Henna for Hair 101: Don’t Put Food On Your Head

 

Well… you can if you really want to, but please keep it out of your henna.

 

If you’ve surfed around the internet looking for information on dyeing hair with henna, chances are that you’ve found dozens of articles and videos on how to create a henna mix for your hair, and many of them have told you to add any of a variety of things into the mix. How do you decide which to use? Do you add coffee? Do you add coconut milk? Eggs? Spices? Oils? Yogurt? Beet juice?

The answer is no. And here’s why.

The obsession with using foods and other ingredients in henna mixes comes from a few myths:

First, there is the idea that henna is drying to the hair, and that some ingredients can prevent that. Henna does not ‘dry out’ hair, though it does raise the cuticle temporarily.  A vinegar or conditioner rinse will smooth it right back down.  

Second is the idea that dark colored ingredients such as coffee or cinnamon will make your color darker, or bright red/purple ingredients such as beets or paprika will add those hues to your color. Beets and carrots may change the color of your bowel movements, but they won’t change the color of your hair.

Third is that spices and oils with strong scents will mask the smell of the plant dye powders and make your hair smell better.

Fourth is that the cosmetic industry puts pictures of fruit and herbs on their packaging to ‘greenwash’ the fact that their products are mostly chemicals.  This gives people the impression that adding random ‘natural’ and ‘exotic’ things makes products better.  It’s more complicated than that.

Because of all the misinformation floating around the internet, people get the idea that adding a bunch of extra ingredients into their henna mix will result in a super powerful, awesome conditioner/cleaner/dye paste worthy of the gods. It’s an attractive idea because you have these items in your kitchen already, and certain foods do have beneficial properties for hair and skin.

Spoiler alert: You’ll just end up with a lot of wasted food, and less of the benefits of henna.

 

Here’s the truth:

  • Henna is not drying, nor damaging.

Some notice that after rinsing their henna paste out, their hair feels crunchy, tangly, or dry. This is due to the temporary change of the hair structure after dyeing with henna. When the dye molecules migrate into the hair, the cuticle is raised up, making the hair seem rougher and coarser. As the dye molecules settle down into place, your hair becomes smoother again. This can take a couple of days, but you can help to smooth the cuticles back down by using conditioner, rinsing with cool water, and rinsing with apple cider vinegar.

 

Layers of keratin scales form the outer surface of the hair fiber. These cuticles are temporarily raised during dyeing, and settle back down afterward.

 

If your hair feels gritty after henna, you may not have rinsed it all out. The easiest way to get all of that paste out is to fill your tub with warm water, and lay back, swishing your hair around. Massage a good handful of conditioner into your hair, rinse, and repeat until it feels soft. Contrary to popular thought, there is nothing keeping you from using shampoo, conditioner, or any other hair product right away. There is a myth that shampooing after henna causes the dye to fade; this isn’t the case. The dye binds to the hair during the three to four hours the paste is left on the head, and it is there to stay. Any color that tints the water going down your drain was residual dye.

The myth of henna being damaging to the hair comes from compound hennas, which are not pure henna. These are mixes that contain henna as well as other ingredients such as metallic salts, PPD, and other chemical additives. Compound henna is damaging to the hair, but pure henna plant powder is not.  

As long as you are using 100% pure plant powder, adding coconut milk, oils, conditioner, honey, yogurt, egg or any other products to “moisturize” the hair is not necessary, and will prevent the dye from staining your hair.

 

  • Good quality henna is easy to rinse out.