In the beginning
The history of Henna is as old as civilization itself. It was first discovered in Africa.
Since its discovery, it has been used for both artistic and medicinal purposes.
Common use is to create intricate designs on the body, typically done at parties or weddings.
Such designs are usually red and last up to a few weeks before fading away with time.
Fight off colds
Another popular way to use Henna is to mix with tea.
The tea helps with colds and other illnesses during winter.
Some tribes in Africa use this product for medicinal purposes, such as cures for stomach ulcers.
Evidently, Henna is good for you because it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
There has also been evidence that Henna may be beneficial in treating inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis).
Nevertheless, no studies have yet confirmed its effectiveness at either curing or treating either of these illnesses.
Today, Henna is used in various applications.
It can be made into cosmetics and hair dye products.
What is Henna?
Henna is a shrub with leaves, and possesses an orange-red dye molecule.
It is called Lawsone.
You can see this in young plants, and also on the centre vein of each leaf (petiole).
All leaves on the Henna plant have small fibres that create lots of Tannins.
Tannin is also found in grapes, cranberries, cacao and walnuts.
Which Henna do you use as hair dye?
Henna comes in three variants: natural, neutral and black.
Natural Henna will give you a brown color, unlike Neutral Henna, which only conditions your hair.
Black Henna is mixed with Indigo, or other dark colours to make it appear darker.
I will discuss this in detail later in the blog post.
How does chemical hair dye work?
Chemical hair dye works by opening the cuticle of your hair.
This allows the color to reach all the way through your hair.
The ammonia-based alkaline solution will damage your scalp and make it red and itchy.
This is not the best way to dye your hair, since it doesn’t work well for everyone.
Henna is non-toxic.
Synthetic hair dye is more toxic to your skin and hair. Henna does not open the cuticle, so it is less toxic.
When you put Henna on your hair, the special dye molecule Lawsone goes into the outside of your hair and binds with it.
It washes away after a few washes.
How does the molecule Lawsone work?
The compound Lawsone is made from a derivative of 1,4-naphthoquinone.
It reacts with the keratin in skin and hair to form a permanent stain.
The stain lasts until it’s shed.
Can Henna cover your grey hairs?
To cover your greys with Henna, follow the instructions carefully, so that you don’t stain your skin.
Rouge is applied first, and then layers of Henna are added.
Doing this will give more dimension to the colour, rather than covering all greys in one go.
This is not recommended for blonde tones anyway!
A lot goes into getting my grey hairs exactly right, so I’m glad there is something safe to use.
How well does Henna work for everyone?
Henna works differently on everyone.
Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it will work as well as other products.
It might not work as well for people with sensitive skin or allergies.
Always do an allergy test before using the product, if you think you might have allergies to Henna products.
How to use Henna for hair growth?
The active ingredient in Henna can balance your scalp’s pH level.
This will stop hair loss and treat scabies.
Watch this video on how to use Henna for hair growth for more details.
Pros and cons of using Henna
The risk of applying Henna is that it can only darken your hair, not lighten.
Each application will add another layer of colour and it cannot be used with chemical dyes or perms.
Wait at least a month after the last coloring or perming session before applying Henna.
Chemicals can react together in a way that is not beneficial when you use both products.
During the first 3 days after you put Henna on your skin, the color of the Henna may change.
This is because oxidizing chemicals in your body are contacted with Lawson molecules (pigment) within the leaves of the plant.
Benefits of using Henna
Henna is perfect for people looking for a budget-conscious way to dye their hair at home.
You can also use other things, like essential oils, if you want it to be vibrant.
Henna lasts longer because each strand gets dyed, but not the shaft, like some dyes do.
Most importantly, Henna is plant based, which means there are no synthetic chemicals in the dye.
Can you dye your eyebrows with Henna?
Henna brow powder is an excellent solution for people who struggle to design and fill in their eye brows, as it gives them a base shape to follow.
Will Henna work on curly or afro hair?
For curly or Afro hair, Henna has little effect.
But the process depends on your hair colour and how you use it.
Afros need more Henna because their hair has kinks in it.
If you have straight hair, then thicker mixtures will work for you.
Thinner mixtures do not stay on well.
Can you change colour after using Henna?
Be aware that some Henna brands have metallic salts.
Therefore, you can’t use chemical dye over it.
What you get is a chemical reaction that smells like burning hair.
Let your hairdresser know that you dyed your hair with Henna, if you decide to change colour or use a chemical hair dye.
Henna is unsafe to use on your hair if you have certain medical conditions or have a fever or cold.
You should also ensure your hair is tangle-free before applying the Henna.
Apply Vaseline to your skin to avoid staining.
When preparing the paste, wear gloves and use a metal dish to avoid staining.
Black Henna, is it safe?
Black Henna (usually used for temporary tattoos) does not contain any of the ingredients found in the Lawsonia Inermis plant.
It contains the toxic chemical paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which is added to speed up the drying process.
PPD is a chemical that produces rapid colours and can induce allergic responses or chemical burns.
It’s important to note that PPD isn’t present in natural products like Henna.
For this reason, people say “black Henna,” referring to hair colourants containing chemicals, rather than anything related to actual plants/herbs themselves.”
Freshly made Henna is the safest
For thousands of years, Henna tattoos have been an attractive and popular choice for tattooing the skin.
Yet, there is growing concern about some brands in the market, because they contain plenty of added ingredients that could be harmful to your skin.
Many businesses that sell Henna products don’t check for this, so before you buy one, make sure the Henna is organic.
Toxic additives added in Henna
Additives may be added to preserve Henna.
However, they put you at risk of skin reactions or expose you to carcinogens.
Does Henna have a shelf life?
Shelf life of natural Henna is short.
This is why producers add chemicals and preservatives to extend the life of Henna tattoos.
If a product says to keep frozen until used on the packaging, it’s an indication that it includes chemicals.
In the European Union, Lawsone is not permitted to be used as a non-oxidizing colourant in hair dye or other cosmetic items.
PPD (a chemical) is allowed in hair colours in the EU and USA.
Banned in USA & Canada
Throughout the United States, it is illegal to get temporary tattoos with PPD.
This also means black Henna tattooing is illegal.
Similar laws exist in Canada and other countries.
To sum up
I hope this blog post has answered all your questions related to Henna.
If you have any more, please leave them below, and I will try my best to answer them for you!
It’s always so rewarding when people take the time to read what I share with them.
So if you enjoyed this content, don’t forget to like it or share it on social media.
Also, make sure you’re follow me on FaceBook, where I share new articles every day.
- Study of colouring effect of herbal hair formulations on greying hair
- Therapeutic effect of Impatiens balsamina, Lawsonia inermis L. and Henna on androgenetic alopecia in mice – the study
- Study on Antimicrobial Efficacy of Henna Extracts
Disclosure: Just a Heads Up: My posts may contain affiliate links! If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a cent more, but I’ll get a small commission, which helps keep the lights on. Many thanks!
Disclaimer: These statements are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. They are for information purposes only. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. If you suspect that you have a medical condition, seek help from your doctor.