How to Henna Hair Like a Pro (vegan hair dye)

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Henna is the most natural and cruelty-free way to alter your hair’s color.  Traditional hair dyes are tested by corporations by pouring their chemicals into the unprotected eyes of rabbits (and other animals) who are stuck in a trap with their eyes pulled open against their will.

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By using henna (a natural plant native to North Africa and parts of Asia) you’ll save animals from horrific torture.  The chemicals used to create hair dye also pollute the environment and are believed to be carcinogens.  I’m glad that you don’t want to subject yourself to those damaging chemicals.


First and foremost, once you’ve hennaed you can never put dye or bleach on the hennaed hair.  You have to wait until it grows out and cut it all off before dying or bleaching again.  The reason is that since henna is a plant, it coats the hair shaft rather than penetrating it like mainstream harmful dyes/bleaches do.

So if you were to dye/bleach hair with henna on it, the hair literally melts.  Think of a flat iron on doll’s hair.  The internet is filled with horror stories, pics and videos of people whom did not believe this and had their hair painfully melt off their head — leaving them with patchy stubble.

The good news is that once you henna you will never want to go back to applying dangerous dyes/bleach to yourself.  Henna feels great, costs only $6, doesn’t fade and leaves your hair super shiny.  There is actually a plain colorless option just to give you a deep condition — think mud mask for your hair.


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C.A. with Auburn Henna (Light Mountain Natural)
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I use Light Mountain Natural.  I currently use the Auburn option to cover my “grey”.  (Yes!  I’m a natural red head.  We don’t actually grey, our color just fades to a merky blonde color.)  Most of my hair is the result of using the Red and Light Red. It’s fun to use different shades to create low-lights, high-lights and ombre.  Or as one woman described my hair “a rainbow of reds”. (I’ve been applying henna every 4 to 8 weeks for over 3 years.)

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C.A. with Bright Red Henna (Light Mountain Natural)

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C.A. with Red Henna (Light Mountain Natural)

 PREPARATION

Items to Gather:

  • Large glass bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • 10 to 16 oz of hot water to mix with the Henna (not boiling)

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    (Photo courtesy of Ikea.com)
  • A box of Light Mountain Natural Henna
  • Something to cover the floor, sink and counter (I use a biodegradable drop cloth or layered newspaper)
  • Something to clean up drips before they stain (toxin-free baby wipes or wet paper towels)
  • Several pairs of vinyl gloves (I lay 5 pair out on the counter so they are easy to grab between layers.  They tend to get quite caked up.  So it’s easier just to change gloves as you begin a new layer.  Don’t skip the gloves or you’ll wind up with stained hands.)

 

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  • A trash bin/bag to throw used gloves and rags in as you go.
  • A big hair clip (you’ll want to work the henna in one layer at a time beginning with the layer closest to your neck.  Keep the rest of your hair out of the way by clipping it high on your head.)
  • Cling wrap (to cover your head with at the end)
  • A large wall mirror (to monitor your progress)
  • A hand mirror (to ensure you’re fully covering your hair right to the scalp)
  • Time (It takes me 20 minutes to set up and 20 minutes to apply the henna but that is after years of practice.  For your first time plan 20 minutes to set up and an hour to apply.  In the beginning you’re also likely to make a mess so be sure to allow plenty of time to clean up your drips.)

Optional: I usually play music or a familiar movie on my phone during application as it can get tedious.  To prevent getting drips on your phone, slip it into a ziplock bag.  You’ll still be able to use the touch screen and hear the movie.

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What to Wear:

An old shirt that can be thrown away.  If you’re a minimalist like me, designate an old shirt as your “Henna shirt”.  Be sure to rinse it out before putting it in the wash with other clothes or they will all be stained.


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This is the consistency you are aiming for. (via)

MIXING THE HENNA

Always follow the instructions on the box.  I can’t stress this enough.  Henna can be a bit particular and this is from someone who normally never reads instructions.  When it comes to henna, I make an exception.

