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DIY Herbal Hair Color With Henna
By Tamra Speakman - August 05, 2015

DIY Herbal Hair Color With Henna


What is Henna?

Henna is a natural red dye taken from the plant Lawsonia inermis. The leaves of lawsonia are gathered, dried and then powdered. When mixed with water a red-orange dye molecule called lawsone is released. (Jones C. 2006) True Lawsonia inermis can only produce red tints however other herbs can be added to it to create herbal hair dyes to form colors from brown, red, burgundy, to black. You can also create rich coloring enhancing conditioners such as Bulk Herb Stores' Beautiful Hair. Beautiful hair comes in blonde, and dark. However the blonde does not contain henna.

Henna has also been used for centuries as an herbal hair die and to make temporary tattoos. Both Arab and Indian, and some Jewish peoples have used henna for tattoos as part of their wedding ceremonies.

Benefits of Using Herbal Hair Color:

Besides the fact that pure henna is a nontoxic plant (when used externally), there are some other benefits of choosing to use it. The lawsone in henna coats the hair shaft and binds with keratin. This creates stronger, softer hair as well as a vibrant color that varies depending on your hair color and the color of each strand of hair. Henna creates a permanent red dye with beautiful highlights that either will not fade on some people or fades very slowly compared to chemical dyes. This results in a more natural dye effect with highlights. Each individual will get a different shade with henna however you can vary the depth of color using other herbs and changing the length of time the henna sits on your hair.

Although henna only comes in red the shade can vary depending on where it is grown, its freshness, and the part of the plant harvested. It is important to be sure that you only purchase pure henna powder and that it does not contain synthetic dyes, chemicals, or heavy metals. If it says it is brown or black you should make sure that the ingredients are only herbs. Some people can of course be allergic to henna and thus a hair strand and skin test is wise prior to using.  Although you can add plants like indigo to henna to get shades of brown and black today I will only discuss using henna and herbs to get red tints.

Learning the Art of Hennaing:

Using herbal hair dye, like all herbalism, is very much an art. As you get familiar with using the plants you will gain some comfort and brevity to create your own perfect blend. There are many add ins to help create your perfect tint and conditioner. I will share a few options to get you started. Remember that none of these add ins will make drastic changes in the color of henna but only enhance it's coloring or conditioning effects.

Beet root powder - This wonderful plant when dried and powdered can enhance the color for a brighter red or send it towards burgundy depending on your particular hair.

Hibiscus flower - Used as a tea in place of your liquid portion or powdered hibiscus can also bring brighter reds or burgundy. It is also said to rejuvenate, and thicken hair making it shiny and healthy. Hibiscus is also said to prevent premature graying.

Amla, Amaliki - Amla is used to nourish, thicken and darken hair and tone the reds down. (Jones 2015)

Adding Conditioning Agents

As I have discussed the herbs themselves act as conditioners however there are some things you can add to your henna to give an additional boost. You can consider adding olive oil, coconut milk, or yogurt. For a while I mixed my henna entirely in one can of coconut milk to create a deep conditioning. However I found this to be very hard to rinse out and so my current mix is normally just the herbs and water. I leave my conditioning for before or after use herbal hair dye.

DIY Herbal Hair Color With Henna:

As we get down to the actual how tos of using henna you will see that there is a large supply list. This is mainly because henna is messy and can stain temporarily if you get it on counters or your skin. Please do not let that deter you from hennaing. As I said, using henna, like herbalism, truly is an art and can be very enjoyable as you create your individual conditioning color recipe.

The amount of henna you use depends on your hair length, porosity, and thickness. My hair is tapered and reaches past my tailbone and I use approximately 150 grams of henna. You will see a variety of suggestions for amounts and many of them I believe are over stated. However if your hair is midback I would make sure you have 200 grams on hand to be sure you have enough your first time.

  • Ceramic or glass bowl
  • Measuring cup
  • Non aluminum stirring spoon or wood stick
  • Measuring tablespoon
  • Scale
  • A LOT of gloves
  • Shower cap or grocery bag
  • Saran wrap
  • Hair clips
  • Oil or salve
  • 1-2 inch paint brush or dye applicator brush
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Wet wash cloths
  • Old clothing
  • Neck towel or cape
  • Trash bag or can
  • Floor towel or paper
  • 100-300 g Henna
  • Warm but not hot water
Optional Color Enhancing Add-ins: 3-4 T per 100g henna Optional Conditioning Agents: 1-2 T per 100g henna
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Yogurt

Gather your supplies, dress in old clothing and prepare and protect the area you will be hennaing in. Weigh your henna powder and place it in a bowl, stir in any color enhancing add-ins, add warm but not hot water until similar to pancake batter, add any conditioning add ins. Allow mix to sit and release dye according to henna brand instructions. Some people insist that you must use an acid like lemon to get dye release. I have found this to not be true and to result in dry hair. (2008 - 2015 Renaissance Henna ) The amount of time until dye release depends on the henna plant itself, most henna will release it's dye immediately with warm water. I let my henna sit the time that the company I purchased it from says or 30 minutes.

