I’ve been coloring my hair various shades of red since high school. My natural color is this dishwater blonde that just tends to look kind of dirty. And I LOVE red hair. Since I started Curly Girl, though, I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of color I use simply because of all the harsh chemicals in dyes. Curls are NOT a fan of hair dyes and it always takes me weeks for my curls to bounce back to life. And by the time the bounce back, the red has faded because reds are notoriously fast at fading. So there was just no winning.
Until I found henna dye. I’ve had this stuff recommended to me for years. Pretty much since I started coloring my hair, people said if you want red, go with henna. Then Sarah found it on Lush’s website and wanted to try it. So we got a block to share! She hasn’t done her color but I’m sure you will all see it when she does.
So it comes in this big solid block. Given my length and thickness, I concluded that I would need probably four squares. As with most of my beauty stuff, this one began in the kitchen with a cutting board and a knife. I chopped those four squares into pieces and put them into a bowl, all the while my kettle boiling.
Some reviews of the product recommended adding coconut oil for extra softness and just to give the dye a little extra oomph. So I put in a good scoop before adding the boiling water.
The packaging suggested using a double boiler for this process. But we dont have metal cooking bowls so that wasn’t even an option. Instead, I filled the kitchen sink with the hottest water my tap could make, inserted the bowl, then poured the boiling water into the mixture to begin melting the henna.
I’m going to address smell right here. Reviewers were complaining about the smell of the henna being strong and gross. Henna smells like plants. Compare that to the amonia and peroxide-y smells of chemical dye and I’ll let you guess which one I prefer. It’s strong, yes. But it is by no means bad.
So after some mixing and mashing to get the henna into a loose paste, it looks something like this:
It should be cool enough to touch but only just. You want this stuff warm and kept warm the whole process.
Onto application! I have several tips for this that are gonna blow the minds of every single person who complained about the product being messy. Ready?
- Do it in the bathtub. then any drips can be just washed down the drain.
- Have a friend help you goop (that’s the technical term). This will decrease mess because they can actually see the back of your head.
- Use an applicator bottle. You can get them at Sally’s or other beauty supply stores for right around $1.
- Wear gloves.
- Smear 1-2 inches of vaseline around your hairline, on your ears, and over anything else your hair may touch. You know how henna from the fair or amusement parks or whatever dyes your skin? Does that here, too. It’s literally the same stuff.
All of these things combined will make the mess much less… messy. Admittedly, I did not use an applicator bottle but it would have been super useful. It’s on my list for next time.
So coat your head just like you would with regular hair dye. Clip it up. Cover your head in a plastic bag or plastic wrap. This helps trap heat on your hair which in turn helps the color develop which gives you an even more vibrant color. I then wrapped the plastic bag in my plopping t-shirt so that I had some extra protection in case it leaked. Then walk away for 4 hours.
Yes, 4 hours. Pour some wine, have a mini-marathon of your favorite TV show. Make some dinner. Relax. You’re in for the long haul on this one. But trust me when I say it is so so worth it!
4 hours, a glass of wine, and a delicious dinner later, I went back into the shower and went to wash.
I’m gonna be honest, it doesnt feel very nice. It feels like washing an entire beach worth of sand out of your hair. It’s gritty and takes a good 15-20 minutes of constant water to get all the henna out. That stuff sticks in there and never wants to leave. Take some time now to also get that vaseline off your face and ears.
Once the henna is out of your hair, if you are no-shampoo then you may wash your hair as normal. If you use shampoo, avoid using it for a few days to let the color continue to develop. The sulfates will strip the color and dull it. I just washed mine and styled it as normal and it was good to go.
The henna, as promised, was pretty conditioning! My hair’s super soft and my curls have all the bounce they did before the color! It doesn’t feel sad and striped of nutrients. It’s wonderful! And the color is exactly what I wanted it to be! Super red in the sun, still gorgeous in other lighting. Just look!
I absolutely love it! Definitely worth the time it took. I fully intend to use this product again and again!
Regarding how long the color lasts, that all depends on what you do to your hair. I don’t use shampoo and I only wash my hair 2-3 times per week so it’s going to take a long time to fade. I haven’t noticed any fading in the nearly two weeks since I used it which is when I usually start to see fading with box dyes. But, again, I don’t attack my hair wish harsh chemicals and I don’t wash it very often so it may fade differently for other people.
A note before using henna, please actually read the instructions, the warnings, etc. Do NOT use it if you’ve recently colored your hair with chemical dyes and do NOT try to bleach your hair afterwards if you don’t like the color. Take the time to research it and see if it’s the right coloring option for you. It certainly is for me!