How I Henna:

3 hours before I want to apply the henna, I mix the powder with 16 oz. of clean filtered hot water (not boiling).  I actually run the water through my Keurig to get it the right temperature.  (If you do this, just be sure your machine is clean, as coffee can affect the color.)

Remember that you must use a glass bowl and a wooden spoon.  You can not use any substitutions here as using metal or plastic can cause a chemical reaction that melts your hair.  Literally melts it the way a straightening iron melts doll’s hair.

Once mixed properly, you’ll need to let it “cure” 3 hours.  (Remember to follow the instructions found in the mix you buy.)  The consistency should be that of cake frosting or thick batter.

When fully “cured” use the items in the preparation list above and begin coating your hair root to tip with small sections at a time.  I always clip my hair on top of my head and section off thin horizontal segments beginning at my neck.

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Once your head is fully coated, wrap it with the plastic cap in the box.  I take it a step further by wrapping my hair in plastic wrap from the kitchen.  If I’m concerned about drips I’ll also wrap a turbie twist or towel over my head.

Now lock in with a book or a movie because you have some time to kill.  I set aside a whole afternoon to complete this process.  Follow the instructions on the box for how long to leave the henna on.  The longer you leave it on, the more intense the color.  Since you already did a strand test, you’ll have an idea of how the finished product will look.

To help intensify the color, I leave henna on for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Remember that I have years of henna built up on my hair.  You shouldn’t leave it on that long the first time.  Once you have a few applications under your belt, you’ll know what the appropriate time length is for you.

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While I’m waiting, I often will hold an electric heating pad on my head.  Heat helps the henna to coat the hair shaft and will result in a more intense color and shine.

When it’s time to rinse, I use the hottest water I can stand which again will help intensify the color.  Rinsing may take 15 to 30 minutes depending on how much hair you have.  Remember that the henna will dry to your hair in a way that is similar to a mud mask.  Working it out of your hair takes time.

The instructions say not to shampoo.  I always do anyway because I can’t stand to have anything gritty left in my hair.  I also use loads of deep conditioner to make it extra soft.

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A pleasant side effect of showering the henna out of your hair is that as it runs down your body it will soften your skin.

After my hair is clean, I use the hair dryer on it for some extra heat to intensify the color.

For the next few days the color will slightly fade and your hair will smell like tea.  Don’t worry though, the color will stabilize and those around you won’t smell the tea.  It will be your own personal tea scented cloud.


THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

Use vinyl, or latex, gloves rather than the skimpy ones they provide in the box.  The henna will dye your hands if it gets on them.  If that happens, don’t worry it rarely lasts more than an hour or two.

If your hair has a tint of green at first.  Don’t panic.  It’s only because henna is a plant and it doesn’t last more than a day at most.  Usually mere hours.

Don’t go by the color chart on the box.

Take the time to do a strand test first which is easy since, it’s a powder and, you can take a spoonful from the package, mix it with water and then use the rest later.


 DISCLAIMER

I mentioned several times throughout this post that you must read and follow the instructions that come with the henna you purchase as each company is slightly different.  I want you to look radiant, not wind up on the line with customer service crying that your hair is ruined.  (That happened to me once because I didn’t follow the directions in the package–It was a nightmare.)

I did not receive any form of compensation from Light Mountain Natural, Giovanni or any other company for this post


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17 thoughts

  1. I LOVE the photo of your hair where you are holding the caterpillar! and that is bright red?? wowwww ok I just checked out! purchased and officially on its way yay!

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  2. Is it ok to use a flat iron on your henna treated hair? I use a flat iron to iron out some of my unruly curls. I use the flat iron mostly around my crown. Could I be damaging my hair?? Please help!

