By Jarmelia of DIY Hair Care Blog 

Henna has some undeniable benefits for hair, which is why so many people use it and love it.

Some of these pros include:

1. Stronger Hair – The lawsone (dye) molecule penetrates the hair shaft, binding with the keratin in the hair. This makes hair stronger, but also is one of the qualities that makes henna removal near impossible. Henna also coats the hair and fills in rough spots on a frayed cuticle. This adds a second layer of strength, but it DOES NOT lock out moisture.

2. Smoother, Shinier Hair Henna, as stated above, does coat the hair, but it is a permeable coating that does not lock moisture out. The henna helps fill in rough spots on the cuticle. With the cuticle rough edges smoothed over, the hair feels smoother and the cuticle takes a lot less damage during combing and manipulation. It takes several days for Henna to stabilize. It becomes more flexible and durable as it oxidizes and cures–it is in fact a plant resin that is flexible and solvent enough to penetrate the hair at the cuticle, carrying pigment with it.

3. Non-Fading Red – Anyone that has used red chemicals dyes knows how badly they fade. Henna may fade a little after the first application, but after the second application fades very little.

4. The Absence of Chemicals – Chemical dyes are not only VERY damaging to hair, they can also cause scalp burns, allergic reactions, and recently studies have linked long term use to cancer. 

While there are benefits, there are also some drawbacks as well:

1. Application Process – Henna can be hard to apply evenly on your own, can be a huge mess, and is tiring on the arms and neck. It also has to be left on for a longer time than commercial chemical dyes (4-12 hours), so more time has to be slated for the process.

Henna for natural hair

2. Experimentation – To find your ideal mix, dye release time, application time, rinsing method, etc. all require some experimentation. It is not out-of-a-box color, and it may take some tweaking to find your ideal results. Your perfect color is never a guarantee.

3. Dry Hair – Some people report dry hair after using henna. It mimics a protein treatment and you MUST follow up with a moisturizing deep conditioner.

These may be pros for some, cons for others:

1. Loss/Reduction in Curl – Many users of henna report a loss of curl. This is by no means a universal effect, and should be neither discounted, nor counted on. It seems that wavies (s curls) are the most susceptible to this, though some curlies are as well.

2. Cannot Lighten Hair – Henna cannot lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna being darker than what is already on your head.

3. Darkening with Multiple Applications – Henna will darken with multiple applications. If one wants to keep a lighter color, only the roots should be touched up, and repeated whole-head applications will progressively make the color less orange and more burgundy.

4. Cost – Depending on your mix, how much hair you have and how often you henna, it may either be more or less expensive than chemical dyes. Though that doesn’t factor in one very important thing… the price your hair pays on chemical dyes. Many people find that they only need to do a full-length application one or two times, and the because henna doesn’t fade much, they can save a lot of cost by only redoing the roots.

5. The Smell – Some people love it, some people hate it, but the smell of henna lingers in your hair for awhile after the application, often reviving when your hair is wet. Some herbs, such as ginger, can be added to shift the smell of the mix, but nothing will eliminate it entirely. Most people feel it has a smell somewhat like grass or hay.

6. Variable Color – Henna can and does shift in color depending on the light the hennaed hair is placed in. The same head of hair can go from burgundy to firey copper, just depending on the light.

Where do other henna colors come from?

Go to any local health food store and you’ll see boxes and boxes of “natural” hair coloring products claiming to be 100% henna. Well, we know that henna only comes in red, so what gives with all the shades of brown and blonde and black? Many natural hair colors are a blend of henna, cassia, indigo, and other color enhancing herbs. Beware, though. Many “henna dyes” contain things other than herbs, that can SERIOUSLY damage your hair.

What is Neutral Henna (Cassia Obovata)?

Cassia Obovata is often referred to as “neutral henna.” It is not henna and it does not alter the color of hair greatly, though it may give more golden tones with repeated applications. It has similar conditioning benefits as henna, but they are not permanent, and they disappear without reapplication.

