The Natural Beauty Experiment: Henna Hair Dye

So, I’m on a natural beauty mission.  When I started doing research on what was actually in the products I was using, I was #1: shocked, and #2: inspired to make some changes.

One of the more exciting discoveries I’ve made is henna hair dye!  I had heard of henna tattoos, but had no idea that henna could be used as a natural hair color.  It turns out that there are several benefits:

  • Henna penetrates the hair shaft and binds with the keratin in the hair, making hair stronger.
  • Henna also coats the hair, filling in rough spots on a frayed cuticle, which makes the hair smoother.
  • Henna is completely chemical free… which was a big deal to me since I was coloring my hair every approximately every 4 weeks to cover my grey roots! (Ick.)
  • Henna leaves your hair feeling thick, shiny, and healthy.

Sounds great, but I have to fill you in on the details, because there is a bit of a process to put it mildly.

First, lets talk color.  Natural henna gives a vibrant red color that doesn’t fade like chemical reds do.  You can get also get henna that is mixed with indigo for shades ranging from auburn, to brown, to black.  I got mine at Lush, and chose the brown shade (caca brun mama).   

The next thing you need to know is that it takes a long time.  I found that I needed a two-step process because I have so much gray hair in the mix (omg).  I had start with the plain red henna which covers gray hair completely.  I left it on for 4 hours.  Then I rinsed it out and applied the brown (to cover the orangey red), and left it on all night!  The good news is that I ended up with perfect gray coverage and a rich brown color the next morning!

I read a ton of reviews and tips before deciding to try the henna, and most of them made it sound like applying the henna would be a huge mess.  I didn’t find that to be a problem.  It was really no harder (or messier) to apply than a regular drug-store brand home hair color kit.  Any of the paste that splashed onto the counter wiped right off.  And the chunks that got dry and fell on the floor swept up with a broom.  I suspect that the people who found the henna to be outrageously messy had probably never coloured their own hair before. 

Anyways, you mix the henna with hot water to make a paste approximately the consistency of cake batter.  I added 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar because it is supposed to help the henna cover the grays.  Yep… it’s totally green.

I wore gloves, and also covered my forehead and ears with Vaseline to prevent staining (but I didn’t have to cover the floor with newspaper or anything extreme like that).  From there, I just sectioned out my hair, scooped the henna mixture on with a spoon, worked it into the roots with my fingers, and covered all the way to the ends.  Once I was done with a section, I coiled it up into a little bun to keep it out of the way.  When I was finished, I wrapped my entire head with plastic wrap to keep the henna moist, topped that off with a pink shower cap, then waited for hours and hours!

Rinsing the henna out was definitely the hardest part of the whole process.  I found that the best way to do it was to stick my head under the kitchen tap and just let the water run over it for a long time, rinsing out the muddy stuff with it.  After most of it was rinsed off, I hit the shower and used conditioner to rinse away any of the remaining stuff. 

OK… there is one more point to discuss.  The smell.  I don’t really know how to describe it other than “earthy” + “grassy”.  It’s pretty strong, and I know that it would probably repulse some people.  It didn’t bother me.  I actually prefer it to the harsh chemical smell of my old hair dye.

Two more final points:

  • Make sure you get high quality henna that isn’t mixed with any metals (that’s a recipe for a green hair disaster). 
  • Henna is PERMANENT and very difficult to remove.  Strand testing is highly recommended.  (Admittedly, I’m way too impulsive for that, so I just forged ahead and it turned out great!)

So, do you want to see how it turned out???

Did you notice my new cut???


  1. You look gorgeous! Your eyes are so bright with the colour. I would never guess it was a home job, much less an eco-home job! Well done!

  2. OMG!!! It just made me want to go and buy henna to dye my hair!
    Love the color and the new haircut!!

  3. wow...you are one brave chickie...i have seen way to many aunties with henna coloured hair and never has it looked like yours! you look fabulous!

  4. Wow you look great, love the color!

  5. Gorgeous!!!!! Love the cut sooooo much!!!!

  6. You look absolutely fabulous, my dear! I absolutely love it! I have to say the thing that is most off putting for me is the green...I dunno about that part, but the results are fantastic!

  7. You are beautiful, Carissa. I've been toying with going back to henna, but I didn't think that it would cover all my grey!! I never found henna any messier than dye, and the smell is better.

  8. Love the cut!

    I don't dye my hair anymore (can't keep up with it) but in high school I was all about Henna.

  9. Your hair looks amazing! I love that it's all natural. I don't think I could stomach the risk of color or length of application. But, it sure worked for you! And, great cut!

  10. Amazing! I too dye that grey out of my hair. Wonder if it comes in blond shades?

  11. It looks gorgeous! I was trying to decide if I wanted to get Caca Rouge Mama or Caca Brun Mama but your picture made my decision. It comes out a beautiful brown. What may I ask was your color before? Mine is a light reddish brown. Do you think it will come out generally the same?

    1. Yes... my hair was reddish-brown before the henna. I would guess that it will come out the same. Good luck!

  12. Your hair looks great and has beautiful shine. I dye my hair black. what Color of henna do you recommend? I don't want blue black hair....

  13. I love the rich color of your hair! I just recently dyed my hair with henna but found the paste started to dry before I was finished applying. I think it prevented the henna from really penetrating my hair. Did you have similar issues or any suggestion?


  14. When you say you started with the plain red henna for the greys, do you mean Lush's red color or did you use some other brand? Thanks! I LOVE your results!

  15. Hi! I know this is an old post, but I discovered it just the other day and you totally convinced me to try out this Lush's henna. Actually, I have it on my hair right now! I can't wait to see how it will come out :)
    I'm gonna mention this post on my blog (on a post that will come out this Sunday), I hope it's ok with you.

    Ellie from indiellie.com


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