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Curly Nikki

Traditional Hair Dye, Henna & Honey Hair Lightening

By January 27th, 202133 Comments

Traditional Hair Dye, Henna & Honey Hair Lightening

by Dawn Michelle of Minimalist Beauty

Women have colored there hair for centuries, and hair color is now a multibillion dollar industry. If your hair grows an average of 1/2 inch per month, hair color becomes a never ending necessary beauty treatment. If you are trying to grow out your hair to long lengths, chemical treatment makes it challenging, and can also be toxic to your body.

The Double Standard and Toxicity

A common suggestion for growing longer healthy hair for all hair types is to stop dyeing your hair with traditional hair color. This is a touchy topic for so many women. There certainly is a double standard with men looking distinguished with “salt and pepper” hair, and women not having that luxury. The right hair color can brighten your skin tone, enhance your eye color, and create a luminous vibrancy to their overall look.

The problem with consistently coloring your hair for years and years is that many women do not really know how to care for colored hair. There is more to treating chemically colored hair other than maintaining the color. Once your hair has been chemically altered, it needs consistent nurturing.

Even if you do know how to care for color treated hair, as you get older your hair texture changes, and coloring mature hair can make it thin and become extremely damaged as it is more delicate than it once was. The maintenance of color treated hair can also be very expensive. The demarcation line of traditional hair dye can be quite obvious, and the consistent hair coloring cycle continues.

Hair dyes are one of the most toxic beauty products that women use. You can read an article by Paula’s Choice called Hair Dye & Cancer Risks here. Another very good article is from the Environmental Working Group connecting coal tar hair dyes with bladder cancers and non-hodgkin’s lymphoma which you can read here. Health reigns supreme over beauty, and there are natural hair coloring options that give amazing results for both darkening and lightening hair.

Natural Hair Color Options & Variations

Although there are less toxic hair dyes on the market, the best natural hair dye option is body art quality henna. Body art quality henna only comes in one color with variations of red depending on where the plant is grown. Yet there is cassia obovata, also called neutral henna, which provides a beautiful golden tone perfect for those with light colored hair, or indigo which creates a rich black shade. These two natural dyes mixed with henna and other natural spices and ingredients can create many hair color variations.

On the Henna For Hair website, you can see basic henna mixes to achieve strawberry, red, auburn, brunette, and jet black hair. You can also see personal henna mixes for how women achieve golden blond shades to a fabulous black. There are many options with henna, cassia, and indigo. These natural options do cover grays extremely well and you can watch a tutorial by Henna For Hair here. You can not lighten your hair with henna or cassia, but you can with honey.

Honey Hair Lightening

There is a lot of information online on naturally lightening hair with honey. When honey is mixed with water it releases a natural peroxide. Here is a very thorough article by Ktani on how to lighten you hair with honey which you can read here. I’ve also seen a fun video by Andrea’s Choice on YouTube about using honey to lighten hair. Watch that video here. Honey has been used to lighten virgin hair, chemically dyed hair, and hennaed hair.

Chemicals Make It Challenging To Grow Extremely Long Hair

If your hair is naturally curly or dry, adding chemicals increase the difficulty of maintaining healthy hair. It already takes a lot of work and patience to grow out your hair, especially if you’d like to grow it to extreme lengths. Not everyone desires long long hair and it truly is a personal preference. When you add the element of chemicals to your hair care regimen the results are not always certain. Using natural hair coloring techniques is a better option. In fact henna has been my main deep conditioning and strengthening hair treatment for the last two years.

What is your experience with traditional hair dye and/or henna? Have you ever tried lightening your hair with honey?


Dawn Michelle is a writer, professional dancer, choreographer, jewelry designer, and pure lover of life and the planet. She has been a part of the entertainment industry for years, and worked in one of the largest beauty retailers as a consultant. Dawn Michelle writes a lifestyle blog called Minimalist Beauty that incorporates organic beauty and cosmetics, eco-friendly fashion and extremely chic style, simple living, and pursuing creativity. She also has an Etsy shop called Azuha which has handmade fiber jewelry, earrings, natural cosmetics and more.


  • alison says:

    One of my friends used honey dye, and it looked amazing. I recommend being careful to cover all around your head , not just the surface because when she put her hair up, you could see darker patches.

