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, 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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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.

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 oil, olive… Read more »
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 I can’t… 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 ALERT —… Read more »
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!!

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.

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 rough­ness… Read more »
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

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.

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 hen­na.… Read more »
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 »
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.

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 »
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, but… Read more »
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