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

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

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?