  • Anonymous says:

    I tried using Black Coffee to cover grays b/c I've seen it done well, but it did not work for me:(

  • Anonymous says:

    @SoMel – Henna is typically applied to your whole head. I've heard of people doing half henna, half henna/indigo, or at least the front or back section. It may be difficult to target the grays only. If you want to cover the grays w/out turning them red, try adding amla or indigo to your henna. You can get many shades of red, brown and black using different amla/henna or henna/indigo combinations.

    @Monique – yes, henna can be applied to hair previously dyed w/ l'oreal. I'm not sure how long you want to wait between, if there is a waiting period. Henna alone will turn your grays shades of red, but you can add amla or indigo to your mix too. I have at least 2 or 3 layers of chemical dye on the ends of my hair, and I hennaed last Friday. My hair was brownish-black w/ grays throughout, a brown ring a few inches from roots and ends were black. I did not have any adverse reactions, and now my grays are a nice coppery color and it blends well into the brown ring. Black ends are still there but you have to get real close to see the line of demarcation.

    You can find more info on amla and indigo at and Also check out curlynikki forums at the top.

    …Miss TeeTee

  • Monique says:

    Can Henna be used on hair previously dyed via L'oreal?
    @SoMel- wondering the same thing. Will applying this to new grays make them red ? Once when I used a rinse, my roots were red and the rest of my hair was dark. Some people actually thought my head was bleeding. :

  • SoMel says:

    This article comes at the right time. I have a few grays coming in and don't want to use any chemicals. Question: can I apply the henna only in the sections where I have the grays, to cover them up…

  • Anonymous says:

    for the person who bought henna on Amazon, can you tell me the brand?

  • Anonymous says:

    technically could one go for the ombre affect using natural products aka the honey method? im going to try this out

  • Anonymous says:

    I've used chemical dyes (pro- and store bought), peroxide (looked like brown sugar) and "red" cool-aid (no, you can't have a sip). Mind you, the peroxide and cool-aid was applied years ago (pre-high school graduation) on greased-up, relaxed hair. I don't remember a real bad experience with them, but chemical dyes burn and stink like relaxer, which is why I'm leaving them alone now. I haven't tried honey…yet. I'm waiting for my henna to arrive, and I think I will mix a little honey in it; read that it adds excellent conditioning properties and ease of rinsing.

    For Anon @ 12:20: Your natural hair salon probably does not know about henna and you might have to introduce them to it. Send them here to CN, Mehandi, hennasooq, etc for info. Of course, you might have to go thru the process yourself. Hennasooq and Mehandi have pre-packaged sets that make the ordering process easy. You can email and call them too; they've been very helpful for me. ***Oh light bulb just lit up*** You could order the henna, and take it to your natural salon and have them apply it. That way you don't have to deal with the mixing/application process. Just a thought.

    For Daysylg6: I've read/seen some blogs/vids of bad experiences with henna, but most of them seem to be a result of compound henna, "black henna", or henna that has all kinds of additives, such as PPD. Send your director to CN, Mehandi, hennasooq, etc, cause he just may not have all the info.

    Anyways, when my henna arrives, the braids will come out, followed by an intense deep conditioning treatment, and then a few days later my henna experiment will begin.

    Miss TeeTee

  • Daisylg6 says:

    Even though you are dying your hair with henna, you have to be extremely careful. I work at a school where there is a cosmetology program and asked the director regarding henna. He explained that if you are going to use henna, you cannot change your mind until the new growth is long enough to cut all the treated hair. If you go back to chemical processing…he called it metalic processing, then you run the risk of your hair turning into a gummy mess. It will literally burn all the treated parts to the root. He said to be very cautious when deciding on any type of color and making the decision to stick with one particular treatment. Natural doesn't always mean it the right procedure for you. Just a thought!

  • Karin says:

    Commercial color is terrible for my hair. I have spent the last year growing out places that fell out from using it. I use henna only on the areas with gray because it is so difficult to completely remove it. I find that weeks after henna treatments, I'm still finding grains of henna "sand" falling from my coils. I also find that some of my grays are still resistant to the treatment, even after having been in overnight and followed by indigo for another two hours. I haven't totally given up but I'm not using it regularly because of mixed results and the work and mess associated with it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'd love to use henna to hide my grays, but it just seems like too much trouble. Why don't the natural hair salons offer that as one of their services??? Maybe Anon 4:46 and I are the only ones who don't have the time or energy to fool with the ordering, finding the right ingredients, and then the big mess preparing it. Its not for me, but good luck to the rest of you who can manage it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have dyed my hair with henana the first week of Feburary 2012. The black color has stayed pretty strong so far. I like it. My 1st time trying it.

