Henna – Love or Hate?

By Christina

If you are looking to color or treat your hair the natural way, then your first choice would most certainly be, ‘Henna’.

It is a natural herb that is widely available and inexpensive.

The only thing off late I’ve noticed that, all of the hairdressers seem to be asking me the same question when I go to cut my hair “Henna lagate hai kya?”

I used to – until last year but not anymore. Most of them seem to be extremely “negative” towards henna application.

Natural henna also known as Lawsonia inermis smells like hay and is a green powder made from the leaves of the mature Lawsonia plant. It definitely has properties that are beneficial to your hair. As a plant resin, it carries a pigment and it penetrates the hair at the cuticle easily.

So while, on the subject, instead of just telling you about the pros of Henna – I wanted to attempt to tell you the cons too so that you can make an informed choice.

  • It causes the least amount of allergic reactions. That makes it the biggest pro.
  • The absence of chemicals and scalp burns
  • Stronger hair – It strengthens and thickens the hair because it coats the strands of your hair by filling frayed cuticles with a second layer.
  • Grey coverage- It darkens the hair color. If you want to maintain a light color, apply it to the roots only. Repeated whole-head applications will progressively make the color less orange and more burgundy.
What are the cons that I
see in Henna or rather why does my hairdresser hate it so much?
  • Hair treated with henna is difficult to perm because it increases the absorption rate of the perming lotion. By the time any curls can be produced, your hair is already damaged by the chemicals in the perming lotion.
  • Now the final color that henna gives cannot be ascertained. It varies from person to person or rather from head to head. No salon can guarantee a definite out come.
  • Stocking henna is largely dependent on the availability of pure henna – which is difficult and hence the last choice for the salon owner.
  • Finally, it is a very time consuming salon process which does not look very chic. It is terribly messy, time consuming and does not generate a large income.


Black Henna

Along with the real green henna you can also find Black henna.

This black henna concept started sometime in the 90’s and I remember it being sold by The Body Shop in packets. They had black and brown henna.

Now black henna is actually made from the Indigo plant. When I say Indigo well, yes it’s actually blue but great to intensify darker shades so it’s mixed with henna to give a darker hue.

Blonde Henna
Neutral/Senna henna or blonde henna is made from the leaves of the Cassia obovata plant. When mixed with rhubarb root in high quantities, it will give hair a light yellow color.

It helps damaged hair by giving it an over-all healthy appearance. If you are suffering from scalp problems then, it may help you combat bacterial and fungus.

Are you allergic to henna? No? Yes? You’re not sure? Well, here is a test that you can do.
Apply some henna paste to the crease of your elbow and wait for an hour. If you do not experience any sneezing, itchy eyes, a dry cough or heavy feeling in the chest then you are not allergic to henna.
Allergies to PURE henna are generally unheard of, but these days with the amount of adulteration you never know. There are unknown chemical agents that are mixed into the henna by the supplier. Additives can include PPD and metallic salts. The rest can only be figured in a lab.It is cooling in nature – so if used in winter it can give you a nasty cold. Some people can get a cold while using in summers too. If you are one of those then mix it with a bit of warm tea or water before you apply it to your hair.

If you ask me about a commercial product then I would suggest LUSH henna and cocoa butter blocks. It is natural, synthetic-free hair color.

At Lush, you can find 4 colors –

  • Noir – translated as dark indigo
  • Maroon – which is brown/red
  • Brun Mama – meaning brown
  • Rouge – which means red

From the very first use, your hair turns a few shades darker than the original color and it will deepen with regular use. You can re-apply every 4-6 weeks.



Now for a few things that you can add to your henna mix, because I saw my mum mixing in them too –

  • Black tea. Boil lots of leaves for say 10 minutes and then add that to your powdered henna instead of water.
  • Clove oil or about 10 g of clove powder to about 100 grams of powdered henna. My mum uses this for ladies who want a burgundy color.
  • For those who have been in the Gulf, you may know the Katam plant. You can mix katam with warm water leave it for like 10 minutes and then mix it to your henna. Katam gives you a dark brown color.
  • Try adding essential oils like tea tree, lavender or rosemary to the cooled henna mixture. It will help with scalp problems.
  • Don’t forget to add hair oil to your Henna mixture or deep condition your hair with it afterward.

Some good herbal ingredients that you can add to your henna and find easily in the spice market too –

  • Shikakai – Leaves hair clean and shining
  • Aloe Vera – Moisturizes hair and makes it silky
  • Methi – Conditions, nourishes and revitalises hair
  • Bhringraj – Makes hair luxuriant
  • Amla – Darken hair colour, adds shine & lustre
  • Margosa/Neem – Fights scalp infection & prevents dandruff
  • Hibiscus – Rejuvenates hair making it shiny and silky
  • Musk root/Sumbal/Jatamansi – Promotes hair growth
  • Fenugreek/Methi seed powder – Fights hair fall, baldness and hair thinning

Do you have a love-hate relationship with henna? Is it an absolute staple in your beauty routine?

HnB Edit* – Really informative Chris..I too stopped henna usage since I catch cold easily plus it was a mess to apply & then clean the bath too 🙂


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