How to Dye Your Hair With Henna in 5 Easy Steps

Beauty Boss | The Upside Blog by

by | Updated: December 2nd, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

Raise your hand if henna is something you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t because it sounds too complicated. Me too! But stumbling across a scary bit of info from the National Cancer Institute that over 5,000 different chemicals – some of which are cancer-causing (in animals, but still) – are used to make hair dye was enough to make me ditch the salon and order a pouch of that exotic plant powder that tints tresses safely (even if it requires a little extra work).

How to Dye Hair With Henna

Whether you’re pining for a new look, trying to cover a crop of grays or simply want to strengthen and condition your hair, henna is a smart natural solution. Here’s what every DIY dye-experimenter should know before getting started:

  • Henna comes from the dried, crushed leaves of a small, tropical tree (Lawsonia inermis) and looks like a mossy-green powder when it’s purchased.
  • True henna – the real deal – stains hair a color ranging from rusty orange to reddish-brown, depending on how long you leave it on. It won’t lighten, and it won’t create shades other than orange or red, unless you add ingredients like indigo powder (for black) or saffron (for golden tones). You can buy henna pre-mixed with herbal colorants, but watch out for chemical additives in some brands!
  • To activate its potent dye powers, henna has to be mixed with an acidic liquid, like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and steeped for 12 to 24 hours. (So if you’re looking for a last-minute, pre-date mane makeover—this isn’t the method for you!)
  • Love the look? Great! It’ll last about a month, sometimes longer. Because it’s safe, natural and even beneficial (henna bonds with protein in hair, providing strengthening effects), you can reapply as often as you’d like without having to worry about damage, breakage or fumes.
  • Henna dyeing is messy (trust me, you need gloves). Protect your counter space with old towels or newspapers, and wear something that you won’t miss in case of drips or spills.

Ready, set, henna!

Step 1: Gather the supplies

Pure henna powder
Pure lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Disposable or old bowl or container for mixing
Wooden spoon
Measuring cup/spoons
Plastic wrap
Shower cap

Step 2: Mix the dye
Before your DIY dye job, measure out a cup of henna powder into an old/disposable bowl (more or less may be needed depending on the length of your hair). Stirring as you pour, add lemon juice (or a mixture of lemon juice and water, if lemon juice seems too harsh for your hair), until the mixture resembles thick, creamy yogurt. Cover it with plastic wrap and stash in a not-too-hot-not-too-cool place for about 12 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when a brownish layer forms on top (like guacamole!) with a layer of green underneath.

Step 3: Start staining
Give the dye a good stir and put on your gloves. Working in small sections at a time, massage the mixture into your hair, being careful not to get any on your forehead, face, ears or neck. Tip: Rubbing a thin olive oil “border” across your hairline can help stop steepage. Pop on a shower cap and let the dye set for an hour or longer (up to four hours). The longer you leave on the dye, the richer and deeper the color will be.

Step 4: Rinse and wash
When you decide it’s time, rinse, shampoo and condition your hair as usual, finishing with a cold-water splash to lock in color and shine. Don’t wash your hair again for at least 24 hours–48 if you can manage to wait that long.

Step 5: Keeping the color alive
To keep your henna shade looking great, use a gentle, natural shampoo and conditioner and skip a day between washes, if possible, to help preserve the color.

Are you hip to henna? We’d love to hear your color tips and tricks! Please share with us in the comments below.