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Curly Nikki

Henna for Natural Hair- Your Questions Answered

By January 27th, 2021One Comment
So since I’m currently #Bollywoodin‘, I thought it only appropriate to re-post this henna q&a!
Also, don’t forget to enter the hennasooq giveaway! Enjoy!

Henna for Natural Hair- Your Questions Answered
Hola Chicas!
So y’all got questions, huh?  
My recent henna post initiated a gang of them and so I’m taking to the blog to respond publicly for the benefit of everyone! 
Why do you henna? What has your experience been like?
I started henna’ing to beef up my situation. My strands are nearly transparent. Like, very VERY almost disrespectfully fine and quite fragile.  When I’m on my henna game for real (once a month), my hair is shinier and stronger.  It’s less prone to breakage and splitting and the overall health of my hair is improved.  I also experience a smoother texture with less shrinkage.  The red glow is ridic and it gives me the big hair look, I couldn’t otherwise achieve. 

I want to try henna for strengthening and color, but I don’t want the ‘loosening’ effect.  
Two options-

(1) You can add amla powder (about 1/4 of your mix or less) to your henna prior to stirring in liquid.  Since amla is slightly acidic, you can simply mix with plain water (rather than tea).  Your curls will still be on and poppin’.

(2) The ladies of LongHairCommunity often opt for ‘roots only’ treatments to preserve their loosely curled hair and to keep consecutive treatments from darkening things up too much.  On your first go ’round, you’ll do a full head treatment (your length from root to tip) and all subsequent treatments should be roots-only. Your color will be consistent (and not as dark) and your curls popping because you’re only treating the first inch or so.  Once-a-month applications should suffice, unless your hair is on weed status.  The process- (1) Make sure your dry hair is detangled and sectioned off.  (2) Put on one glove, and use that hand to apply the paste, using the other hand to separate the sections.  (3) Put on a plastic cap to cover the roots (leaving the length hanging down). (4) Apply a conditioner and/or oil to the length and put a second bag on to protect the length.  Leave it in for 4-8 hours and then rinse and condition as usual.  Some ladies use applicator tubes (think cake icing decorators!) for more precise application.

I want to try henna for the ‘loosening’ effect.  I want smoother hair. 
The curl loosening effect is by no means universal, nor should it be the purpose of your treatments.   The consensus is that ‘s’ shaped waves and curls, as opposed to ‘o’ shaped coils, are more likely to experience this side effect.  It will NOT change your hair pattern (4a’s won’t become 3c’s), but it may stretch your curls/waves, weighing them down and thus, reducing shrinkage.

If you’re hoping to smooth your situation, I’d recommend doing a few treatments back to back, once a week for a few weeks and then switch to monthly or bi-monthly treatments. Another tip would be to gently wrap (without disturbing or detangling) the henna’ed sections around your head, smoothing the length as you go, prior to putting on your plastic cap.

Remember, as with everything else, balance is key.  Very fine strands that get weighed down too much (whether from product or henna treatments) can break under that weight.  Also, over time, the build-up from frequent treatments can negatively impact the hair (causing dryness and breakage).  My recommendation is to stick to roots only (see above) OR a gloss, and keep the treatments spaced at once every 4 weeks.  You’ll be good to go!  As always, do your research and then proceed, armed with knowledge.

I want to try henna for ALL of the effects EXCEPT the red color! 
If it’s the effects you want without the color there really isn’t much you can do. Henna stains red… no matter what you mix it with or how long you leave it in.  Cassia is an option, though.

Cassia is similar to henna.  Although it’s a different plant altogether, it has some of the same conditioning effects, sans color. Like henna, cassia fortifies the hair shaft, improves overall health, and adds lots of shine. It doesn’t, however, reduce shrinkage or drastically thicken the hair up. It’s effects are far more fleeting- lasting at the most 1-2 weeks. The mixing, application, and rinsing process is a bit less taxing as well. For starters, you don’t have to wear gloves.  Also, you only have to leave it in for 30 minutes to get the conditioning effects. Since you’re not worried about dye release, you can mix in everything but the kitchen sink- I used to mix in oils, conditioner, and honey. Some blonde and gray haired ladies use Cassia for the slight yellow tint that it gives off. If you have dark hair, you don’t have to worry about this effect. If you’re a gray hair’ed natural, proceed with caution.

I left cassia for henna for one reason- I wanted bigger hair. You’re going to get improved hair health with both cassia and henna, but henna’s effects will last upwards of 3-4 weeks, depending on how often you wash.

In my honest opinion, Cassia is just a REALLY good conditioning treatment.  You could also use Henna + Indigo to achieve glossy black tresses!  Check it out HERE

I have gray hair and I want to henna. Help!

