Facts About Henna:
Forget the Black Stuff:
First off, be aware that henna is never black---it is always red. If you are considering purchasing henna that is black, think again. Black henna is outlawed in Canada. According to Madrasi.com, henna that is black is not henna---it is indigo. If you use it, your hair will turn black. However, because indigo is a natural colorant, it can be teamed with henna, but the powder will be red, not black.
Hennabee.ca explains that the black color comes from PPD (para-phenylendiamine), which is a chemical that is added to the henna paste or powder. PPD is used in some permanent hair dyes. It is also utilized to make printing ink, greases, gasoline and other black rubber products. It can enter the bloodstream via the skin, damage the liver and kidneys and have an effect on asthma. Henna is intended to be all natural and not contain chemicals. It is a semipermanent hair dye, according to Remediesdirect.com.
It Will Eventually Fade:
Henna will cover gray hair, but not totally. It will eventually fade away, although quite slowly. It will take about six months for it to disappear completely from your hair. You can reapply it about once a month. Henna will help condition your hair. It will not lighten your hair but, instead, highlight hair strands. The way henna will look on your hair depends on several factors, including how long you keep the henna on your hair. Your hair history, such as bleaching it or dying it black, will also impact the outcome.
According to Renaissancehenna.com, henna should not be used on anyone who is glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) enzyme deficient. Do not use on babies or children. If you are terribly anemic, do not use henna.
Lawsonia Inermis Warning:
Essential oils are included in most henna compounds, so it is especially good for dry hair. You can mix henna with eggs to soften and condition your hair. Some women mix it with vinegar, which also conditions your hair. If your hair is particularly dry, mix henna with water, milk and one or two egg yolks, and apply this composition to your hair once a month to make your hair softer and more manageable. If you have oily or normal hair, add eggs, water and lemon to the henna, and apply the mixture to your hair once a month, according to Madrasi.info.
Henna is the common name for Lawsonia Inermis, a plant that grows in southern Asia, northern Africa and the Middle East. This plant produces an aromatic blossom. The plant is harvested, and the leaves are carefully dried and crushed into a powder. This powder, which becomes a paste, is what is used for hair dye and for henna tattoos. –eHow
Pros, Cons & Other Effects of Henna:
Henna has some undeniable benefits for hair, which is why so many people use it and love it.
Some of these pros include:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 fiery copper, just depending on the light. –Curly Nikki
New York Times best selling author, keynote speaker and workshop leader, founder of The Gorgeous Girl's Guide, Steffans Publishing Enterprises, and Karrine & Co.