towels. My hands got a little tinged by the rinsing process. However, the rinsing was easier than I expected.

What type of henna do you use? Where do you purchase it?
Currently, I use Jamila and Dulhan. I get Jamila online from Mehandi.com and Dulhan from my local Indian grocer, Patel Brothers, for $1.49!! I usually mix a batch using both to make my Jamila go further. I also use indigo that I purchase from Mehandi.com. I use indigo on the back half of my head in a two-step henna/indigo process. I love the way the henna turns my grey hair into fiery red highlights in the front. However, I think it makes my head look patchy if I allow it to stay red in the back. That’s why I use indigo on the back.

Shelli's Henna Story

What is your mix? What is your process?
My mix and process have changed over the year that I’ve been using henna. Initially, I did “Conditioning Henna Treatments” as Nikki called her first attempt at a henna gloss. For the first several months, I mixed about 1 cup of the Sally’s GVP Conditioning Balm into dye released Jamila henna. I mixed about 100/150g henna with about 1 1/2 cups of warm green tea and a tablespoon or two of honey (I didn’t measure). I’d let that sit 12 hours and then I would apply it to co-washed hair. Now, I tend to alternate between a full strength henna on my roots only (except my nape hair, which is almost straight) and a full length gloss, both done on dry hair. I only do a full strength henna on my roots now as henna significantly loosened my curls when I was applying it religiously and repeatedly to the full length of my hair. I realize now that I only need to do about three treatments on new hair and then just gloss the length during that application or a couple of weeks later. I currently tend to mix 100g Jamila, 100g Dulhan, 1 1/2 to 2 cups warm brewed green tea (3-4 teabags) and a tablespoon or two of honey. As I only do my roots, this is usually enough for two applications. So, after dye release, I’ll split the batch and freeze one half of it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Frozen/thawed henna provides more intense color/dye uptake. Bonus, I don’t have to repeat the mixing and dye release waiting the next time. I just take the frozen henna out of the freezer a day or two before I want to use it and let it thaw in the refrigerator. If I don’t think too far ahead, I let it sit on the counter in a bowl to thaw.

Once I’ve applied the henna to my whole head (in 6 sections, 3 on each side; working from back to front on each side), I wrap my hair in plastic wrap and don a plastic cap. Normally, I’ll let the henna sit in my hair for 4 hours, 2 under my bonnet dryer on the warm setting. After four hours, I rinse the henna in the shower using HE HH. Then, I mix a small batch of indigo with lukewarm water and a dash or two of salt and apply it to the back half of my head. I’ll let that sit for at least an hour (sometimes with heat, sometimes without) and then I rinse the indigo and apply my DC of choice (usually JessiCurl Weekly Deep Treatment or Darcy’s Botanical Pumpkin Seed Curl Moisturizing Conditioner; I tried SM Raw Shea DT Masque one time and I wouldn’t recommend it post henna as it doesn’t have enough slip). I leave my DC in anywhere from an hour to overnight. I let my hair cool for about 15 minutes. Then, I apply a diluted daily conditioner (Aussie Moist or HE HH) over my DC, rinse well with cool/cold water and then I’m ready to style.

How often do you henna?
I try to henna once a month, but sometimes go longer if I don’t have the time to do it. I try not to go longer than 8 weeks though. My goal is to do a full strength henna on my roots once a month and a henna gloss two weeks later. That hasn’t happened yet! LOL! What I do usually do is mix the henna left over after a root application with a lot of Conditioning Balm and gloss the length of my hair so that I get the full strength on my roots and the gloss on my length in one sitting.

How has your hair changed with henna?
Repeated applications of henna loosened my curls into waves, which wasn’t an effect I was seeking. But, other than that, henna has improved my hair in every way. I do believe that my hair is stronger, smoother, less porous and, therefore, less frizzy. I believe that my individual strands are thicker, but I don’t think henna has made my whole head of hair look more voluminous. My favorite thing about the changes henna has generated is the intense red of my grey hair and the overall color and shine.

How do you feel about henna and the process now?
The hardest part is making the time, but I enjoy it now. It’s like a spa day for myself and I get to watch TV or work on my blogs=).

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about trying henna?
First, do your research. Read everything you can about henna to decide if it’s right for you and so that you understand all the things you need to do to protect your hair and obtain the best results (i.e. ALWAYS deep condition with a moisturizing, cone free conditioner after henna). Second, be mindful that what works for others may not work for you. I was using amla to try to retain my curl pattern. I continued to use it despite noticing significant itching during the process. My head almost NEVER itches. After four months of this and what I believe was a significant increase in shedding, I faced the fact that my scalp did not like amla. I might have saved some hair if I’d listened to my scalp and accepted this issue earlier. I also might have preserved more of my natural curl pattern if I’d stopped doing full head applications sooner.

Anything else that you’d like to add?
I love henna!! The amla reaction and the curl loosening are issues I could have ameliorated or eliminated if I’d used a little more common sense. So, despite those challenges, I think using henna has been one of the best things I’ve done for my hair. So, if you’re interested in trying it, do your research, be prepared and go for it!

Shelli's Henna Story