People frequently ask what they should or should not do to their hair before applying henna. Does hair need to be clean, or left unwashed? Can it have conditioner on it? Should it be wet or dry? As henna works differently from conventional hair dyes and treatments, these questions are valid. This article will explain the best ways to prepare your hair for your henna treatment to obtain the best results.
First of all, hair should definitely be clean. But “clean” means several things. For henna and plant dye mixtures, it means, 1) free of dirt; 2) free of oils, both natural and added; and 3) free of mineral build-up. Dirt, oil, and mineral build-up all create barriers that prevent the dye from binding properly to the hair strand, for the best coverage and permanence, it will be important to start with squeaky-clean hair. Second, it is important to avoid adding oils or conditioning products to the hair prior to using henna, as they can inhibit dye uptake. Finally, hair can be either damp or dry when applying henna, whatever makes the hair easier to separate into sections for application. Continue reading to learn more about how to prep your hair and why.
When left unwashed, hair collects dirt and pollutants from the environment, as well as dead skin and materials excreted through the sweat glands. Combined with the body’s natural oils and heat, the hair becomes a perfect playground for bacteria and microbes.
While henna has anti-microbial properties, it does not necessarily make for the best hair cleanser. Henna is best known for its coloring and strengthening properties, which come from the dye molecule, lawsone. Dirty hair does not allow for as much dye uptake as clean hair, therefore limiting the benefits. No one wants to go through the process of applying henna and leaving it on for several hours just to see that their hair was not colored sufficiently.
The simplest way to remove dirt is with a standard detergent shampoo. A clarifying shampoo would be even better. Shampoo bars, natural shampoos, and shampoo alternatives may not effectively clean the hair of dirt and oil, and may actually leave a residue which creates an additional barrier. Baking soda does not clear out sebum as effectively as shampoo, and may interact negatively with dye molecules.
Ancient Sunrise® shampoo bars and Ancient Sunrise® Zizyphus Spina Christi powder are great cleansers for any time other than right before henna. The shampoo bars are oil-based, and Zizyphus leaves a natural waxy coating on the hair. If you use either of these, it is recommended to wash your hair with a regular detergent or clarifying shampoo to remove any residue.
While it is important to wash away the dirt and oil that naturally accumulates in the hair, it is equally important to avoid applying any additional oils. If you use oils or conditioners, these need to be washed out.
Indigo is particularly sensitive to barriers such as oil, and will not bind as successfully unless the hair is completely clean. Those who have particularly resistant hair may want to try washing their roots with a few drops of dish soap. Dish soap is a strong detergent that will strip out any oils and temporarily rough up the cuticle to allow for better dye penetration.