The Pros and Cons of Henna for Hair

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Over the next few weeks our resident scientist, Jc will be examining products and ingredients that are popular in the natural hair world — not to disparage them, but to provide a well-rounded view of them.

The word natural is not the same as the words safe, good or beneficial but many us do associate these words together. I think there needs to be more open dialogue about natural products and we should not automatically award them angel wings purely because they are natural. Every decision we make about ingredients needs to be carefully weighed in terms of benefits and risks.

First up is the natural colorant henna

Benefits

1.  It is plant based, relatively easy to process and obtain.

2. It is known to build up on hair and some women note that it gives hair additional thickness

3. It is permanent and with regular application, easy to intensify the colour especially on grey hair.

4. It can be mixed with other natural dyes such as indigo to give a non-red result.

Risks / Negatives

1.  The weight of henna build up can cause curls to loosen which is a benefit to some but for ladies with loose curls to begin with, henna may cause loss of these curls.

2. It is permanent and difficult to cover over. It is generally difficult to use permanent hair colour which is lighter than henna (i.e dark brown/black/dark red are generally fine) with good results on hair that has been previously treated with henna.

3. Some people do report dry hair after henna use but many often remedy this using a conditioner afterwards.

4. The dye responsible for henna‘s colour is called lawsone and it is a known mutagen (i.e it can cause changes to DNA in cells)*

*Changes to DNA in cells are in part responsible for cancer – Please note that henna is not directly implicated in causing cancer, but in the EU there is no safe level for it due to its ability to mutate cells.  The long and safe history of henna use especially in India is possibly the reason why its mutagenic properties are not usually seen as a cause for concern and despite there being no safe level for henna, it is still widely available.

Ladies, have you encountered any of these pros and cons? Share below.

Previous articles on henna:
Henna vs Protein Treatments: Which is Better for Strengthening
Henna vs Commercial Dye
To Henna or Not to Henna

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114 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Henna for Hair

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  3. I use henna frequently as a hair dye now after having researched it extensively. However, the mutagen potential is new to me. I found a government research report that somewhat eased my fears. The test was done on mice and drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies).
    Link to government research …
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12787822

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