By Tuere Randall as seen in OceanSplash!
If the warm, rich colors of autumn’s changing foliage are inspiring you try a new hue for your “do” this season, but you have been a bit apprehensive about using store bought hair color formulations due to all the chemicals, you might want to consider giving a henna treatment a try.
Henna is a great alternative for a few reasons, one being that it’s a much more natural alternative to hair coloring (well, we’ll revisit this below) and, unlike most traditional dyes, it can actually be strengthening to the hair, rather than causing the damage associated with some coloring methods. The pigment molecules in henna bind to the hair shaft, filling in gaps where hair might be porous, thereby reinforcing the hair shaft and adding thickness.
Even though henna has a number of great benefits to improving hair health, there are some tips you need to know so that you don’t end up having any mishaps should you decide to give henna a try.
- Do Your Research First.
There are tons of excellent resources on the web if you’d like to read other people’s experiences and see what they’ve mixed into their henna to make it as nourishing to the hair as possible (an acidic liquid such as tea, lemon or lime juice is a must because that’s what causes the color to release, but many people add coconut oil or milk as a natural softener).
- Not all Henna is the Same.
When looking for a henna, most hair sites and bloggers recommend sticking to body art quality henna. This is the kind made specifically for use in body adornment art. Body art quality henna does not contain the metallic salts that are added to many varieties of henna sold off the shelves at beauty supply stores. This is particularly important if you have relaxed hair. Applying henna that has metallic salts or other chemicals added to it may cause a chemical reaction with relaxed hair that will cause the hair to disintegrate. Which brings me to the next tip …
- Do Not Mix Your Henna in a Metal Bowl.
For the reasons mentioned above, to avoid any potential unforeseen chemical reactions, it’s best to use a ceramic or plastic bowl to mix your henna.
- Do A Strand Test.
Don’t skip this step if you have never used henna before, especially if you have chemically treated hair. While body art quality henna is recognized as safe for relaxed hair, you’d rather be safe than sorry. Also, because there are so many variations in how henna might take to your hair, you can test out the color on small area to see if you like it before proceeding. Also, some people have reported that henna alters their curl pattern, slightly loosening the curl or kink in their hair. While some people actually use henna for this reason, others don’t like the effect on their hair, so it’s good to know beforehand if henna will have that effect on your hair.
- Wear Old Clothes and Have Gloves on Hand.
Like curry, henna is highly staining. Take great care in the bathroom not to stain ceramic tiles and grout. Likewise, make sure you wear gloves to prevent discoloration of your fingernails, old clothes, and put up anything you don’t want to be ruined. Applying henna to your hair is messy business!
- Cheap Conditioner is Your Friend.
Henna acts as a protein in the hair so it can leave hair feeling really dry. One way to combat the dryness is to smooth copious amounts of conditioner throughout the hair during the rinse out process. This helps to combat the grassy smell often associated with henna, as well as facilitating the detangling process. You’ll be washing a lot of this down the drain ultimately, so I’d go with an inexpensive drugstore favorite that has a lot of slip.
- End With a Deep Moisturizing Treatment.
To restore the moisture balance to your hair, treat your tresses to a moisturizing deep conditioning treatment. Your hair will thank you.
- Set Aside Enough Time For Henna Day.
A good amount of prep goes into using henna. Some people let their mixture sit overnight. Some even leave the henna in their hair overnight as well (make sure you have your hair wrapped up in plastic wrap to protect your pillows and sheets). Depending on your hair texture, detangling might also take some time. Try to make sure you have time you can devote to yourself with limited interruptions.
Whatever you decide, using henna in your hair can be a very rewarding experience. Go with the flow. You got this!