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    1. Hi Erika, Yes, you can! I use a hair dryer and a flat iron to curl my bangs everyday. Using heat on henna’d hair is a good thing, as it brings out the red tones even more. That’s why I use a heating pad on my head while the henna is in, rinse the henna out with hot water and then dry immediately with a hair dryer. If you do henna, I recommend Light Mountain Natural because it’s the one I use. (This isn’t a sponsored post) They have wonderful and detailed instructions filled with all sorts of tips/hacks and lots of reassuring info. They even have a wonderful customer service line with friendly and kind folks on the other end to walk you through the steps. Please do let me know how you make out. I’d love to see before and after pics. Warm wishes, C.A.

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      1. please!!! what is the difference between light mountain “red” (with the fox on it) and light mountain “bright red” (with wolf on it)? I ask because both say as ingredients “lawsonia inermis”
        and nothing else
        soo?????????
        what makes it bright?
        is one darker red? and how would that be possible with same/one ingredient? I am so curious! I haven’t even checked out yet in shopping cart.. I will buy one!
        I guess I do want a darker more intense RED.
        redder red I mean…confused as neither has the indigo which makes darker.
        I am tired of paying the $18 for 100 grams to get the nice burgundy and wine shades of henna when that fades.. and all youre left with is the lawsonia anyway!(or worse yet an indigo build up which is brown hair) I prefer cool toned.. burgundy but…. its just an indigo build up! and that tone wont really stay…
        .should I get red with fox
        or bright red with wolf
        and what and HOW is there a difference???

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      2. Hi Susan,

        It all depends on the shade of your hair. On my hair, which is naturally red, I find that Bright Red looks unnatural. I liked it when I was younger because it was fun and over the top. Now that I’m in my 30’s I like a more natural shade, so I find the Light Red is best for me. I’ve also used Red and found it to be a deeper/richer red shade. You may want to try the Light Red and then do some low lights with the Red or Bright Red. Please be sure to do a strand test first. You can also adjust intensity by leaving the henna on longer. These days I’m washing out at the 45 minute mark for a more natural color.

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      3. thank you soooo much!! that helps a lot to explain the colors! wow amazon has such a good deal with free shipping when they are in 3 packs, wish I could get the 3 diff colors you mentioned in 3 pack lol
        I love all 3 based on what you just said but as I am low on $ I am leaning towards that BRIGHT red! 🙂
        I used their burgundy and it came out LESS red than what I already was, it came out medium ASHY brown. way too much indigo in it so I need EXTRA red to rebalance the indigo I think:)
        plus I don’t mind unnatural red:)
        thanks again!
        I STILL WONDER why with just one ingredient on the box… that red and bright red are so different. I wonder how they manage that?
        more dye release? more finely milled lawsonia?
        curious

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      4. if I were to send you a before and after photo how will I do that?:)? if youd like? it will be in several days as its in shipment.. maybe 5-7 days before I actually do it.
        thank you again!
        im going to go over your tips again above as I do it.. I think I will leave 3 hours as my hair seems resistant even to henna in the past and 2 hours did not do much with the burgundy (except make it an ash brown) from my previously red henna..(which was a light orange so I was tired of it)
        I only used henna hut in the past
        but $18 for one bag with less in it than light mountain is just too much now
        and the burgundy color they said they were sold out in single bags yet had them in 3 packs so I wasn’t happy with that:/
        their DEEP RED is awesome… a true deep dark wine purply red..
        lasts only a week on me
        all fade to orange
        its the indigo. I think ill avoid it for a while and just use these light mountain lawsonia ones without indigo
        indigo is the blue/green tinted stuff…which makes hair brown with henna(lawsonia) mixed in but it ‘builds up’ in hair after repeated uses.
        leaving it brown

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      5. Ooo…3 hours is way too long to leave henna on. Please do a strand test first. This will give you an idea of how long you’ll need to leave the henna on. Each color can be different. You’re welcome to send me before/after pics to camoss@thedreamyidealist.com I’m excited to see how it turns out. Have fun with it!

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