Are you interested in Henna? Have you ever used Henna? Did you like the results?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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54 Comments on "Is Henna Worth It? The Pros and Cons"

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Investigator
I am Caucasian, and just started using henna on my 62+ old long brown hair. I happen to love it! The first time I used it, I used just a regular henna, with no specific color indicated. It turned my gray hairs “reddish”, which looked a bit odd to me. Since I have never dyed my hair, the red was a bit too pronounced for me. The second time I did it, about a week later, I used a different brand, that was supposed to be dark brown. It certainly was, and it turned my dark brown hair almost black,… Read more »
breeezy1030
I have been using Henna for the past year and it does a good job creating bold burgundy that shows mostly in the light, however I have a good amount of grey so the died grey strands pop, creating a nice affect. It makes my hair stronger, and I need this benefit because my hair is having lots of breakage. I will continue to trim every 6-8 weeks and henna every 6-8 weeks as a colorant and as a conditioning, protien treatment. I mix with vinegar, olive oil, lots of Aussie Moist and green tea in place of water. I… Read more »
crisu

Is anyone worried about potential health hazards from henna? My husband googled it and found out that even though henna has been used for centuries in India and other places, there are elements of henna that are considered toxic and even carcinogenic. Apparently the longterm use of henna in many parts of the world has led to henna beeing allowed in the US and Europe, decpite its toxic content. I am no expert, so can’t say more about this, but it definitely made me think twice berore using henna on my daughters hair.

Dominique

I’ve been toying with the idea of applying a henna treatment but I’m deathly afraid of losing my curl definition! My hair is textbook 4a curlies with a splash of 3c at the crown–any pointers?

Tee
My daughter is a 3C w/3B in front, so we don’t want her curl pattern loosened there especially, but she loves the conditioning effect of henna – to combat it, I actually do a henna+conditioner application in the front with full henna going to the rest. It’s weird – I know, but since we’re roots only now (I did whole head probs 4x when we started), it’s easier. By overlapping (new growth for her is about 1/2″ monthly, so each time we roots-only apply henna, we do 1.5-2″ to ensure older new growth gets hit multiple times before they outgrow… Read more »
Amber
@Nina, I use henna and indigo for darker, black tones. The 2-step process works for me. No conditioner is added to the henna as the henna may not bind as well and that is what the indigo needs to really bind and color the hair. I apply the henna let it sit for 4-8 hours, rinse then apply the indigo. I add 1-2 tsp of salt for every 100g of indigo and it helps with stubborn greys. I rinse it out then DC and I’m good to go. Some people lie to do a 1-step process and get a deep… Read more »
Uli

@Amber

Why salt though? I’m thinking about henning,but I just keep reading articles about it,not sure yet. I do have greys also, but stubborn greys need salt to coat the strands.So there is a possibility that if I henna with Indigo that my greys will remain w/o salt?! That is weird,and this is the first time I have heard of this.

Amber
@Uli, Salt enhances the color uptake and retention when you use indigo alone on freshly “henna’d” hair. If you are doing a one-step process and mixing the indigo with (pre-mixed) henna, then the salt is not needed. The first time I used indigo, I used very little salt and the color didn’t hold well for very long, especially on my gray hair (turned deep burgandy color). The second time around, I used more salt and it held after rinsing and deep conditioning. The salt really did help with the gray hair. Indigo molecules are larger than the lawsone molecules in… Read more »
Nina

I want to achieve a black colour (1b) and cover grey. How do I do this? I tried henna once on a relative and it simply would not cover the grey.

DeeRose

I would use Henna more often, however, it takes out my forehead edges. Anyone have a solution for that.