  • Jenna says:

    I used honey in the past for conditioning purposes and noticed that my hair became lighter. I stopped doing that, but since summertime is coming, I would love for my hair to lighten up again…

    Does anyone know if the lightening from honey just fades after a while or do you actually have to grow out the lighter colour?

  • DiJah says:

    This came just in time!! I dye my hair every year around the summer time and last year I decided to keep the jet black because i've done soooo many other colors before. Now i'm tired of the black and want to switch it up for old time sake, thank you for this post because I was about to get a bottle of textures and tones and call it a day lol. Gonne try a few mixes to see if I can get the red I desire.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Shannon Lenise, I don't think the article validated that perception. It merely stated the common attitude about gray hair on women.

  • Giavona says:

    I did the BC on 12/2/2011. I used to color my hair all the time when my hair was relaxed andit was fine. I decided to use a permanent color in 2/2012. It has stripped my hair of the curl pattern and moisture that it had when I did the BC. I bought henna to put in at a later date but I need help with restoring the moisture and curl. Any tips? I also think the honey is a nice alternative to chemical coloring!

  • Candace4life says:

    You can also do the cinnamon and conditioner to lighten up the hair as well. I tried it on mine and liked the effects of it.

  • Carla says:

    I tried to lighten my hair with honey a few weeks ago (sections) and it lightened it by about 1/2 shade. My hair is hennaed so it may have worked better if it wasn't. The key is being consistent with it. I kept the honey mix (honey and conditioner) in my hair overnight.

  • Anonymous says:

    Yet another step. LOL. Thanks for the info guys. K.A.S., thanks for the link

  • Anonymous says:

    I had locs for ten years and then out of the blue decided to dye the top burgundy red. Big mistake. My locs became brittle so I whacked off my waist length locs and started over. When my new locs took form, my hair was thinner and grays started sprouting up in the front so I decided to try henna. I knew nothing about henna so I Googled to get some info and came across a blog from a lady named Paige Ellean. She shows you step by step how she uses henna. I followed exactly what she did and my locs came out really nice. I didnt do the indigo like I intended. I have beautiful reddish brown locs and my grays are a bright fire blazing red:) Here's the link I bought my henna from Amazon. They have some great bundle deals:)

  • Nicole says:

    Anonymous @ %5:15 – Lush Cosmetics sells black henna hair dye that already has the indigo mixed in. It comes in blocks that you have to melt down.
    Find it here:,en_US,pd.html?start=1&cgid=henna-hair-dyes

    I've used it a few times, and I enjoy it. The conditioning additives make the hair extremely soft.

  • Natural Beauty says:

    Didn't know that honey highlighted the hair. I would definitely like to know more about that.

  • Anonymous says:

    there is no authentic henna that comes jet black, if it says so its not real henna. unfortunately the only way to get jet black is to mix henna with indigo I believe. Hope this helps!

  • K.A.S. says:

    I use organic henna/alma paste to lighten my hair. In the summer I usually get chemical highlights but now that I know honey does the trick, I'll be trying this ASAP. I normally add honey to my henna/amla paste before I apply to my hair.

    To answer the the previous individual's comment, henna (real henna, not fake stuff in a jar or bottle) is naturally red. I think indigo will give you the black color you're looking for. I order my henna and amla from henna sooq and they have other powders for black as well.

    Actually found this website from a post like this one and I'm so friggin thank full s thanks to whom ever mentioned it before :-).

    Here's the direct link to black tones:

  • Anonymous says:

    I really needed this. I've been buying a Henna dye from the natural beauty supply stores but it's so hard to find jet black. My hair is naturally a dirty brown and I love my hair jet black (or as my friends call it, funeral black). Yet most stores only offer black-brown. I had an accident some 20+ years ago that turned the front of my hair blonde (hair pressing gone wrong). Is there a Henna dye that already comes jet black so I don't have to mix….yes, I'm that lazy!