Section off hair into four areas. Apply oil, a plain salve, or Vaseline (if you must) to ears and hair line to prevent orange stains. Apply gloves and apply mud to clean wet or dry hair using a 1-2 inch paint brush or dye applicator brush starting at roots work henna mud all the way down the length of hair in 1-2 inch sections clipping each section up into a large clip as you go. When entire head is covered with mud cover hair with shower cap, saran wrap, or a plastic grocery sac. Leave henna on for minimum of 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on brand and desired color results. Rinse thoroughly in shower until water runs clear. Some people like to use conditioner to help rinse out henna. I only find this necessary if I used a conditioning add-in. Do not wash your hair with shampoo for 24- 72 hours.

The color of hair you see when your hair dries may change over the next 72 hours to it's true shade. Henna will build color and get darker or brighter each time. Some people with brown hair will eventually head towards a burgundy tint while others will stay red. If red is not for you don't worry with a little research you can learn how to use henna with other herbs like indigo to create browns and blacks, However you can not make your hair lighter with henna. You can henna your hair as often as every 4 weeks or only do your roots as they grow out.

Oops I Mixed Too Much Henna

If you have leftover henna you can freeze it in a zip baggie or sealed container and defrost it next time you want to henna. If you are midway through your dye job and run out, do not worry, just mix up more henna and apply it to your hair right away.




  1. Stacy Smith
    I love Henna . I need to order some more. It can cure your dandruff too.
  2. Stacy
    Does the bulk herb store sell the Amla powder? I want to order henna and these 3 ingredients tomorrow. Oh will these take out a perm I got 3 months ago? If it does I'm not worried because I'm getting tired of a perm in my hair anyways.
    1. Tamra Speakman
      Hi Stacy, yes you can purchase the powdered Amla here- http://www.bulkherbstore.com/Indian-Gooseberry-Amalaki-Powder-Powder

      Henna does work as a natural relaxer for some people with curly hair, I have not found it to affect my waves much. It is important to be sure that you purchase only pure Henna that has no metallic salts. If your hair is permed and the henna has metallic salts there is the potential to get green, purple, or damaged results. A small hair strand test can give you some assurance that your color will turn out fine. I pray that helps you, enjoy your adventure in henna!
  3. Lynn
    Used henna in high school (years ago) with great results many times. Years later tried it again for a natural cover for grey and nourishment for dry hair. Guess I have too much residual from chemical dyes or got mixes with too much indigo it turned my hair blue green. ( No metal used) Want to try again with straight Henna any suggestions on doing it successfully? Or covering this nasty color!!?
    1. Tamra Speakman
      Hi Lynn, Thanks for your comment! I personally have only used Henna on non chemically treated hair with almost no grey. However many people successfully use henna to cover grey. I understand most people get the best results from the two part henndigo process, henna then indigo. However this will make for brown or black to blue black hair. Others however do straight henna or a mix of henna and indigo with good results. If you did get green/blue it is very possible that the henna you purchased had metallic salts but did not say so on the box, however it could just be a reaction with the chemical dye as well. For chemically treated hair it is important not to get a compound henna but stick with mixing the individual herbs yourself. The article reference section at the end has some great information, just search for gray, and blue green in the threads, PDF's or articles. I pray that helps you on your henna journey!
  4. Maria
    Hi! Thanks for this article! How many grams of henna are in one pack of henna bought from Bulk Herb Store? I have two packages. I have ultra thick salt and pepper hair (used to be dark burnette) coarse wavy hair (down to bra strap). Will two packages be enough? I am trying to get my courage up to try this. I hear this helps with dandruff too - yes? Thanks for answering!
    1. Tamra Speakman
      Hi Maria,
      The current packages being sold are .5 pound or 8 ounces or approximately 226 grams. I prefer to use a kitchen scale to weigh my henna. It is hard to say for sure how much you will need for your hair. One package should be enough for your length hair however if it is really thick you may need more. Henna blessings!
  5. Maria
    Oops - sorry! Hair length is three or four inches past my shoulders! Thanks!
  6. Tamra Speakman
    Yes one package should be sufficient, again henna is an art so you need to find what works best for you :)
  7. Bryant Pinnell
    Indigo will give you blue-black hair, but most sources say it should be used with or after henna treatments. There are very few precautions you need to take while using herbs to color you hair, but some should always be followed.
    1. Meagan
      Thanks for the tip Bryant!