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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116 Comments on "The Pros and Cons of Henna for Hair"

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Cataract Surgery Recovery

I would name your blog the dream­land! While San­ta knocks at our door just once per year, you blog is open the whole year – wow!

red hair styles

This is real­ly inter­est­ing, You’re an exces­sive­ly skilled blog­ger. I have joined your rss feed and look ahead to seek­ing extra of your fan­tas­tic post. Addi­tion­al­ly, I’ve shared your site in my social net­works

Pucelle
1) For those of you wor­ried about Hen­na being a known muta­gen in lab­o­ra­to­ry stud­ies… don’t drink, avoid the sun, don’t take birth con­trol pills, and be wary of pure “air”. Alco­hol, estro­gen-prog­es­terone, UVA/UVB, and oxy­gen (O2) are all known car­cino­gens (can­cer caus­ing). Since pure hen­na as a top­i­cal appli­ca­tion hasn’t led skin leather­ing, scalp lesions, or any oth­er kind of human muta­tion in the hun­dreds of years its been in use in India; it’s not some­thing to wor­ry about. If that is your only rea­son for not using Hen­na, I’m sor­ry but that’s just sil­ly. There are far more… Read more »
cygnet
Point tak­en, and thanks for the clar­i­fi­ca­tion. As I fin­ished writ­ing that, it did occur to me to won­der what oth­er fac­tors besides quan­ti­ty might fac­tor into the exper­i­ments done on it. I’ll have to check the link you pro­vid­ed for the EU report; thanks for putting that out there for us :-). As for me per­son­al­ly, I’ve been a hen­na­head since 2007, but I’ve now decid­ed to back off a con­sid­er­able bit, not because I think hen­na is dan­ger­ous, but because repeat­ed use over time has turned my gold­en-almost-straw­ber­ry-blond tress­es a rich, medi­um-dark red that, while high­ly com­pli­ment­ed by many, is… Read more »
cygnet
When I was a health com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ist on what used to be the CDC Nation­al STD/AIDS Hot­line, one ques­tion I fre­quent­ly answered was, “How long can HIV live out­side the body?” The answer I always gave, based on infor­ma­tion avail­able on the CDC web site, went some­thing like this: “A lab­o­ra­to­ry exper­i­ment was done in which HIV was exposed to air and observed to see how long it would live. At the longest, it took about 30 min­utes for all the HIV to die. Be aware, how­ev­er, that the amount stud­ied for this exper­i­ment was con­sid­er­ably more than has ever… Read more »
The Natural Haven
I agree with most of what you wrote and I love your anal­o­gy. I do want to clar­i­fy that it is not a case of quan­ti­ty. Accord­ing to the EU sci­en­tif­ic report no amount of law­sone (the dye in hen­na) is con­sid­ered safe. To quote the report ‘No safe thresh­old for Law­sone can be estab­lished.’ I do agree with you that since peo­ple in India (notably) have used hen­na for hun­dreds of years and that usage has nev­er been linked to can­cer (either cause or increase) then there is an argu­ment to say that despite law­sone being a muta­gen it… Read more »
cygnet

Thanks, Jc. I made a reply to you that I acci­den­tal­ly put as its own com­ment, please see below. I enjoy your blog entries, by the way :-).

The Natural Haven

Thank you so much, def­i­nite­ly always hap­py to quote where my infor­ma­tion came from :)

lee

Bought some hen­na recent­ly from Mehan­di. Nev­er used it and after this arti­cle and some of the com­ments I am skep­ti­cal about whether I should or not. When I see the big C word I always get a bit leery.

Honey

Ok, so I have tried Hen­na mul­ti­ple of times, either straight just hen­na, hen­na gloss mean­ing with con­di­tion­ers, hen­na with tea and hen­na with amla and brah­mi, but every­time I use it, my hair is very dry and even though I do a deep con­di­tion­er and then mos­tur­ize with a super duper mos­tur­iz­er it still feels dry.…I have stopped using it just because of those results. Has any­one else expe­ri­enced this or is it just me? If this is nor­mal results of the Hen­na then I won’t pan­ic so much. :-)

The Natural Haven

There are many peo­ple who get this same reac­tion where hair always feels dry even if they have con­di­tioned after­wards — try googling +hen­na +dry +hair +forum and you will find some accounts of oth­ers.

