Everything You Need To Know About Natural Henna Hair Dye

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I got into henna after some friends introduced me to it in college.  Honestly, I thought it was just about the coolest thing ever invented. I mean hello, a grown-up version of a temporary tattoo? Sign me up!

We henna-ed our hearts out. Hands, ankles … everywhere was henna. As we went along we learned even more about techniques and designs.

But henna is not only for funsies. Many cultures use henna as part of pre-wedding traditions and festivities. If you ever go to “a henna”, be prepared for some fun! The ones I’ve been to include cool and colorful outfits, sweet treats, and lots of traditional dancing.

However, potentially the best of the benefits out there is that henna can serve as a natural hair dye. Keep on reading to find out what it’s all about!

What Is Henna Hair Dye?

Henna comes from the Lawsonia inermis plant, which grows in climates that are hot and dry. The leaves are harvested, dried, and ground into powder form. This powder is ultimately made into a paste in order to dye your hair. Henna is known to condition hair and strengthen it. It will smooth your hair shaft, making your hair soft. Henna is great for people of all hair types. It’s especially good for people with fine hair, as it can help stimulate hair growth and thereby give you more volume.

First and foremost, the biggest plus of henna hair dye is that it’s natural. We’ve all heard about the evil chemicals that permeate some of our most beloved hair care products. But with henna, you know you’re not getting any of that. The purer the better, in my opinion, which is why the sound of henna hair dye was so intriguing to me in the first place.

How Long Does Henna Hair Dye Last?

Blonde haired girl in front of graffiti wall.

Henna is a subtle, natural hair dye.

The longevity of all hair dyes, henna included, depends on many factors such as how often you wash your hair. Yet on average, henna hair dye will last at its most vibrant for 4-6 weeks. After a while, the henna will start fading, but it will do so more naturally than a chemical dye. First of all, you leave out all the bleaching that comes with conventional dyes. Research as early as a 2003 study gave fresh insight into just how harmful ammonia can be for your hair. As time goes by, you will notice more subtle effects. Even after the color fades, you might need to wait until your henna-treated hair grows out fully before using a chemical dye on it.

We’ll get to more on henna colors in a bit but you should know that the different colors will fade differently. Reds (like copper and mahogany) are likely to lighten the fastest. Darker colors – black, browns, and burgundies – will last longer than reds. And then you’ve got blonde, which will typically last the longest (but this might be because they’re often used by people with blondish hair).

A great way to preserve your henna hair for as long as possible is to use hair products designed for color-treated hair. You also might want to try to wash your hair less frequently and use a deep conditioning mask once a week. Also, use cool water when washing your hair in order to close hair cuticles and keep the henna color locked in. 

Best Henna Hair Dye For Gray Hair  

When coloring your gray hair (or hair of any color, for that matter), your best bet is to make sure the product that you’re buying is totally natural. With grey hair, you’ll want to start off by dyeing it with a red henna dye. After that, you can use whatever other color you want to get the final color that you’re after. But you should wait 72 hours in between the two applications so that the henna can properly oxidize.

Remember that henna won’t lighten your hair, only darken it. This is why the order of coloring is important when dyeing your hair, as once you go dark you’re committing to it. Start with a lighter shade if you’re not certain about the coloring, as you can always add but you can’t take away. If you want you can try blonde henna for a sun-streaked look. But if you do this, only apply the blonde and don’t use other colors beforehand (remember what we said- once you go dark, you can’t go back).

If you’re only looking to cover your gray roots with henna, rather than your whole head, this is possible too. However, it’s important to note that this might leave you with some uneven tones as the color fades and your hair grows out more.

Henna Hair Dye Colors Breakdown

If you use pure henna hair dye, you’ll get an orange-reddish coloring. The intensity of the color depends on your natural hair color, the quality of your hair, and how long you leave the henna on for. You should not use red henna hair dye or any henna, on hair that has been chemically treated.

If you’re looking for a color different from the ones mentioned above, then it won’t come from henna alone. To get a dark reddish-brown, you’ll have to mix the henna with indigo. It’s a tropical plant that gives off a dark blue hue, and when you mix it with henna it results in a nice copper shade. If you want black hair dye, all you have to do is apply some indigo over henna-treated hair to get a lush black tone. An added bonus is that indigo can enhance your hair’s color and shine. So now you’ve got the colors down, let’s take a closer look at exactly how the dying process gets done!

How To Dye Hair With Henna

Birds eye view of tools for dying hair.

Tools for dying hair.

If you’re using natural henna hair dye (which I obviously recommend!) then you’ll need time to get it ready. It can take up to 12 hours, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. You might be best off preparing it at night so that it will be ready for you to use in the morning.

To begin, pour a packet of natural hair dye into a nonmetal bowl and add in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon. You can add a bit more vinegar if you want the color to be deeper, or slightly less if you don’t want to it be too deep. Then slowly add cool, brewed black tea, up to 2 cups, and mix with a wooden spoon until you reach a consistency similar to yogurt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and make sure to seal it completely. Let it sit for 8-12 hours. You’ll be able to tell when it’s ready when it turns from green to a darker brown/red.

Now you’re ready to apply the henna dye! Cover your shoulders with a towel (you don’t want any staining on your skin!) and use clips to section your hair. Apply some oil to your hairline and ears to protect them from staining as well, and put gloves on your hands. Then apply the henna to your dry hair. Wrap your hair in a shower cap in order to keep the henna warm and moist. Leave the mixture in your hair for 1-4 hours. Then take off the wrapping and rinse your hair. Wait 24 hours before shampooing your hair. You’ll notice the full color from the henna after about 72 hours.

You should repeat this process again after 3 days so that the red color can fully develop (assuming you’re not going for blonde) and you can ultimately cover it with brown or black.  

Henna Hair Dye Before And After 

After using henna on your hair, you’ll certainly notice a change. It all depends on the color, though. As we said, you can go darker with henna but not lighter. So you have the most color options if you have grey or blonde hair.

Keep in mind that henna alone will only give you a reddish or orangish look. That’s why it’s often mixed with another ingredient like indigo in order to give you more color options. When doing this correctly, you’ll get your desired black or brown hair. Just remember all the steps in the mixing process and in the application process. Your best bet is always to start lighter and then make the henna darker if you want to. This is especially true if you’re new to henna, as it might take some time for you to play around with it and really get to learn it.

Aside from the mere benefit of the color, henna will also strengthen, nourish, and condition your hair so it’ll be looking healthier. 


Turns out that there is a whole lot that henna has to offer. It’s not just the temporary skin tattoo I originally thought it was. In different contexts, it can be a party pleaser in different ways.

I’m always happy when I find a natural alternative to something that typically requires chemicals. That’s why this natural hair dye solution is right up my alley. Yet I must say that it is quite a whole to-do. It’s certainly not the best option if you’re in a rush or if you don’t like the thought of getting messy but if your priority is vibrant natural color, then look no further.