Henna is a powder that has always been famous for its beneficial coloring properties . Already widely used in the times of the ancient Egyptians, the miraculous natural powder is obtained from a plant endemic to Morocco. Always considered a true elixir of health and beauty for hair , the best quality of the natural product comes from the Draa Tafilalit region.
Let’s see in detail what it is, the benefits and how to use it.
What is henna
Henna is a dye that is derived from the plant Lawsonia inermis . A thorny shrub about 2 meters high, but which can reach up to 7 m. whose leaves, once dried and ground, give rise to a yellow-greenish powder used as a dye on hair, skin and fabrics. The molecule that makes this plant dye is lawsone (C 10 H 6 O 3 ) , a red-orange substance that is present in the leaves of the plant and also in the flowers.
Origins of henna
Historically, henna has been used since ancient times for its dyeing properties, to dye skin, hair and nails, as well as fabrics. Traces of use are found in India, the Middle East and North Africa.
In the 1800s, henna was a very popular dye among women close to Pre-Raphaelite artists. Elizabeth Siddal, poetess, wife and muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is an example of this. Lizzy had bright red hair, although in the British cultural tradition this was associated with little elegance.
In Europe, it seems that it was the opera singer Adelina Patti who popularized the use of henna in the late 19th century. Just as it is said that it was the Parisian courtesan Cora Pear l, called La Lune Rousse, one of the pioneers of the use of this dyeing powder. While more recently, in the 1950s, Lucille Ball popularized the “henna rinse” in the popular show in those years, I Love Lucy.
The uses of henna
Henna powder is generally used for its highly dyeing properties.
The main uses are:
- skin dye , known as temporary body art . Henna is used to create non-permanent face and body tattoos that can last a few days and are removed by exfoliation in a week or two.
- Dyeing and hair care , this is the most frequent use of henna. To dye hair and cover gray hair , but also to rebalance the scalp and increase the thickness of the hair.
- Dyeing of fabrics
Things to know before dyeing your hair with henna
When you choose to dye your hair with henna, you cannot determine exactly the final color you want to achieve precisely because henna is not a chemical dye, but a natural one . We must therefore be ready to experiment as we go. As you gain a little experience, it will be easier to understand both how much to use and how to mix pure henna with other dyeing herbs.
The final color that will be obtained from the henna dye will depend on the starting color of the hair and can vary from orange to auburn to dark red.
Another important thing to remember is that henna, although it is a natural dye , is still a permanent dye, as the coloring molecule, lawsone, binds to the keratin of the hair, dyeing it permanently. With washing and the use of conditioners, masks and butters, the color will tend to drain over time, but the pigment will remain bound to the hair.
Which henna to choose for dyeing hair
However, different shades can be obtained thanks to the mixing of pure henna with other dyeing or healing herbs such as indigo , called “black henna” which helps to obtain darker shades of red, but also mixes to obtain brown shades. and black.
Then there is a henna called “natural” Cassia Obovata , a colorless henna that mixed with other herbs such as chamomile and rhubarb gives light shades. In general, this henna is used for its antiseptic, anti-dandruff properties and balances the scalp.
Finally, another well-known dyeing herb with a reflective pigment is walnut husk. Used alone it helps to give brown and warm reflections to the hair. In addition to having important sebum-regulating properties of the scalp, it alone does not cover white hair because it does not contain dyeing pigments, but only reflecting, used together with pure henna, on the other hand, helps to dampen the colder red reflections and contributes to a color overall warmer and more natural.
Choose henna without sodium picramate
When choosing henna it is important to read the label and make sure that no sodium picramate is present. It is a synthetic dye that is mixed in dyes and henna, sold on the market to make the color more intense and brilliant, allowing to shorten the shutter speed, which is generally very long.
Although this dye is not toxic in the quantities sold on the market, if you choose to proceed with a natural dye it is good that the henna is 100% pure , otherwise you might as well move towards a chemical dye.
The list of ingredients you should find if you choose pre-packaged henna is simply the wording: Lawsonia inermis. If you buy it in bulk at a herbalist’s shop, ask to be able to read the ingredients, unfortunately it is very common that even those that have very little pure are passed off as pure henna.
