Everything You Need To Know About Benefits Of Henna for Hair Growth
If you are looking for a way to get your hair to grow quickly, there are many different products out there that you can try. Some of those products are natural; the vast majority of them are not. In fact, many of them contain so many chemicals that when you look at the bottles, you aren’t too sure what you are looking at.
Do these products really help you? If you’ve tried one after the other to no avail, you know that they often don’t deliver on their promises. In fact, all too often they actually end up making your situation worse. This is why you may want to try a more natural solution. One of the best all-around from my personal experience is henna.
What is Henna?
Henna is best known as a hair dye. It has been used for centuries by people around the world to give hair a coppery tint. The dye is derived from a plant called Lawsonia inermis. Colloquially, most people simply refer to the plant as the “henna tree,” or even just “henna.”
You may also be familiar with henna from Indian body art. Henna is used to create elaborate temporary tattoos on the skin, especially on the hands. This is a traditional custom for weddings and special events. Henna doesn’t need to call for a special occasion, though; many people love to use henna throughout the year. It is a beautiful, fun, creative, and unique way of creating art.
Is Henna Safe?
Henna is probably the safest dye you are ever going to find. Think about it for a moment. It’s totally natural. It contains only one ingredient, and you know exactly what it is. There are thousands of years of traditional use behind it. It’s safe enough to put on your skin, which means it is plenty safe to put in your hair. In fact, you can even dye your roots and let henna get on your scalp without a problem. You don’t even need to worry about wearing gloves while you dye your hair if you don’t mind your nails being slightly yellow for a couple of days.
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What Color Will Your Hair Turn If You Dye It With Henna?
First things first. Since henna is a hair dye, it is only a suitable solution for hair growth if you are also willing to change your hair color. Using henna is a big decision, because henna is probably just about the most permanent hair color you are ever going to discover. Over time, it does fade gradually, but you can expect it to have a strong effect for many months.
Henna always dyes hair with a coppery tint. The exact color that you get will depend on your original color going into the dying process. If you have light blonde hair, your color after henna will usually be a bright reddish orange. If you have a darker color of blonde or brown, you will usually get a deep copper or auburn hue. If you have gray hair, you can use henna too to cover up your grays!
The brand of henna you buy and the crop which is used will also alter the color you get, though not a whole lot. My two favorite brands are Mehandi and Raj Red. I get a slightly different color with each of these. My hair is dark blonde, and with both I get a coppery auburn. The Mehandi dye gives me a color which is more of a fiery orange, whereas the Raj Red gives me a color that is a little cooler on the spectrum, closer to actual red, but still more on the orange side. I love both of these colors.
One more thing to mention about hair color and henna is this: there are no other colors of henna. Henna is an herb which always produces a coppery color! You will see all kinds of different “henna colors” from certain companies. These are mixes which contain some indigo or other herbs, and sometimes even chemical dyes. So be aware that these are adulterated products. Avoid them if you want to avoid chemicals.
What about products that only contain a mixture of henna and indigo? There is nothing wrong with these; they are safe and all-natural. I would caution you however that indigo is known to fade more quickly than henna. So the color you get in the beginning is going to be quite different than the color you end up with over the long term. Quite often the indigo fades quickly and you are left with just the henna.
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On that note, one more thing to mention about benefits of henna for hair color is that when you first apply it, you can expect it to be very bright and vivid. If this concerns you, just ignore it. A few days of oxidation and the color will tame down quite a bit. Give it a couple of weeks and you will see roughly what the long-term color will be. My hair starts a bold, dark coppery red, and then tames down to a kind of brownish auburn. Personally I actually prefer the initial color, but that’s just me. A lot of people report that they much prefer the long-term color of their henna over the initial vivid hue.
Benefits of Henna as a Hair Growth Conditioner
Let’s say you are happy with the idea that your hair will be a coppery shade after you use henna on it. Now you probably want to know what the benefits of henna are going to be for the health of your hair! After all, that is the main reason you are interested in using it.
Most people who use henna are interested first and foremost in changing their hair color. The conditioning effect is looked at as a secondary benefit. That was certainly how it was for me when I first got started with henna. I was excited to have something I could use to change my hair color. I never liked my original color at all, and the coppery tone of henna suits me so much better.
I have to say, however, having used henna for several years now, the conditioning effect to me has actually been as remarkable as the color change. In fact, in some ways it’s my favorite thing about henna. It just has a spectacular effect which you have to see to believe.
