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Henna is a vegetable-based, natural hair dye that many women like to experiment with when they want to change up the tone of their hair color. While henna can leave you with some funky and fun hair, it can also cause you a bit of grief if you later decide you want to use a traditional type of hair color.
A Word on Henna
With regular permanent hair color the color opens up the cuticle of your hair, slips in, and gives you a fab new hair color. Henna, on the other hand, changes your hair color by coating your hair with the new color. There is no opening of the hair's cuticle and no changing of the hair color from the inside out. This is why you can only go darker than, or add a tone on top of, your current hair color.
Will It Damage Your Hair?
Now that you know what henna does, let's talk about hair damage when you mix the two. Applying a hair color over top of henna won't damage your hair just by putting them together. That being said, if you choose to try to bleach your hair to remove the henna and go lighter, this could cause damage if you go too far; however, this can happen when you try to bleach any color out of your hair.
What Will Likely Happen
The reason you've probably heard that regular hair color and henna don't mix is because henna often coats the hair so much that it actually prevents the hair color you put on from penetrating through and changing your hair color. You end up wasting your time and money because the henna refuses to play nice and let the other hair color in. That's why, for those who play with henna, you typically have to remove the henna before you can use a traditional hair color again.
Because of the coating nature of henna, your run-of-the-mill color remover is not likely to work. Instead you'll need a mixture of 70 percent alcohol and mineral oil to evict that henna from your hair. Begin by soaking a cotton ball in the alcohol and applying it all over your hair (yeah, this could take a while). Don't get it on your scalp, though, because that will just dry out your poor skin. Now let that sit on your hair for five or 10 minutes so it can help loosen the henna. Once the time has elapsed, soak your hair in mineral oil and slip a plastic shower cap over your oily hair. Point a blow dryer at your head for the next half hour (moving it around evenly) or, if you're lucky and own one, sit under a portable hood dryer for the same amount of time. When that time is up, pour a little shampoo on your head, swirl that around to mix with the oil, then hop in the shower and scrub out that henna. It may take a few shampoos, but that stuff should be mostly gone and you'll be able to color over top.