Do it naturally: Dyeing your hair with henna

Plenty of you are familiar with this feeling: “I’m bored with my hair color, I need a change!”

Normally when this happens, you either head to the salon or a pick up box of hair dye from the drugstore to perk up those tired tresses, right?

But, hey, have you ever thought about dyeing your hair with henna instead?

What is henna?

If you’ve heard of henna, it’s most likely that you know it as the long-lasting temporary tattoos that people paint on their hands and feet in intricate designs – which is correct.

But there’s more to henna than just that.

Henna is the name of a flowering plant that grows in arid climates, native to North Africa, Southern Asia and other tropical areas.

For centuries, its leaves have been crushed and mixed with liquid to be used as a dye.

In addition to dyeing fabrics, henna also has been utilized to dye hair, color fingernails and paint the skin for ceremonial purposes, such as Hindu weddings.

Today, henna is sold in a powdered form and used for tattooing or hair dyeing.

Its color typically is reddish-orange, although it can be combined with other herbs like indigo to create different colors.

Why use henna?

If you’re striving to have healthy hair, it’s best not to use chemical dyes, since they strip strands of moisture and damage the cuticle.

Also, since many permanent dyes contain ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, they can dry out your hair and cause scalp irritation.

Henna, unlike chemical dyes, is actually good for your hair – it conditions your hair while it colors it, leaving you with silky, thicker-feeling hair.

It’s permanent, so it will give your hair a vibrant color and last as long as any other permanent dye.

It’s also fairly cost-effective, since it’s roughly as expensive as buying a normal boxed dye.

I ordered my henna from, a site that allows you to choose from several different shades of henna, including less-red indigo colors. For a neat packet that included gloves and a cap, it cost me less than $10.

How do you use it?

Henna hair dye comes in a powder or easy-to-crumble bar form with mixing instructions, whi-ch usually say to combine it with water until it reaches a mud-like consistency.

Henna truly looks, feels, and smells a lot like mud when mixed with water.

This thick mixture is applied liberally to hair until everything is coated.

Then hair is either wrapped in plastic or put into a plastic cap, which is left on for at least two hours.

This is one downside – henna needs to be left on hair longer than other dyes, and its natural “mud” smell can become gross after a while.

But the longer you leave it on, the deeper the color and the better the conditioning.

Afterwards, just rinse the henna out of your hair, condition it and then blow it dry, since the heat helps to activate the color-changing process.

What are the results?

After drying your hair, you will see an immediate difference in the color. However, this color is not precisely what the permanent color will be.

Henna actually develops its true shade over 48 hours after application. Some people notice odd undertones like blue or green before it fully develops.

For example, my hair was immediately darkened with purple undertones, but after it fully developed, it was much redder.

In general, henna dye maintains your natural highlights and lowlights.

You also will notice that your hair feels softer and looks shinier in the days after you use henna.

Don’t be surprised if there’s still some of the henna rinsing out in the shower during the next few washings, either.

Henna is a cost-effective, natural and beautiful way to dye your hair.

It’s been used for centuries, and still stands up to the test of time.

Why not give it a try the next time you feel like changing your look?

Motter, a native of Jersey Shore, is a Lock?Haven University graduate. Her column is published on the third Friday each month.

She may be reached at