Jovonne

maybe try adding castor oil to that area before and after the treatment, always works for me

Michelle
@Dananana I have used LUSH’s Caca Noir and found it to a an easy henna treatment. PRO: You just add water – and I also add two tablespoons of honey as well) – the indigo (which I buy to get black) is already added. Gives the few grey strands I have good coverage. It comes in a block of six cubes which gives you 2-3 applications depending on the length of your hair so I found it to be good value for money. It has shea butter mixed in so not too drying though I still DC afterwards. The CON:… Read more »
Dananana
Thanks for your reply! I just tried out the LUSH henna last night…and I loved it! It was wayyy easier to mix than packaged henna powder, though I did use a cheese grater to change the block into a powder (pshh, double-boiler–ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!). Also, unlike any of the other henna brands I tried, I didn’t need to DC 62581251481 times to keep my hair from turning into straw. I just DC’d once for 45 minutes with L’oreal’s Intensive Smoothing Conditioner (the slip made it great for post-henna detangling), and presto-changeo, my hair was super soft, no… Read more »
Dananana

Do any of you ladies have experience with using the pre-mixed henna from LUSH? I’ve applied henna before with mixed results (mostly good, my hair just HATES neutral henna), and I’m looking for a quicker, less messy application method. I just want to know if it’s worth it before I drop that kind of money on a hair product.

dae

I used Henna for 2 months in July – August of this year. I made 8 applications to my hair. I found that it didn’t change my hair colour (which is what I wanted), my hair texture changed – loss of curl and my hair was noticeably drier, even though I deep conditioned often.

I don’t like it and I am not sure when if I would do another treatment!!

Actually I googled an Aphogee alternative and I found (http://goodhairdiaries.blogspot.com/2011/11/alternative-to-aphogee-keratin-2-minute.html)so I did one treatment so far and I’ll use it to see if it strengthens my hair!!

Jo Somebody
I also love henna and have barely any cons. I use Hesh from an Indian shop that costs about £1.50 for a 100g box and I buy a few at a time. I think I use about 50g? It is called Mehandi because it is meant to be used for the body, so it is Body Art Quality and fine enough for me. I mix with Amla since this a) stops my curls loosening and b) provides the ‘required’ acidity instead of lemon juice or acv, both of which dry my hair out. I;ve never tried without something acidy so… Read more »
Jo Somebody
CON ALERT – I know it takes a dedicated 5-10 minutes of pure rinsing to get most of the henna off my hair. This wastes water and annoys relatives/flat mates. I then co-wash with a conditioner from the £1-shop a couple times. I could probably skip this and the excessive rinsing because of the coconut oil (‘always!’ lol), but why test it? I deep condition all day (if I washed the henna out in the morning) or all night (if I washed the henna out before bed) and baggy with the DC. My DC must never contain any protein. CON… Read more »
bride91501
I’ve been using henna once per month for 2 of the 2.5 yrs I’ve been natural, and it is the BEST thing I’ve done for my hair. My hair is stronger, healthier, and thicker than ever, and I owe much of that to including henna in my regimen. I noticed a difference in my hair’s strength after my very first application. I started heanna’ing for conditioning properties, so I don’t mind not getting much of a color change. I only have a noticebale red tint in the light 🙂 I make my mix with water, green tea, some conditioner, castor… Read more »
kyla
i guess im one of the few people to like henna. i dont find it too time consuming i’ll mix it all at once and freeze whatever i dont use for the next time. it doesnt take me long to apply and its not messy for me. i put it in before i sleep. in the morning shower and rinse. my ends were dyed red using a box colour over time the color has faded to copper. but the henna has really brought life back to my ends and to the rest of my hair because my hair already have… Read more »
Fredeline

Here in South Africa we love to use Henna. I use black Henna al my life,but what I do I mix my Henna with olive oil or any oil and then I wet my hair and than apply the Henna to my hair. The black colour stay in longer.

Beth

I love what henna does for me. I stopped because school has me too busy to henna. I’m at my wit’s end with my hair right now though – it’s thin and lifeless and won’t hold any style I put in. I wonder if i should start hennaing again, or if I should look for other methods to strengthen my thin strands.

Michelle@Radiant Brown Beauty

I don’t think henna has any real cons 🙂 Well, except the time. I found that it only takes my hair 2 hours to get a good stain though.

by the way Butters n Bars is having a henna sale. 25% off !

LaNeshe

I really love henna treatments.

