Photo: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
You want a healthy, vegetable-based dye but don’t want to look like a vegetable after using it. Henna is the only 100 percent naturally derived plant-based hair color available. Chemical dyes brutally break open your hair shaft and force in color – often causing damage to your precious locks in the process. Henna naturally stains the outside of each hair shaft, so it leaves your hair soft and healthy but sometimes with a redder color than you planned. Henna naturally has red undertones and can turn your locks tomato-y if left on too long or used on light hair. If you want to use henna to warm up your dark or red hair color, use some simple strategies to avoid going too red.
Purchase henna from a reputable herb supply house or health food store. Read the ingredient label to be sure it is free of additional ingredients such as salts and chemicals like PPD – para-phenylenediamine. Don’t be fooled by chemical dyes that contain a small amount of henna!
Test the henna on a small swatch of your hair first to avoid turning your tresses into a pumpkin. Follow the ratios indicated on the packaging and mix a small batch of the henna with boiling water and a drop or two of vinegar to help release the plant dyes.
Apply to an inconspicuous part of your hair and leave on for 15 minutes to an hour – checking the color development at five- to 10-minute increments. Darker hair needs longer soak times.
Rinse and dry to see the final results. If it is too red, dilute the henna with more water and leave on for less than 30 minutes.
If you are trying to darken your hair, henna may not your best bet. It will almost always result in some reddening and warming of your hair color. You might mute the intensity of henna's redness by adding one part crushed chamomile for every two parts henna. This can give your hair golden-red highlights which are less dramatic than the fire-y red that can sometimes come with pure henna.
Apply a protective oil, such as mineral or olive, at your hairline before you color your whole head. Henna is used for temporary tattoos and will dye your skin. The last thing you want is the color from your head to streak down your forehead!
Do not use henna to color gray or on light blond hair unless you are looking for strawberry-colored locks.