What is Henna?
Henna powder comes from the, dried and powdered leaves of the lawsonia inermis plant found in hot, dry climates. The red dye molecule, lawsone, in henna penetrates the hair shaft and binds to the keratin in the hair, making it stronger. It also fills in gaps in the cuticle of the hair shaft making it smoother which in turn makes the hair appear shinier. Henna is also known to cure dandruff because of its anti-fungal properties. So for naturals who suffer from time to time with it this is a great natural alternative to harsh, drying shampoos.
How to Prepare
100-200 grams of henna (usually 100 grams for medium length hair and 150-200 grams for longer hair)
½ - 1 cup of warm water
½ -1 cup of lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons of honey/sugar
a plastic spoon
- a plastic or glass bowl
(Do not use a metal spoon or bowl as this could affect the colour)
Place your henna powder in the bowl.
Add the lemon juice to the warm water in a one to one ratio and stir.
Add the warm water and lemon juice mixture to your henna powder slowly adding a little liquid at a time and mixing until the mixture resembles smooth mashed potatoes.
Place a lid or cling-film over your bowl and place it in a warm area of your house overnight to allow the red dye to be released from the henna.
After 24 hours have passed add 2-3 tbsp of honey or sugar to your mix and stir. This should make the mixture smoother which will make application easier.
Your henna is now ready to use by sectioning your hair and smoothing the paste on. Do not attempt to rake the henna through your hair as it is really thick and provides no slip whatsoever. Remember to use gloves for this step as henna will dye your hands orange but don’t worry it’s not permanent and it should fade in under a week.
To cover your head you could wrap your hair around it then cover your hair in cling film to trap your body heat to encourage more dye release and prevent the henna from dripping. However, if you dread using cling film because of its finicky nature then an alternative is to use a shower cap, cotton balls and a head scarf. Use the shower cap to cover your head and tuck cotton balls around the perimeter of the shower cap to catch any drips. Then wrap your head with a scarf to keep it all in place.
You should leave the henna on your head for no less than 4 hours to get all the benefits and for good dye release. However, many curlies sleep with henna ensuring that they use the old pillow shams that week of course.
To rinse the henna one of the best methods I have come across is to fill a bathtub with water and dip your head inside and gently massage the henna out of your hair. Then run your head beneath the stream of your bathtubs faucet. Thereafter, wash the henna out with conditioner until the water runs clear and there are no visible traces of henna left in your hair. It is important that you use conditioner and not shampoo for this step as most curlies experience dryness after a henna session so multiple shampoo washes on already dry hair could create tangles that nightmares are made of.
- Some people experience dryness after henna so you might want to do a moisturizing deep condition then feel free to style your hair as usual.
Please note that the henna process can be a messy one so for your first few attempts you might want to put some newspaper on the floor and your countertops. Also you might want to wrap your shoulders with an old towel to prevent any splotches that fall on you from giving you leopard spots.
Also remember that left over henna can be stored in an airtight container and frozen for up to 5 months for future use.
5 more ways to use henna
To take your henna session to the next level and get the most out of it you can add 1 cup of your favorite deep conditioner or regular conditioner to your already prepared henna mix. This treatment will not only give you the benefits of henna but will allow you to distribute it easier, will cut down rinsing time and avoid the drying effect you get right after the henna is rinsed out.
For curlies who fear the acidity of lemon and what it could do to your hair, you can substitute gentler green tea instead which is slightly acidic and still effective at bringing out the red color of henna. To use it simply substitute it for the warm water and lemon juice.
Hibiscus to increase red
If you're really looking to make those curls pop with a red tint then why not add hibiscus petal powder to your henna mix. To use it mix about 3 tbsp of hibiscus powder for every 100 grams of henna in your bowl and thoroughly combine the two powders before adding your water and other ingredients.
Amla to reduce curl loosening
Henna does have a curl loosening effect for some women so if you're worried about that then don't write off henna just yet. Adding amla to your henna mix can counteract its loosening so you won’t feel like you got an accidental texturizer. To do this substitute 1/4 of your henna powder for amla powder. Also if you do use amla you won’t need to use lemon or any other acidic liquid as the amla is already acidic.
Hope this helped naturalistas and as always remember to have love, peace and curly haired bliss! For more curly mixology recipes, or to share your own favorite at-home treatments, go to our Recipes section.