Mayah

Hi,

I used Henna and I liked it,my hair was smooth and detangled. I mixed whith spirulina to add protein and used 1 time a month. My hair like it.

xoxo

Necey

I henna my hair using Lush’s Caca Marron. Yep, its a long process, but I just prepare for it. I deep condish my hair weekly anyway so that’s not a big deal either. I LOVE the results and haven’t noticed any loosening of my curl pattern. The color is a deep red/burgundy/brown in the sunlight, and my greys are golden highlights. Love it! Again, it all depends on what we want and what we’re willing to do. There’s no right or wrong answer.

Ang

That is right, there is no right or wrong answer. I love henna!!!

Zee

Can you describe your process and original hair colour? I am about a 1b in colour and I patch tested Marron overnight for about 8-12 hours. When I rinsed there was no colour at all and my greys were a dirty brownish colour but mostly still grey. I left the dye to release for about an hour prior. Another thing is, I do not live in a sunny climate. At this time of year in the UK it is dark when you awake and dark by 4PM. Does henna only show up slightly and in the sunlight?

La Nita
I have great results from henna. As some of the other ladies have stated, a good deep conditioning treatment will help your hair after any protein treatment, but I have read about ladies being protein-sensitive. If your hair is sensitive to protein treatments, henna wouldn’t work for you. I love it! My hair is very fine, and henna treatments have strengthened my hair considerably. As stated in the original post, after multiple treatments (only about 6 in the past 3 years), my hair is more of an auburn color, rather than the fiery red that I experienced after my first… Read more »
Treasure0806

Love my henna! It just takes forever to do – schedule an entire day.

Shahidah

I have a love/hate relationship with henna but more love than hate.
I love how strong my hair feels after its use. I love the color too. It seems to color in certain areas stronger than others but it looks natural like its where the sun hits most. I do not like the way it makes my grays brassy but the benefits outweigh the negatives.I sometimes look forward to the process because it makes me stay in the house and relax

XYZ

I’ve used henna a few times and it leaves my hair extremely dry. Not to mention that it’s extremely messy and takes forever to rinse out. I went to a professional to get my hair colored (the regular way) and my hair is doing fine. (I do steam treatments to maintain moisture whenever I wash/cowash my hair.)

Honestly, I don’t think that Henna is worth the hassle unless you’re simply against putting any chemicals in your hair. I’d suggest just going to a great professional for coloring to ensure you get the results you want and save yourself some hassle.

SB
When I first tried henna it made my hair dry too. I just did more research to find the best mix for my hair. I added coconut milk and honey and coconut oil to the mix and it came out great. It took more than two applications for me to get the desired color that I was looking for. It has helped me to retain length by strengthening my hair. I also add alma and brami for more conditioning properties. I buy my henna from the local indian market and it is inexpensive. I think natural is best, but if… Read more »
Nadege

Permanent dye destroys my hair. I have tried henna twice for gray coverage and both times not only was my hair super dry, I also got a major headache and nausea. I used the Godrej Nupur Mehendi brand with indigo.

I am willing to try one more time and was wondering how much of coconut milk, coconut oil, and honey to add in order to combat some of the dryness.

p.s. I did do a skin test and was not allergic to hennna although still clueless as to why it makes me ill.

Shanna
I say find a good protein treatment. It is cheaper, easier to find, & less trouble to apply. I did not see any difference between this and Henna so I stopped using Henna. If you want color, I would say do a rinse or go for permanent from someone you trust. Henna drys out some people’s hair like color drys out some peoples hair. You are going to have to deep condition the tar out of it anyway, why not do the permanent solution instead? Also, for some people, dye does loosen the curls a tiny bit the same way… Read more »
dani

I just started using henna. I decided to henna for conditioning properties–not coloring. I followed curlynikki.com method and it turned out great!. It wasn’t dry. My hair has an auburn tint to it but my hair feels great.

abiola
just like every other hair treatment, henna isnt for everyone. you have to consider the needs of your hair and what you want. i started using henna because of the colouring and curl loosening properties. my hair is already thick as it is so that wasnt important. i have come across many types of recipes some of which are quite extentive. with some recipes, you have to be careful because it could end up doing more damage than good. i have always mixed my henna with coconut milk and coconut oil and never had had issue with it drying my… Read more »
Shontell

I tried henna once and it turned my gray hair bright red. I could not do anything about it. Now I have hair that is half gray and half red…needless to say it looks like a mess. Plus it took forever to apply and rinse out. O was hoping I would love henna because I really want to be able to color my gray hair without all those chemicals. I do NOT think I will be trying henna again; I will go to the salon and get it colored.