First things first, multiple applications will be necessary for your grays to darken to the color you want. You know, the shade that won’t frighten small children. I have many gray hairs and I’ve been hennaing (with Jamila, Yemen, and Henna for African Hair) for years. All of my grays are now a rich, auburn color. My pigmented strands are darker, shinier and healthier looking- a rich, shiny black color indoors (with a few red highlights), and glows auburn in the sun… like a rinse.

When new grays come in or my roots show, I simply apply a treatment, and after a couple of days, it oxidizes to a nice bronzey red. After another treatment, the roots match the length– auburn.

For new gray ‘henna’ers, the key will be:

1. Four hour (or more) treatments
2. Multiple applications (for darker results)
3. Cleansing prior to application. Although I don’t really do this anymore, if you have a lot of grays, this step is crucial. It will remove buildup and sebum, so that the dye can make the best contact with your roots.  Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa shampoo or Giovanni’s Tea Tree are both great options.

Also, be sure to do lots of conditioning afterward to keep your hair moisturized, elastic, and supple. If your ends (and length?) are indeed damaged, and you’re not interested in a Big Chop, you probably want to schedule some micro trims.

Here’s a real life example- 
Henna for Natural Hair- Your Questions Answered
This is my Aunt Toney’s wet twist-out (2011) after using henna once or twice over her gray roots and commercially highlighted red hair. She was transitioning out of commercial dyes.

Henna for Natural Hair- Your Questions Answered
This is her in a dry twist-out today (summer 2013), henna only. 
She’s probably 70% gray here. No commercial dye. 
You could also use Henna + Indigo to achieve glossy black tresses, instead of red!  Check it out HERE

What is a henna gloss? 

A henna gloss is perfect for a subtle color change along with deep conditioning. It’ll temporarily smooth your frizzies, add bulk to fine strands and leave the hair strong, silky and shiny. Henna gives me what I call baby doll hair- thick, glossy strands that are less susceptible to breakage. It’s a little different than a full strength henna treatment because it’s mixed with a moisturizing conditioner, but for the most part, yields all the same benefits with an added moisture boost.

Henna glosses are easier to apply than full strength henna treatments because of the wonderful slip provided by the conditioner, much easier to rinse, and leaves your hair smooth and soft rather than dry and hay-stacky like a full strength henna treatment upon rinsing.

Remember that the property in henna that dyes the hair red, is the same one that conditions, strengthens, defrizzes, and smoothes. So even though you’re using less henna, it will still leave a slight red tint on dark hair (similar to drawing on black paper with an orange crayon), and dye your grays red.

It’s a great option for those that find a full strength henna treatment to be too taxing on strands and for those faithful henna’ers that want to experience soft, smooth results upon rinsing. It’s amazing. My gloss mix leaves me with similar dye release, gray coverage, strengthening and smoothing, making the full henna treatments obsolete.

What’s your current henna routine?
For my current and super easy abbreviated henna gloss regimen, click HERE.  My current fav conditioner to mix the henna into is DevaCare One and my current henna stash is HennaSooq’s Red Raj.

My process–
I get a bowl, dump enough conditioner in to cover my head and mix in a tablespoon or two of henna powder.   I then steep 2 tea bags of black tea in a cup of hot water, let it cool off a bit and then slowly add it to the henna/conditioner mix until it’s only slightly thinned out (I probably only use a 1/4 cup of tea, if that) and then apply immediately to my dry hair, root to tip (no need for gloves!).  I’ve begun stirring in a little black tea because of its ability (the caffeine) to decrease excessive shedding. Works like a charm! I do this routine once a month and leave it on, with a heating cap, for 3-4 hours! Easy application, easy rinse, dope hair. 

I heard that henna makes your hair grow faster. Is this true?
I’ve heard this as well and have some personal experience with it. When I’m henna’ing at least once a month, I notice improved length retention.  In my opinion, the ‘faster growing’ myth is due to the fact that henna makes your hair stronger and less prone to breakage. If your ends aren’t breaking, your hair shows more length.  However, others believe the application and rinsing process stimulates the scalp and follicles and gets thangs moving.  Either way, I notice healthy growth with henna and finer hairs (near my hair line) that never had a chance to grow long, get fortified and grow out quickly, with ease!  I also now attribute some of the added volume (not to the individual strands, that’s the henna, but the overall increased density or more hairs on my head) to the tea I used to religiously add to my mix– caffeine, when used in moderation, can really curb excess shedding! That’s why I’ve added it back into my regimen. 

*As always, do you your own research, become your own guru, engage in patch testing (for allergies and color) and proceed with caution.  Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe for you.  Also, the above is based on my personal experiences, anecdotal info from CN commenters and my research from around the interwebs.*

Got more questions? Ask below and I’ll do my best to answer them all!
Of course, #HennaVets chime in with your advice too!

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