Dre

Hen­na gave me a real­ly bad headache

Maxi G

Appre­ci­at­ed all of the com­ments. It will help with my deci­sion to try the pure body art qual­i­ty hen­na. I do have one ques­tion, though, can you put hen­na on top of semi per­ma­nent hair col­or or should I wait until it’s touch up time? Col­ored my hair mid-August 2011. Thanks.

The Natural Haven

You can put hen­na on top of semi per­ma­nent hair colour, how­ev­er do bear in mind that once you do use hen­na, the colour of sub­se­quent semi­per­ma­nent colours will be influ­enced by the red tint of hen­na.

If you use hen­na reg­u­lar­ly it may become dif­fi­cult to get a good colour result with a semi per­ma­nent.

Hana

Oth­er exam­ples of places where hen­na has been used for cen­turies by men, women and chil­dren alike for cen­turies:
The Mid­dle east, asia and African coun­tries such as Sudan, Soma­lia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Mor­roc­co etc.
Its used for body art, for burns, for hair colour­ing, and for hair treatments/thickening.

One of the things I love about BGLH and the nat­ur­al hair com­mu­ni­ty in gen­er­al, is that it has shown me that the tried and test­ed meth­ods used to look after hair in my cul­ture, by my par­ents, grand­par­ents and great-grand­par­ents alike, are still effec­tive for my hair in 2011. So beau­ti­ful­ly sim­ple.

Uh Huh Yeah

“The mind is a ter­ri­ble thing to waste.”
Some of you guys with obvi­ous read­ing impair­ments should have applied for funds from the Unit­ed Negro Col­lege Fund because she clear­ly DOES NOT state that hen­na caus­es can­cer. She is an objec­tive reporter on this issue: she objec­tive­ly reports on the pos­si­ble pros and cons with­out impos­ing her own beliefs. Sheesh…

honeybrown1976

ha!

I love my Jami­la hen­na. I’ll keep on mov­ing!!

dani

i REALLY REALLY REALLY want to col­or my hair next year when it warms back up. like.. a cop­per.… or blonde… some­thing BRIGHT and vivid. hen­na seems like my only option if i don’t want my hair to fall out… where’s the best place to get some that will turn dark (curly 3C) hair very very light?

The Natural Haven

Hen­na does not light­en your hair and can­not make your hair blonde unless you have grey hair. If your hair is dark, it may not appear.

You should def­i­nite­ly look up hon­ey light­en­ing of hair on the long hair com­mu­ni­ty although it is not a guar­an­teed process and gen­er­al­ly peo­ple with lighter hair colours to start with have bet­ter suc­cess.

dani

thanks.

Asea
I was in love with hen­na for a few months. It seemed to make my hair strong and seemed to add thick­ness to my fine strands. My hair felt awe­some after rins­ing it out. BUT then my hair start­ed get­ting soooooo dry. And I admit that per­haps I wasn’t con­di­tion­ing enough, but the process itself is so messy, long and tedious and hav­ing to spend more time deep deep con­di­tion­ing to coun­ter­act the dry­ness just didn’t seem worth it to me. Sad­ly, I had to cut back on hen­na. Ande I don’t real­ly like the col­or. I like my hair dark.… Read more »
Mai

Like the arti­cle said, it’s been used for years and years and that’s what I base many of my beau­ty care on. If my ances­tors’ ances­tors used it, and they were fine, well then I’m pret­ty fine too.

Dlynn

Hel­lo All! I’d also like to know how long should one wait to do a pro­tein treat­ment after hen­na?

anastasia

Many peo­ple believe once you hen­na you can for­go pro­tein treat­ments, but I dont, I just alter­nate. Check the mehan­di hair forum or FAQ’s or check out JC’s Blog: The Nat­ur­al Haven which is loaded with great info =)

Ebony

Guys, y’all should stop tak­ing the arti­cle as a per­son­al attack on your hen­na use. Nowhere in the post does she say “stop using hen­na or your hair will fall off and you’ll die.” It’s good to be informed of all the ben­e­fits AND costs of any­thing we use. Per­son­al­ly, I love shea but­ter. It’s in just about every prod­uct I use. If some­one comes along and shows it has some neg­a­tive results, I’ll take those into account and decide if/how I want to con­tin­ue use. We all have that dis­cre­tion.

June

Ha! Well here is one for you: shea but­ter has latex in it so if you have a latex aller­gy you need to be care­ful.

Some­thing about shea but­ter :)

geeze!!!

I know im late, but dang!! thats y my scalp is always itch­ing??? thanks for the heads up!!!

Ebony

Thank­ful­ly I don’t have a latex aller­gy. =p But thanks for the info!

