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Curly Nikki

Shelli’s Henna Story

By January 27th, 202130 Comments

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 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 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 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 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


  • Hilary B. says:

    your hair looks great but it does seem like a time consuming process, great interview!

  • hairscapades says:

    Sorry for the delayed response … just seeing this. I guess I wasn't the clearest in my explanation, but what I do now is only henna my roots for about three applications. I don't apply henna to ALL my hair anymore. The 3 applications on my roots (I cover about the first 3-6 inches with henna) get me to the color I want on my grey hair and gives me the other strength and shine benefits. It was the repeated full strength applications of henna to ALL my hair that resulted in excessive loosening as henna has a cumulative effect. Essentially, it seems to weighs down fine strands, making the curls loosen.

    Hope that helps!


  • Melanie says:

    I agree with the person above me. I'm thinking about using henna from LUSH, but I don't want my curls loosened. Is there a way to stop that?

  • Anonymous says:

    Not sure if I missed this but could you tell me what you could have done differently so that your curls were not loosened by Henna?

  • hairscapades says:

    Glad henna is working out for you Nancy.

    Rissa Katharine, thank you so much! I'm just starting to post "Henna & Me" stories on (the third of which is going up tomorrow morning) with the same questions I answered above. So, please feel free to check out my site as well for more henna stories and experiences! There is a "Henna & Me" category under the "HairStories" tab. As to the henna that you are using, I believe that it may still be BAQ quality, just not as finely sifted and "purified as the Jamila offered by If it's working for you, go for yours at 99 cents a pop!! My local grocer doesn't carry Jamila, but Dulhan has worked very well for me.


  • Rissa Katharine says:

    I hope CurlyNikki decides to post more Henna Stories like this on her blog. Even with all the websites, and threads that I've been through, few people get as detailed as this when relaying their experiences with henna. Great job Shelli! Your hair is gorgeous!

    Btw: I've done two henna treatments now using the Jamila Henna for Hair, which I found at an indian grocery store less than a block away from my house for, wait for it… 99 cents! Has anyone suffered any adverse effects from using this Jamila Brand versus the BAQ variety?

    Barring the lower dye content, and rinsing difficulty of course.

  • NancyM says:

    I'm currently 6 months into my transition, and I just did my first henna treatment this past weekend. I loved it! I just followed Curly Nikki's recipe for "henna gloss", but used 70% henna and 30% conditioner (Nikki did 50/50). I do have a bit of auburn in my hair now, but you can only see it in the sunlight. It also colored by gray hairs.

    My hair feels a little stronger already. I will definitely continue to henna from now on. By the way, I used Jamila Henna (body art quality – BAQ).

  • Anonymous says:

    You could start with a henna gloss or you could try cassia instead. You can also try mixing amla with your henna or using it after you henna. But, if your head itches, I'd get it out immediately. Good luck!!


  • Anonymous says:

    i'd like to begin to henna my hair, but i am struggling with developing a mix. i'm mostly concerned with the change in curl pattern. should i start with a henna gloss, then progress?

  • Anonymous says:

    Henna is great, a lot less breakage since starting it. It covers my gray hair nicely. I do it every 2-3 months when the gray hair is obvious and bothers me. I might consider adding henna gloss in between

  • Raje says:

    I had some henna that I let sit out and it got all moldy. I'm going to give it another go round and see how does in my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you ladies and thanks for the info Shaun! Samantha, do NOT use a protein conditioner with henna. Henna acts like a protein and adding a protein on top of that will make your hair dry and brittle. Not a good look. I think you may be okay with a cholesterol conditioner but cannot be sure as I'm not sure if those contain protein too. You don't need to use honey in your henna, that just makes it easier to rinse. But, in regard to your DC, you definitely need something moisturizing and cone and protein free.


  • Anonymous says:

    Shelli- I got the trays at either Wal-Mart or Target. They are very inexpensive. I prefer the silicone ones b/c the cubes poo out easily due to the flexibility of the tray. I can push my thumb up through the bottom and pop those suckers right out!

  • Candace4life says:

    The hair came out looking really good after the henna was done to it. I've thought about it, but haven't yet since I mainly put either rinses or semi-permnanent color in my hair at the moment.
    On a side note "Naptural85" fellow YT just added a new video called How to Stretch A Twist Out "Natural Hair". Her hair looks gorgeous, and I'm gonna try this style on me either today or tomorrow.

  • Samantha says:

    I loved your post and your hair is gorgeous. I have a question about henna mixtures. Humectants don't agree with my hair, is it okay to substitute honey for a protein conditioner and/or to deep condition with something like cholesterol instead of say he hh?

