Friday, August 22, 2014

Dyeing Dark Brown Hair with Henna

I've been using henna to dye my hair for awhile now. I started with the Lush products (detailed here) but ultimately their overpowering perfume smell and relatively fast-fading results were not doing it for me anymore. I'd heard good things about but was a bit overwhelmed (there's a lot of info and a lot of choices, there, haha!) and never got around to ordering. Eventually I came across Henna Color Lab, which has lots of lovely premixed colors and really pretty darn good prices, so I gave 'em a whirl.

I started with the Natural Black a few months ago. This is the color you see in all my recent outfit posts, and in the "before" picture here: dyeing hair with henna, before

(though it is just now starting to fade a little.) It gave me a great, neutral-toned, long-lasting, super-dark-brown...but it wasn't black. And I'm itchin' for black, lately. It's tough to get a good black without using the cancer-loaded stuff, so I haven't done it in years.

For true jet black, I've always heard that doing an application of pure henna first followed by an application of pure indigo (rather than mixing the two) was the way to go. So that's what I decided to do, though as you'll see, it didn't quite work out as planned...

So first, the henna: dyeing hair with henna, during

Left henna for almost two hours and got this: dyeing hair with henna, after
Infinite hair photo! dyeing hair with henna, after

Annnnd I LOVED it. I thought just plain henna would probably turn my hair strange and brassy, but it was just like a lovely red glaze, and surprisingly natural looking (I've never used a commercial dye that actually resulted in natural-looking dark red-brown hair.) So for the moment, the indigo will wait. I still do plan to aim for black for the winter, but for now, I am digging the reddish.

Some notes/tips: 

- buy your own plastic cap and gloves, because the ones that come in the kit aren't very good. The tighter the gloves, the better, because the muck is sticky and will pull loose gloves right off your hands. While you're there, look for ear caps- they're like tiny shower caps for your ears, and they're awesome.
- They say to mix the powder with hot water until you get a "pudding-like" consistency... mine was super lumpy, but it was fine. I mushed it a bunch with my hands just to be sure. Having it be a little on the thick side helps it go on without too much splatter.
- Speaking of splatter... this shit looks like, well, shit. Do not have people over until you've had time to thoroughly clean your bathroom, because it is almost guaranteed that you will have tiny blobs of what appears to be poop stuck to various surfaces. Not a pretty sight. But potentially useful in practical joking?
- People say henna is super messy, but I don't think it's worse than regular hair dye, really... unlike normal hair dye it doesn't stain immediately, so if you wipe it off your skin fast enough it won't leave too much of a mark. (It will, of course, stain your skin... that's henna's primary use, after all. But at least you don't have to panic about what chemical nastiness you're getting on your hands- at worst you'll just be a little colorful.) Rinsing is a bit of an adventure, but unlike the Lush stuff that seems to rinse out in chunks, this stuff dissolves pretty well.
- It smells herby. I find the smell a little obnoxious but not horrifically awful (unlike Lush and chemical dyes.) Once you've got the shower cap on, you barely smell it.
- I have heard that you can amp up the indigo by not wrapping your hair, but that sounds messy. A porous hairnet might be helpful though.
- Protip: Make yourself a super fashionable poncho out of a garbage bag.

Um, so this post is about two months old, but I waited so I could give you an update on how it wore over time. It has definitely faded a bit, but it still has a red tinge when the light hits it. I'll probably try the indigo pretty soon, but I'm torn as to whether to do the henna again first (as you're supposed to, to make it stick and balance out the blue tones) or just give it a whirl and see if it sticks to what's left in my hair. 


  1. I've been interested in dying my hair black again (which I swore NEVER to do again after a bad experience almost 10 years ago, but yet...) and I would love a more natural and healthier looking black. I'd be interested in seeing your updated experience!

    1. I seem to be trapped in indecision about whether or not to henna again first before I indigo... I should probably just bite the bullet and do it and see what happens, haha.



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