LaToya
HERE WE GO AGAIN… I’m not shoot­ing the mes­sen­ger but can some­one please tell me why NATURAL DYES are stud­ied to “death” and ALWAYS are report­ed to cause some genet­ic muta­tion? I have my rea­sons for stay­ing away from hen­na so I looked into stain­ing my patch of gray hair with black wal­nut hulls instead. Why is it that when I received my pack­age on the front cov­er this was writ­ten: “WARNING: Pro­longed use is not advised due to the pres­ence of sig­nif­i­cant amount of of juglone, a known MUTAGEN in ani­mals.” How come NOTHING is report­ed about the risks of… Read more »
The Natural Haven
LaToya com­mer­cial dyes actu­al­ly have greater num­bers of stud­ies. They can cause very severe aller­gic reac­tions which could lead to death. This is why a good col­orist would nev­er dye your hair with­out a patch test.  Dyes in gen­er­al need to be stud­ied because they are able to bind and change pro­teins. This is some­thing that peo­ple for­get, hair is a pro­tein and pro­tein is a major com­po­nent of liv­ing cells. So while hair out­side the fol­li­cle is dead, the rest of your body is not. Dye find­ing its way into your body and bind­ing to that pro­tein is a seri­ous… Read more »
anastasia

I guess every­thing in mod­er­a­tion, but at the end of the day,“fatten some com­pa­nies’ cof­fers….” pos­si­bly is the strongest moti­va­tion behind fear-based tac­tics.

Off top­ic but–
I remem­ber see­ing an ad from the 1940’s/50’s tout­ing the great health ben­e­fits of white sug­ar for chil­dren, seriously…crazy, right? Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, an organ­i­cal­ly-based clean food rev­o­lu­tion had start­ed around the same time as T.V. din­ners loaded with fat, salt, and sug­ar were tout­ed as the ‘civilized’,healthy, and time-effi­cient way to eat.

Sieta

How many weeks after hen­na can one do a pro­tein treat­ment on their hair? I haven’t henna’d since August.

Antoinette Stewart

Inter­est­ing because I just did a hen­na treat­ment yes­ter­day~
I used to do it once every 2 months since Feb­ru­ary, but I sort of fell off… I’m not hap­py with this Jami­la pow­der, it was dif­fi­cult to rinse out my hair, and I am still get­ting flakies!

TT

Please sup­port your info. We need papers of research done to be able to “believe” you. Hen­na had been used in the past for many years and it nev­er ever caused any prob­lems. I googled hen­na and read a mil­lion reviews of peo­ple who have used it for years and no one came with sto­ries of it caus­ing can­cer. Please send prrof and rep­utable papers to read.

The Natural Haven

No prob­lem TT — here is the full EU report for you, it is avail­able free online 

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/sccp/documents/out254_en.pdf

The Natural Haven

Side note — Law­sone is the chem­i­cal dye found in hen­na that actu­al­ly colours hair.

Hon­est­ly I do won­der whether you read the arti­cle ful­ly TT because I actu­al­ly stat­ed that the long and safe his­to­ry of use of hen­na is why it is still used and wide­ly avail­able.…..

Nick

OMG what’s up with peole’s read­ing skills. She nev­er said hen­na caus­es can­cer. She said some of them MAY con­tain a com­po­nent that has been linked to muta­tions! Why do you need her to pro­vide papers. Take what she said and go look it up for your­self as you should do with any info pro­vid­ed.

JoJoFree

I don’t under­stand why all of a sud­den hen­na could “pos­si­bly” cause can­cer when this dye has been used since Bib­li­cal days! Inter­est­ing…

mediumbrowngirl

I am not sure if the ancient-ness of a prod­uct or prac­tice ensures that it is not a poten­tial health risk. maybe they didn’t have the sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge or tech­nol­o­gy to diag­nose can­cer in bib­li­cal times. 

There lots of nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring sub­stances that are poten­tial health risks depend­ing on the man­ner and fre­quen­cy of expo­sure.

Not try­ing to say that hen­na is guar­an­teed to do any­thing to any­one! But felt com­pelled to chal­lenge the log­ic of your argu­ment.

Leena

Can you read? She didn’t say it will give you can­cer. She said it can cause can­cer, there is a dif­fer­ence.