Nikki

I know some women will FIRST color their lighter hair/greys with henna and then apply indigo over it to make the whole head black try this site: http://www.hennaforhair.com/freebooks/hennaforhair.pdf and look on page 41 :).

That site in general shows you how to tweak henna to get the color you need its awesome, I discovered it via curly Nikki.

A.J.

I have been transitioning for 8 months now and I don’t have any breakage. I truly believe that this is all due to henna. Of course I have shedding but I have yet to see spots where the hair is just gone. Which is really important to me since I’m just growing my hair. out. My two cents:)
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Sassy24

can you minimize the pic

A.J.

I don’t know how 🙁 techno fail

Kayla

I never tried Henna because it just seemed too messy and time consuming. I feel like I can receive the exact same benefits of Henna from a protein conditioner, just without the messy application and change in hair color.

Ebncurly

I mix my own henna + Indigo (natural no chemicals)…. I mix it w/organic apple cider vinegar and let it sit overnight. I mix w/moisturizer sometimes and apply from 8 – 10 hours. It’s been nearly a 2 year (every 2months) and my color is GREAT! I get many compliments. The few grays I have look golden-red and the rest of my hair is a rich auburn.

*henna lover*

Zee
The problem for me is precisely point 2. I do not get colour from henna. I have tried lush marron and a normal powder henna which was a mix of henna and indigo and have not got that cinnamon caramel colour I want. I have a few greys that are noticeable in out styles so… Does anyone know what I am doing wrong or is there a big brand box colour I could use that would give me the colour I want? I do not wish to bleach but is that what all these cinnamon/caramel headed naturals are doing? Also… Read more »
Joan B. in S. C.

Hi @Zee. If you’re still interested in henna, I would suggest doing some reading on the website http://www.mehandi.com. They give a lot of detailed information and photos of what henna can and can not do. As others have mentioned, it takes longer for the color to release in henna. I’m one of the people who makes it in the morning to use that night.

Loni
How long do you leave it on your hair? the longer you leave in on the greater the colour release (6 hours is when you receive the max colour release). And do you let it sit for awhile after pouring water on the powder or do you put the mixture straight on your hair? Also what type of henna do you purchase? Body art henna tends to be the most effective. I have naturally darkish brown hair and i’ve never bleached my hair, but i did find i noticed more colour after about 2-3 applications of henna, and now my… Read more »
Shanna
Also, the longer you leave it in, the dryer it makes your hair….so be careful…you may have to deep condition for days to make up for it…Henna did not give me much color either and I used the best there was out there. Also, the little color I got did not stick and I did multiple applications. I think it has to do with porosity and how well your hair absorbs things placed on it. Hair dye uses chemicals to open up the cuticles for penetration. Henna is natural so it is possible that your hair won’t open up enough… Read more »
Zee

Ok thank you both. Shanna, my hair rings true to what you’re saying. I must admit I only wait an hour for dye release. This stuff just doesn’t work on my hair. I think I may have to look into commercial dyes.

LaNeshe

You probably need to wait longer after you mix before you put it in your hair. I mix at night, go to bed, then apply in the morning.

Zee

Anyone?

Pat

No matter how long or with what I deep condition after a henna treatment my hair is dry, thirsty, extra crispy. Henna hates me

Creatividual

What does your mix consist of? You may have to just tweak what conditioning agents you are putting in your mix.

For the Love of Curls

May try the neutral henna done by a professional because Lord knows I do not have the patience for all that is involved.

AnonUK

Neutral henna doesn’t take as long as red henna. It’s half an hour to sit, up to a hour on your hair and then rinse. That’s it! There isn’t much need for a professional to do it…

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