This was what my hair was like before henna:
- Dry and scraggly: As I have often joked, my hair had about the same texture as tumbleweed. I hated it, and nothing I tried ever seemed to fix it. It just looked and felt awful no matter what I did.
- Dull and colorless: Okay, this in part has to do with the fact that my natural color was pretty colorless to begin with, but it also has to do with the fact that my hair just had a dull quality about it. It had no shine.
- Weak and damaged: My hair has always been very fine, which has made it prone to damage my whole life. Before henna, I had more split ends than you can imagine. My hair was always breaking. This was one of the reasons it had such a scraggly texture.
- Slow-growing: My hair before henna grew very slowly. Actually, I remember a lot of years where it didn’t seem to grow at all, even though I never trimmed an inch. This probably came back in large part to how damaged it was. The ends kept splitting. Even though it was growing at the scalp, it was falling apart before reaching its real terminal length.
This is what my hair is like with henna:
- Soft, silky and smooth: With henna, I finally could say goodbye to flyaway hairs! There is this stuff called Biosilk that has long been my one guilty pleasure when it comes to chemical hair products. It’s designed to tame flyaway hairs and give your hair a smooth silky shine. It works great, but it is nothing compared to what henna can do for you.
- Saturated with color: Not only does henna give hair a beautiful color, but the shine really helps to bring it out. My hair is no longer dull at all.
- Strong: Since I got started with henna for hair, my hair has been so much stronger! It is no longer weak and damaged, and I have a lot less split ends than I ever did before. I still trim my hair every few months to get rid of the ones I do find, but the problem is much more under control now. My hair feels stronger and holds up better to combing and washing.
- Fast-growing: Because my hair is so much stronger, it also grows much faster now. I usually cut off about an inch when I do my trims to get rid of split ends. My hair grows back to the previous length after a few months. I must be right around my terminal length, but I’ve discovered that length is at least a couple of inches longer than I believed before.
Henna’s Magical Effect For Hair Growth
Okay, henna isn’t really magical, but when you wash it out and your hair dries for the first time after your initial application, you will sure think it is. I really cannot even begin to adequately describe the amazing conditioning effect that henna has. You know those ads for expensive hair care products on television where you see the model’s hair in slow motion, and her hair is so shiny and smooth and perfect that you can’t get over it? And then you think, “No one’s hair ever really looks like that?”
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My hair looks like that for the first couple of days after henna. It looks pretty awesome for the couple of weeks following that too, actually. After that, the effect dwindles considerably. Basically, henna leaves a temporary coating on your hair. The coating washes out after a couple of weeks, but you’ll always have some of the effect left over. Your hair will stay smooth, strong, shiny, and manageable for months after you apply henna. But the first couple of weeks, it’s like you have super-hair.
Henna’s hair conditioning benefits include:
- Making your hair smooth and silky and taming flyaways and frizz
- Strengthening weak and fragile hair so that it does not break as easily
- Preventing split ends
- Giving a volume and body boost to your hair
- Bringing a shiny, beautiful sheen that is almost impossible to describe
- Antibacterial and antifungal conditioning for your hair and scalp
- Helping your hair to grow faster by creating healthier scalp conditions and strengthening the hair shafts
That’s right, henna can kill harmful bacteria and fungi which are responsible for skin infections, itchy scalp, and dandruff! Here is one study which concludes, “Henna leaf extracts have antimicrobial activity on the bacteria responsible for the common skin infections. Alcoholic and oily henna extracts have similar effects to some of the antibiotics commonly used in clinical practice.”
Another good page to read up on henna research is here. This is the webpage for Catherine Cartwright-Jones, PhD. Dr. Cartwright-Jones runs The Henna Page, one of the most comprehensive online resources for henna. She has published a number of scientific articles on henna, so her work is another good starting point to learn more about the science behind the herb.
Is Henna Right For Your Hair?
You may be wondering whether henna is a good choice for every hair type. Henna is actually one of the most versatile hair care treatments in existence. Unlike a lot of commercial products which say they are only good for certain hair types, you can use henna no matter what the texture of your hair is. If you have straight hair, henna will make a great conditioner. The same goes if your hair is wavy or curly. Henna even works wonders on kinky hair.
Reading the benefits above, you may have noticed I mentioned volume and body. Henna does impact the texture of your hair, usually by giving it that little extra lift which is great for styling. Note however that if your hair is kinky, there is a chance that henna will loosen up the coils.
Can Henna Be Used with Chemical Hair Products?
Generally speaking, it is perfectly safe to use henna in conjunction with any natural or chemical hair products that you want. You can even combine henna with other hair dyes if you want. Layering them can be a lot of fun.
