This weekend, I spent several hours with mud on my head.  Well, to be honest, it’s henna, which looks and feels like green mud, and smells like fresh hay.  I do this every few months.  Call me crazy, but I’m in love with henna—  it gives my brown hair slightly reddish tones; turns all my white hairs to red; is non-toxic, as opposed to commercial hair dyes; is cheap; is an easy do-it-yourself project; and it actually strengthens and protects hair, making it healthy and shiny.

I’ve been using henna for many years now, ever since I found this cool, informative and helpful website, Henna for Hair.  They explain all the who-what-why-when-wheres of henna, sell henna that is pure and tested from sources around the world, and have a forum where any and all questions are answered quickly.  They also have other henna-like products to naturally dye hair non-red colors, like indigo for black,  amla for brownish tones, cassia obovata for blonde.

It takes a little getting used to, but it really is quite easy.  First there’s mixing the powdered henna with liquid– lemon juice is usually recommended (just cheap bottled lemon juice).  The green goo needs to sit overnight for the dye to release.  I wash my hair, change into an old shirt, and put on some tunes.  In about 20 minutes, I’m covered.  Usually, I just do my roots, applying the henna with brushes from a beauty supply store.  This time I did my whole head.





In which I do, indeed, shamelessly look like a dork

The henna needs to stay moist for 3 hours, so I wrap my head with long sheets of plastic wrap.  Since I have little white hairs that show up right above my ears, I thickly coat my “side burns” with henna, and use a strip of plastic wrap going from ear to ear, under my chin (looks dorky, but otherwise this area dries quickly and the henna doesn’t penetrate).

I cover my whole crinkly space-alien head with a bandana, to hold it in place and look a bit more normal.  My family doesn’t even bother to taunt me anymore… they are used to it too!

This time, because I knew I’d want to slop the henna on with my hands, I wore latex gloves.  Henna will stain your hands or face– like the skin at my sideburns area– but the stain fades within just about 2 days.  I scrub the stained portions of my face with alcohol wipes and it’s hardly noticeable.

After 3 hours, I peel off the plastic wrap and hop in the shower.  It takes some work to get the mud out.  I rinse with warm water a lot first, then use shampoo and rinse.  And then… ta da!

Beautiful reddish-brown hair, all my grays covered!  This is how it looked the next day… note that the color oxidizes and changes a little after the first 3 days, slightly less brilliant.

If there’s leftover henna, I freeze it to reuse next time.

Note:  henna (and the other natural dyes) add color on top of your own hair color– it can’t lighten your hair.  To find out what color you would get, or how to achieve a color you want, it pays to read the Henna for Hair website and ask questions on the forum.


So that’s my little story about henna.  I’m a do-it-yourselfer, so I enjoy the process, and I like that it’s cheap and I can do it without having to schedule an appointment.  I love the results–  in fact, I find that I’m not minding about the gray hairs– the more I have, the redder my “highlights” will be!  Henna is permanent, won’t fade, and isn’t affected by chlorine, so I don’t have to worry about the water exercise classes I’m taking.

I hope you’ll forgive me for being a henna evangelist.  I know it’s not for everyone, but I do think that more people need information about this ancient, natural beauty product.  It’s an overlooked alternative to toxic commercial dyes or going gray (and going gray if great if that’s what someone wants, but I often hear women unhappily going gray because they are tired of the costly stylist appointments).

Thanks for following me on this picture-story of henna-ing my hair… it’s amazing to see what a little green-goo mud can do!