How much do I love thee, let me counts the ways………..
As I’ve previously mentioned in earlier posts, henna is my staple hair product. Everything else might come and go but not my henna. Henna is the one constant in my hair regime and for good reason. Firstly, lets look at exactly what henna is!!
So, what is Henna?
Henna, lawsonia inermis, is a plant. It is a large bush, or small tree, that grows in hot, dry climates. There is evidence from Egypt that henna was regularly used to dye hair five thousand years ago, and may have been used in Jericho as early as eight thousand years ago. Henna was used to keep hair healthy and to color gray hair.
The dye inside this plant produces a red/brown stain on skin and various hues of red on hair. Henna can’t lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna, being darker than what is already on your head. Actual henna powder is green as you can see below:
So whats the Pros, Cons & Other Effects of Henna?
Henna has some undeniable benefits for hair, which is why so many people use it and love it.
Some of these pros include:
- Stronger Hair – The lawsone (dye) molecule penetrates the hair shaft, binding with the keratin in the hair. This makes hair stronger, but also is one of the qualities that makes henna removal near impossible. Henna also coats the hair and fills in rough spots on a frayed cuticle. This adds a second layer of strength, but it DOES NOT lock out moisture.
- Smoother, Shinier Hair – Henna, as stated above, does coat the hair, but it is a permeable coating that does not lock moisture out. The henna helps fill in rough spots on the cuticle. With the cuticle rough edges smoothed over, the hair feels smoother and the cuticle takes a lot less damage during combing and manipulation. It takes several days for Henna to stabilize. It becomes more flexible and durable as it oxidizes and cures–it is in fact a plant resin that is flexible and solvent enough to penetrate the hair at the cuticle, carrying pigment with it.
- Non-Fading Red – Anyone that has used red chemicals dyes knows how badly they fade. Henna may fade a little after the first application, but after the second application fades very little.
- The Absence of Chemicals – Chemical dyes are not only VERY damaging to hair, they can also cause scalp burns, allergic reactions, and recently studies have linked long term use to cancer.
- Application Process – Henna can be hard to apply evenly on your own, can be a huge mess, and is tiring on the arms and neck. It also has to be left on for a longer time than commercial chemical dyes (4-12 hours), so more time has to be allocated for the process.
- Experimentation – To find your ideal mix, dye release time, application time, rinsing method, etc. All require some experimentation. Some people use lemon or other acidic agents to get color release. Your perfect color is never a guarantee.
- Dry Hair – Some people report dry hair after using henna. It mimics a protein treatment so you MUST follow up with a MOISTURISING deep conditioner.
These may be pros for some, cons for others:
- Loss/Reduction in Curl – Many users of henna report a loss of curl. This is by no means a universal effect, and should be neither discounted, nor counted on. It seems that wavies (s curls) are the most susceptible to this, though some curlies are as well.
- Cannot Lighten Hair – Henna cannot lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna being darker than what is already on your head.
- Darkening with Multiple Applications – Henna will darken with multiple applications. If one wants to keep a lighter color, only the roots should be touched up, and repeated whole-head applications will progressively make the color less orange and more burgundy.
- Cost – Depending on your mix, how much hair you have and how often you henna, it may either be more or less expensive than chemical dyes. Though that doesn’t factor in one very important thing… the price your hair pays on chemical dyes. Many people find that they only need to do a full-length application one or two times, and the because henna doesn’t fade much, they can save a lot of cost by only redoing the roots.
- The Smell – Some people love it, some people hate it, but the smell of henna lingers in your hair for awhile after the application, often reviving when your hair is wet. Some herbs, such as ginger, can be added to shift the smell of the mix, but nothing will eliminate it entirely. Most people feel it has a smell somewhat like grass or hay.
- Variable Color – Henna can and does shift in color depending on the light the hennaed hair is placed in. The same head of hair can go from burgundy to firey copper, just depending on the light.
- Where do other henna colors come from? Well, we know that henna only comes in red, so what gives with all the shades of brown and blonde and black? Many natural hair colors are a blend of henna, cassia, indigo, and other color enhancing herbs. BAQ Henna only comes in red. It can be mixed with *Indigo to produce shades of brown through to raven black.
- *Indigo, Indigofera tinctoria: Indigo powder is from the ground leaves of the indigo plant which contains a deep blue dye used for centuries for textiles including the original blue Levi Strauss jeans! The leaves are harvested, dried, and ground into a powder for use in textiles, arts, and as a natural hair colorant.
- Warning: Indigo, used on its own, can make light coloured hair green or blue.
So why do I lurve Henna??
I love henna for the Strength, Shine and Color it gives me simply put……
My hair doesn’t feel as ‘delicate’ after using henna and whoever said afro hair is dull and doesn’t shine, is clearly mistaken. I also love the color it gives my Grey/Silver hair and the over all red sheen I get in the rest of my hair which is noticeable, not just in day/sunlight but in every light.
In an additional post, I will list how I mix my henna and which brand I purchase etc. I’m actually due to do my monthly henna at the end of the week so I may just take some pics and post em.