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG!!! Question my hair is curling but very fine with little kink in the back only most curlest in the back how can I get the front to bulk up and appear fuller like the back ?

  • Wonder Woman says:

    I color my hair with traditional dyes…my stylist uses Clairol Soy Professionals. I generally get it done 2-3 times per year. In the beginning of my journey my hair was damaged, because I had the 2 textures and a lack of knowledge as to how to care for my hair. Fast forward to today (almost 3 years later) and my hair is the healthiest and longest its ever been!! I will admit that I must deep condition often!! I also use Cassia and will occasionally do pre-poo and honey treatments on my hair. All in all my hair is happy and I'm happy! 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I tell you, some people can't go a day without injecting some form of criticism, unwelcomed "critique," etc. *Sigh*

    I personally enjoyed this article! I am looking to lighten my hair this summer, and am glad to know I can do so safely with honey. Thank you StaceyMarie for the recipe.

    I know exactly what the author meant when she discussed the male/female, beauty double standard. Because society places great emphasis on the physical appearance of women, we are frequently bombarded with articles on how to lose weight, get rid of crow's feet, make hair color last etc. Meanwhile, actors like George Clooney are FREQUENTLY described as "distinguished" because of his salt and pepper hair. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to pick up in the inferred message.

    If you like your grey hair, fine. Do you. For others, info on natural hair color options is insightful.

  • Anonymous says:

    I used to streak my hair back in 2005-2007. Of course they had to lift the color and put a number of different blonds and reds in my hair. My hair felt dry very often. When I decided I wanted to grow my hair out about a year or two later, my end broke like crazy where the demarcation line was. When it all finally grew out I was done with the breakage.

    In July 2010 my hair started shedding like crazy. I looked for a number of different treatments to help. I also had a lot of grey coming in and henna seemed to be the best of both worlds. The other benefit is that my thinner strands seemed to have fattened up which I love as well.
    A year and a half later I'm still experiencing wonderful results on my permed hair.

    I've used honey in my henna mix, but I had no idea that if I wanted to lighten that I could just use honey. I'd really have to research how it will work on these greys.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have high porosity, fine, 4c coils. Henna/indigo was part of my regimen for 2 years but despite deep conditioning and gentle products, my hair was ALWAYS dry. It felt strawlike and hard and I could not retain length.

    I just gave up and started using Naturtint.

  • StaceyMarie says:

    What is your experience with traditional hair dye and/or henna? Have you ever tried lightening your hair with honey?

    I dyed my hair burgundy once in high school (circa '96/'97) and it was cute until I went back for my bi-weekly appointment and a stylist used color enhancer shampoo/conditioner, amping up the tint significantly and causing my classmates to sing the "Barney" song to me for a month until the purpleness wore off. Funny thing is, I had actually asked for henna, but no one knew what I was talking about and I ended up getting chemical dye. I was a victim of a college highlight party where I had to cut my hair into a bob after, tried to lighten my own hair all over and then had to have it re-dyed back to my natural color, and had professional color a few times since then. The professional jobs were much more successful, but I constantly nurtured my relaxed colored hair to prevent the breakage of the past.

    For the last two years, I have lightened my hair with honey intermittently, using a recipe I found on Youtube:1/4 cup of cinnamon, one cup of a moisturizing conditioner, lemon juice, and 2 TBS of honey. I've seen a subtle change of about 1/2 a shade each time and the ends of my hair remain slightly lighter than the rest of my hair (my hair is dark brown, like teak). I'd love to do it more often, but I typically do it twice a month when it's warm, since I keep it in for 24 hours and have to keep my hair damp for that entire time. I cover it with a coordinating tam and head to work. I love that I can lighten my hair safely while going about my business and have had clients, strangers, and of course friends and family ask what that delicious smell is (it smells like ginger snaps).

  • Shannon Lenise says:

    Who decides that men look distinguished with grey hair and women don't? This article just seems to validate that stereotype by saying that women "don't have the luxury" of being able to get away with grey hair. You could easily have presented natural hair color options without making assumptions about why someone would want or "need" to use color, that's an unnecessary angle.

  • Anonymous says:

    Once I experienced the benefits of Henna. I gave up other chemical coloring options! I never tried lightening my hair with honey, but it's interesting. I want to find out more about it!

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