The benefits of henna for hair
In addition to dyeing the hair, henna offers important benefits to the hair and skin.
- Revitalizes the roots and ends , protecting and rebalancing the scalp, it is often used in cases of dermatitis, dandruff, oily skin and in cases of abnormal hair loss.
henna pure , in fact, has significant antibacterial, antifungal and-inflammatory and long term improves the overall health of hair and skin. This is the substantial difference of henna compared to chemical dyes which tend to ruin and in some cases irritate the scalp.
Hair treated after a henna pack is shiny and invigorated, the skin is nourished and hydrated.
How to prepare the henna compress at home
Put about 100 grams of pure henna powder (the amount depends a lot on the length of the hair and the thickness) in a plastic or wooden container , add a little water slowly while stirring, to prevent lumps from forming.
Use a wooden or plastic spoon, metal is not recommended in contact with henna, because it will oxidize too quickly. The mixture obtained must be creamy and pasty, but never liquid. Now, add a few drops of lemon or apple cider vinegar, to fix the pigment, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight, or at least for more than 8 hours.
What to add to the homemade henna wrap?
On the web there are many recipes that include the addition of many other ingredients to the basic henna pack. Our advice is to proceed step by step. If you are at the first application, limit yourself to the addition of ingredients tested for this use, such as honey and yogurt, which add natural sugars that can make the compress more gelatinous and comfortable to hold on your head for many hours. In addition, you can also add sweet almond oil or other essential oils, without exaggerating, just a few drops are enough to mitigate the initially somewhat annoying effect of henna.
How to apply henna?
First use old clothes and towels, because the henna will dye those too. The hair must be freshly washed and damp, and proceed as for the chemical dye.
The application must be accurate , otherwise you could risk finding undyed areas as the compress has a different consistency than the chemical dye.
Divide the hair into sections and apply the mixture generously to all hair, from root to tip. After application, massage the mixture into the scalp and lengths and then wrap the hair in cling film or a disposable shower cap to create a warm environment.
The shutter speeds are long , and that’s perhaps the only downside to henna coloring. It ranges from 3 to 6 hours of laying.
After the exposure time has elapsed, a very thorough rinse is carried out , the water must be clear at the end of the wash. Given the muddy consistency of the henna pack, it will take some time at this stage, it is important not to be in a hurry and that the skin above all is well cleaned.
The color you get will change within a week. In fact, henna will tend to oxidize and will bind to the keratin of the hair, making the shaft thicker and the hair more full-bodied.
Henna to cover white hair
Henna is a good alternative to chemical dye to cover gray hair , but it takes a little experience to understand the right dosage of powders and the processing times that are necessary for optimal coverage.
It is important, in fact, to reach the same shade of the hair at the origin and to do this you must first dye the hair with pure henna.without mixing it with other dyeing herbs and only afterwards is another application with the desired dyeing herb to obtain the more or less red color. To be on the safe side, the ideal would be to ask your herbalist for advice, who will be able to advise you on the right tricks to dye, always remembering that henna is not a chemical dye and therefore it will be difficult to obtain coverage without altering the color of the hair.
Tips for getting a scented henna pack
As you may know, one of the negative or in any case little appreciated aspects of those who use henna is the very intense herbaceous smell that persists, even a few days after its application. To make the natural color fragrant, the trick is to add the essential oil of Damask Rose , a very ancient variety of the flower (each boasts 36 petals). Its smell is very delicate but unmistakable, as it is composed of more than 400 different aromatic substances, rich in extraordinary properties.
Other additions we recommend to make henna scented are:
- Powdered cloves.
How to make henna to dye your eyebrows
Henna is also being used more and more often to dye eyebrows, it is an easy way to cover white hair or to give a more defined shape.
In case there is a need for a real study of the shape or a real filling, then it is better to turn to a professional who will perform a real bio tattoo with results very similar to those that can be obtained with microbleding.
As we have said many times, henna is a permanent dye, so applied poorly or without a too firm hand in an area such as the eyebrows, constantly in the foreground, can lead to disastrous results.