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you ladies=)! Anonymous at 12:01, I just told someone on my website that the loosening doesn't happen to everyone too! I should have said that above! From what I've read under NIkki's tab, it tends to happen to looser and/or fine hair because of the weight of the henna. Of course, I didn't want it to happen and it did and some want it to happen and it won't! So is life. *lol*

    I love the ice cube idea!!! Where do you get silicone ice cube trays and why do you use those over regular ice cube trays? That is just so clever!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for your insight and answering questions, I def gotta give henna a try. You all are beautiful!

  • Anonymous says:

    I too love henna and have been using it over a year. My hair is 4a and 3c at the nape but henna has not loosened my coils/curls…at all.

    Shelli, you and your hair is just lovely!! I freeze my leftover henna as well and I also love the intensity freezing brings. I freeze my henna in silicone ice cube trays and transfer the cubes to a zipoc bag once frozen. This allows me to thaw only the amount needed and I can grab 2 cubes to hit my graying hairline in btwn applications.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you! Yes, I have and it works great. It's just not as finely sifted as Jamila. But, I still don't have difficulty rinsing it, especially if I mix some of the conditioning balm into it. Just make sure you get the box that has the picture of it used for henna tattoos on the hands and feet. That's how you'll know it's the BAQ (body art quality) henna.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your henna experience. Your hair looks awesome. You wrote that you use Duhlan henna in addition to the Mehandi brand. Have you ever used Duhlan alone? Since there's a Patel Brothers close to where I live I can easily purchase it there (trying to avoid shipping charges etc.)

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey Kai!! We were posting at the same time! I was going to tell you, "You're famous now, you're on CurlyNikki=)!!" And thank you lady, you know I think you and your hair are gorgeous=).

    I forgot to answer a question about the dye of henna, I have no problem with it staining any of my tub or sink surfaces. As long as you clean afterwards, and have a tub surface that is essentially non-porous, you should be fine. Just keep some Clorox clean-up or something like that handy to wiper your tub, sink, tiles clean when you're done.

  • Anonymous says:

    As said above, cassia can be used instead of henna if you don't want the color. However, cassia can turn grey hair yellowish from what I understand. Also, cassia is a different plant and its benefits aren't as long lasting. Nikki has info about it under the henna tab. If you have dark hair and would like shades of brown or black, you can mix indigo with your henna or do a two step henna/indigo (henna first, then rinse and apply indigo for an hour – as indicated above, that's what I do to get the back of my hair black). So, there are a few options. You can also go on for a lot more information about creating various shades with henna and find information about cassia as well as indigo.


  • KaiRox146 says:

    Hey Shelli! It's Kai! Just want to say your hair look so amazing and now I definitely want to give henna a try. I love it when my hair is super dark! I so have to try this, but I will do my research first!! lol Thanks for sharing Shelli!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Try neutral henna, also known as cassia. I've tried it before and it's good (though I prefer henna). Rhassoul clay is a good conditioner as well, with no colour effects.

  • Anonymous says:

    I would like to try henna, but my hair is salt and pepper and I don't want to change the color. Does anyone know if there's a henna process that provides the conditioning benefits of henna, but leaves the color as is?

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I want to try henna but I'm afraid because I don't want red hair. I see some people are using Cassia henna that doesn't turn your hair red. Is this just as beneficial as the henna you guys use? Please help if you have any info!!! Also I rent and am afraid henna will stain did it stain your sink or tub when washing out? Thank you in advance for your responses, I hope some curly ladies can help me! Thank you!

    If you have any tips on avoiding the red I'd be most appreciative!

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with you on the use of amla. Made my head itching me like crazy!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela, you can see pics of my pre-henna hair here (circa 2008-2009) on my GOC blog:

    I never really followed the hair typing system, but guess I was a mixture of 3a/3b/3c pre-henna and am now a 2 in some areas and a 3a/3b in all the others. The TnC helps me even out the patterns as much as possible. However, the finest, least curly hair at my nape always hangs a little too long unless I cut it shorter.

    Hope that helps.


    (And thank you!)

  • Anonymous says:

    Shelli of Hairscapades here. Just would like to say that the first pic was after my second henna treatment and my first attempt at a TnC (May 2010). The second is a WnG after my third henna (June 2010). The last picture is a TnC in February 2011 after too many hennas and TnCs to count=). *lol* This was the first time I achieved, what I call, the CurlyNikki money shot;-).


  • Angela says:

    Her hair is pretty. I've been considering trying henna. But her "curl loosening" issues…wondering what her curls were like before? Did she go from, say, 3c to 3b? Or was it more drastic? Her curls are fairly loose in the photos, not that that's bad I'm just wondering how to gauge her hair's reaction to the henna and what to expect before I do it.

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