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plant  -  based hair color  -  henna

Information & tips about plant-based or natural hair colours and colouring hair with henna.

For at least 4000 years plant-based colour substances not only have been used to dye textiles, but also to colour hair. For centuries henna has been used to colour hair and body. Especially the use of henna has been extremely popular with the ancient Egyptian people. Henna is considered a "permanent" hair colouring product because it does not wash out with shampoo.

Lately most of herbal hair colouring products have been replaced by chemical based hair colouring products. Generally the public gives preference to natural hair colouring because of the natural ingredients.


More information about Henna

The red colouring paste is obtained from the Henna shrub (Lawsonia inermis) that grows in India, the Middle East, Northern Australia, South Asia and North Africa. Often the main ingredient of plant-based colouring products is henna (more about henna, see below) mixed with other plant dyes like indigo, camomile, senna, rhubarb, saffron or walnut. Henna protects the hair structure.

The so called colourless (green) Henna is a product of the Cassia obovata leaf. Also known as Senna obovata and is to be found in Egypt and Nubia. The normal henna refers to the red henna and will stain your hair red-orange. But this stain is translucent and will combine with your natural colour. Indigo is a plant that has a blue dye in it, but it has been marketed as black henna because it dyes hair black.

The colouring is reached by using a derivative of 1,4-Naphtochinon. If henna is mixed with a powder of the leaves of an indigobush (blue violet colour) special colours, from goldbrown until red and black, can be obtained. By using a camomile extract the hair turns into a golden yellow blond shade and it looks more vivid.

The lighter the hair the more intensive henna red becomes. Light blond hair can turn into a light orange tone and that's why blond hair is really less suitable for a henna colouring. On the other hand dark hair only turns into a light red glow. Besides that the factor time and origin of the hennapowder is of importance with regard to the colour intensity.

The red dye is created by shredding the leaves and twigs to form the paste. It is then mixed with hot water, then applied to the hair and left for a couple of hours. By varying the strength of the mixture, one can attain different shades of red, from a bright copper tone to a darker auburn colour.

Depending on your own hair colour henna can eventuall turn more orange than red. The lighter the hair the more intensive the henna red. Golden blond hair often turns into red-orange shades and therefore is not very suitable for using henna.

The best results can be obtained with people that have dark hair. It gives the hair a beautiful red shade. Obviously factors like the absorbing agent and the origin of the henna powder will also be responsible for the intensity of the final colour.

More tips for fine hair >>>

If you use the pure henna blondes will become a natural red colour, redheads will have a boost of colour, brunettes will have an auburn colour and those with 100 percent grey hair will only get orange hair. With the addition of walnut or coffee henna you can dey your hair brown. If you want to dye your hair blonde you can use henaa with the addition of chamomile, saffron or senna.

Technology has improved home hair colouring products, which also contain packets of deep conditioning lotion to prevent drying after colouring. So you can probably do a pretty good job colouring your hair yourself. However, there are times when it is advisable to see a professional colourist.



  • If colouring your hair for the first time carefully read the instructions and pay close attention to processing time. Henna remains in your hair for a very long time and the results can be unpredictable.
  • Henna gives orange colour on grey hair. If you have ten percent or less grey hair Henna will dye the hair so that it looks like you have highlights. If your hair is totally grey it can only be covered with a permanent tint. If you want to improve your natural grey shade you can use toning shampoos and conditioners that will remove any brassiness.

  • You'd better colour your hair with henna after having a perm. Please note that both colouring and perming your hair, even a few weeks apart form each oter, is ultimately damaging - you should never perm hair that has been double-processed.


Henna is safe!

Consumers might also want to consider using henna, which is largely plant-derived, or hair dyes that are lead acetate-based. These colourings don't fall into the coal-tar dye category and therefore any additive ingredients they contain have been tested for safety before marketing, in accordance with FDA requirements. Henna products on the market can give a range of colors, from dark brown through various reddish-brown and lighter red to reddish-blond shades. They cannot, however, lighten hair.

There has only been one recorded case of a life-threatening reaction to henna in the entire U.S., and that was when a henna hair product was used on the skin. Henna for hair has chemical agents that should never be left to soak into the skin. Therefore, henna may not be used on eye-lashes or eyebrows.

How to use henna at home

First read the instructions carefully. Mix the power to paste by gradually adding boiling water and leave to cool.

It is better to ask a friend to help you because it can really messy! Before you apply the henna to your whole head first test the mixture on a few strand of hair - check the timing results. You can also do a test on some hair from your hair brush! Apply to freshley shampooed, toweldried hair - do not forget to wear wear rubber gloves.

Cover your hair with a plastic/ shower cap and wait two to four hours - check your colour every 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly hair and scalp with cold water and make sure all the paste is out.