Talan

lol did you read what she wrote? She asked what you just said.

lola b

lol@ leena try­ing to be smart and end­ed up look­ing like a sil­ly mean girl instead! i didn’t know that hen­na could mutate dna. how freaky. in fact i’ve always seen it pushed as a con­di­tion­ing treat­ment with the added bonus of col­or­ing your hair. i’ve nev­er thought to com­bine it with oth­er ingre­di­ents either. how safe is indi­go, and where would one even get it?

anastasia

I got my indi­go from mehandi.com

(pur­chased the Hen­na for African Hair Black, which is sim­ply a pouch of hen­na and a pouch of indi­go-I did the two step process which turned out fab!)

aliya

Body art qual­i­ty hen­na is the only kind to use. It has no addi­tives and is safe. I get my hen­na from a web­site called mehandi.com where they sell pure hen­na with no addi­tives. They also sell hen­na attar, indi­go, and cas­sia which is also called neu­tral hen­na. They even have hen­na that is so fine­ly ground that its like pow­der, mar­ket­ed for African-Amer­i­can Amer­i­can hair, its won­der­ful! I have been using it for years on my Locs with no prob­lems.
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Jchemela
One of the rea­sons I love BODY ART qual­i­ty hen­na is that it down­turn have ppd. I love the stain you get and I can allow my 12 to use it in her hair with-out the same risk of oth­er she and con­di­tion­ers. If you are not get­ting a pow­der to mix you have the wrong stuff. Hey FYI Lucille Ball used hen­na to get the amaz­ing red col­or she had. I know I can’t go that red,I refuse to bleach, but whoa mama to be able to get that with­out strong chem­i­cal smells.….….YEEEES. Besides while your wait for your… Read more »
Dena

What exact­ly are you saying?.…gosh!

Bas Ura

Maybe it’s a bad trans­la­tion??? I under­stood her. I think “down­turn” = “doesn’t” and ppd may be refer­ring to the pico hen­na dis­cussed above. “12” refers to her 12 year old daugh­ter. Also, I didn’t know Lucy used hen­na. Thanks for the info, Jchemela!

Miosha74

YES, Lucille Ball used Hen­na in her hair, she was a nat­ur­al blonde…

byoteenapp
Para­phenylene­di­amine (PPD) is a chem­i­cal sub­stance that is wide­ly used as a per­ma­nent hair dye. PPD is a colour­less sub­stance that requires oxy­gen for it to become coloured. It is this inter­me­di­ate, par­tial­ly oxi­dised state that may cause aller­gy in sen­si­tive indi­vid­u­als. Reac­tion caused by the use of hair dye in mild cas­es usu­al­ly only involves der­mati­tis to the upper eye­lids or the rims of the ears. In more severe cas­es, there may be marked red­den­ing and swelling of the scalp and the face. The eye­lids may com­plete­ly close and the aller­gic con­tact der­mati­tis reac­tion may become wide­spread. Long term… Read more »
June

It does seem like a trans­la­tion issue. I think peo­ple can be so rude some­times; not every­one in the world is a native Eng­lish speak­er and this web­site is read by peo­ple around the world.

anastasia
=) big-ups to Bas Ura and June!!  With regards to top­ic: I do enjoy the results hen­na has pro­vid­ed. I’m a 4abc lady and hen­na has cer­tain­ly made my hair appear fuller but curl loss is not some­thing that I’ve expe­ri­enced in absolute terms (b/c I have more kinks than curls), but my hair is eas­i­er to man­age and much stronger.  I use to pur­chase hen­na from the local halal mar­ket and for a change recent­ly ordered from mehan­di, and OMGood­ness-what a dif­fer­ence!!! Rich­er stain, eas­i­er to rinse, and va va voom big ol hair! I do enjoy the appli­ca­tion process… Read more »
June

I have nev­er used hen­na alone, I have always mixed it with amla, brah­mi, maka and hibis­cus tea, and I real­ly like the results. I also haven’t expe­ri­enced any loos­en­ing of my curls, in fact it tight­ens sim­i­lar to when I do a pro­tein treat­ment. The mix­ture leaves me with shiny, stronger, and more tight­ly curled hair. I like it.

I only do it once a month, but I may need to look into the muta­tion thing.…..

JoJoFree

The amla is why your curls have not loos­ened. How much amla do you use? My curls were start­ing to loosen until I began to an amla. I use 2–3 TB. per 100g of hen­na.

June

I use about 33grams of hen­na (I have coarse hair so I am a lit­tle scared of using too much), and 25 grams each of amla, brah­mi, and maka. I also add a lit­tle hon­ey to that mix­ture.

Véronique

I have read that hen­na can cause an aller­gy to hair dye. But if you’re already a fan of hen­na and won’t change than you will not notice a thing. Oth­er­wise, think twice before dying.

The Natural Haven

This is only true for hen­na which con­tains a spe­cif­ic addi­tive known as PPD. It is referred to as pico hen­na or black hen­na. It can give a very severe aller­gic response

Pure hen­na itself very rarely caus­es aller­gic reac­tions. Body art qual­i­ty hen­na is what peo­ple should pur­chase.

Angie

Loos­en­ing of curls is what I need!

Jaeda Barbie

You would have to hen­na a lot to do that. I bet your nat­ur­al hair tex­ture is beau­ti­ful!

Anon

A tex­tur­iz­er would be more effec­tive than hen­na…

Minimalist Beauty

Actu­al­ly hen­na is much bet­ter than a tex­tur­iz­er! Tex­tur­iz­ers chem­i­cal­ly break down the hair cuti­cle while hen­na deposits con­di­tion­ers and strength to hair while weigh­ing down curls. Tex­tur­iz­ers also don’t give hair shine like hen­na. I’ve been using hen­na month­ly since March 2010.

Coco M

Lov­ing the Rajasthani hen­na I just used from Hen­na for hair! The dye trans­fer was amaz­ing. I used apple juice to mix it and used it the next day. Very high dye con­tent!

Goddezz

I am HIGHLY aller­gic to hair dye: tem­po­rary, semi, or per­ma­nent. I did a patch test with hen­na a few years back and had a bad reac­tion to it as well. I don’t know what ingredient(s)I’m aller­gic to. Does any­body know of any hen­na that would be con­sid­ered hypoal­ler­genic?

Kristina

I’m aller­gic to hen­na as well from a botched tem­po­rary tat­too. The ingre­di­ent that most peo­ple react from is abbre­vi­at­ed PPD. It is found in some arti­fi­cial hen­na to make it black (black ‘hen­na’ is actu­al­ly indi­go, real hen­na is red). That being said, mehan­di like was said before is a good start. If you don’t have the time to be mix­ing your own hen­na and what­not, just go for LUSH’s hen­na bars. Very effec­tive, and just as messy and nat­ur­al.

cygnet
If PPD was in your hen­na tat­too, it wasn’t body art qual­i­ty. In addi­tion to dark­en­ing the hen­na as you said, some hen­na artists will mix PPD into the hen­na to also inten­si­fy the stay­ing pow­er of the tat­too, because as well known as it is for stain­ing, the stain is quite tem­po­rary, and it seems to be more tem­po­rary on some body parts than on oth­ers. What hap­pened to you hap­pens to a lot of peo­ple because of unscrupu­lous artists mix­ing in PPD and not telling peo­ple it’s in there. It seems, from a cou­ple of arti­cles I saw… Read more »
Goddezz

I want black, I guess indi­go. Do you know if all indi­go has PPD? I’m research­ing online but I’m not see­ing any­thing in the ingre­di­ents. Also will henna/indigo fade dra­mat­i­cal­ly after every wash?

The Natural Haven

I do not know if you had a patch test with pure body art qual­i­ty hen­na. This type of hen­na should only con­tain the crushed leaves of the plant. Oth­er types of hen­na can con­tain var­i­ous addi­tion­al ingre­di­ents to inten­si­fy the colour. 

I have not seen any shop sell­ing the pure extract of hen­na i.e pure law­sone. If you could find that it would be just pure dye and you can patch test it to see if it works for you. 

All the best!

Goddezz

Yay!!! Thank you so much. I’ll def­i­nite­ly give that a try. Where would I find pure body art qual­i­ty hen­na? Any places online?

Maya

Use mehandi.com, that’s where most peo­ple get their pure body art qual­i­ty hen­na from!

Goddezz

Thanks. I’m shop­ping now. :)

Kator

hmmm … it sure has loos­ened my beloved coils a bit!

Jaeda Barbie

It def loos­ened my curls from 4a to 3c. But if I washed it a few times some of my 4a’s come back. The ben­e­fits of hen­na are too good. It has helped my hair and the health of my hair dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Curly Nik­ki is my inspi­ra­tion.

Jaeda Barbie

I am not giv­ing up my hen­na. Every week some­thing else is bad for you. I am a hen­na head and no way Im stop­ping:)

DD

+Infin­i­ty

Joyce

Please direct to where you have writ­ten about neu­tral hen­na, pros and cons.

Lizzie

Well, guess I’m just gonna have to be a mutant, cuz I am not giv­ing up the hen­na.

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