That said, I am talking about body-art-quality henna, sometimes called just “BAQ” henna for short. This is henna which is suitable for putting on your skin. Consider it code for, “actually safe and 100% natural henna.”
Henna not marked as BAQ is often adulterated, and may or may not contain other compounds. What you want to watch out for are henna products which contain metallic compounds. These compounds can be found in certain commercial chemical hair dyes as well. The problem with them is that they react if you mix them with any hair product which contains an ammonia activator.
If this happens (and this is a risk when mixing many commercial hair products as well, even ones that have nothing to do with henna), results may vary, but they are never what you want. Your hair could turn green, or it could get kind of “fried” and brittle. Worse, it might melt. Yes—I said melt.
Stick with the brands I mentioned earlier or another reputable brand that sells BAQ henna, and you will be safe from this kind of problem.
Is This Chemistry Class, Or What?
When you first start reading up on henna, you may find yourself feeling daunted by a lot of what you read. Many people love to share their elaborate henna recipes online, enhanced by a variety of herbs. Others complain about henna application being a messy, smelly process which takes a long time to complete. Still others give you endless cautions about metal and chemical reactions and warn you of a hundred disasters should you get it wrong.
Reading this stuff, you can start to feel like you are in chemistry class. But it isn’t really that complicated. Henna is so amazing for hair growth and conditioning, and I feel like a lot more people would use it if they were not so intimidated by what they read. It took me years to gin up the courage to try it (or buy it—henna is also less expensive than it appears to be, more on that in a little bit).
Now I wish I had tried it a long time ago. I would have been using it all this time. So I am going to give you a quick and easy rundown of instructions to get you started. That way you will not feel intimidated to give henna a try.
5 Steps to Conditioning and Dying Your Hair with Henna
1. Start by purchasing BAQ henna
Actually, this is the perfect time to discuss cost. I avoided buying henna for ages because online I saw endless recommendations that I needed about 600+ grams of henna to color my hip length hair. In reality, what I need is just 100 grams. So henna is very affordable for me. It lasts a long time, and actually gives me much better coverage than commercial dye. You may need more for thicker hair, but probably not much. The point here is, 100 grams of henna is much cheaper for me than three boxes of commercial dye. That is about what I would need if I wanted to dye my hair with chemicals.
Plus, you are getting a two-in-one deal here! You are buying both a hair dye and a fabulous hair growth conditioner, all for one very reasonable price. Contrast that with what chemical dyes do to your hair—just about the opposite of conditioning.
2. An hour before dying your hair, mix your dye
This is the part the whole internet makes sound really scary. No, it really isn’t that complicated. Get a non-metallic bowl and a non-metallic spoon. Pour in the henna powder and mix in a combination of water and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. I use them in a 1:1 mixture. It doesn’t matter all that much whether you use vinegar or lemon juice, you just need something acidic. This is what causes the dye to release. The vinegar is cheaper, and it works well.
You want to mix these three things until you get a consistency similar to yogurt. Add in other ingredients if you want. View recipes here. Adding in other herbs can help to enhance or alter the color. After you’re done, just cover the bowl in plastic wrap and then wait around half an hour to an hour. Your dye will be ready.
3. Glop it on your hair
Now comes what I consider the very easy part. Go somewhere you can make a mess, and start glopping the stuff onto your hair. Rub it into your roots and make sure you get all through your hair. It’s actually way easier to get coverage than it is with commercial dyes. Chemical dyes are thin and watery. This is more like mud. Be liberal with it and you shouldn’t have a problem soaking every hair. Start at the top of your hair and work your way down. Cover your hair in plastic wrap (no metal!) when you are done.
As I mentioned earlier, getting this stuff on your scalp and hands is no big deal. It’s totally safe, and it seems to take a couple of days for the yellow color to come out of my hands. After that, there is no trace of it, nor does the color stick to my scalp.
4. Wait for the dye to take
Now comes the part where you have to be patient. It takes a long time for henna to set. This is not like a chemical dye where you get the full effect in an hour. If you want the deep conditioning and the rich hue, you need to be prepared to wait five to six hours. It is no fun at all, but it is worth it.
5. Wash it out
By the time you get to this step, you’ll probably feel pretty relieved. Having henna in your hair for hours is heavy and uncomfortable, and the smell gets to a lot of people. It will take a long time to wash henna out of your hair, but you can save time by using the right shampoo.
For whatever reason, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (which doubles as a shampoo) seems to work best for me. I’m not sure if they all have the same effect, but I use the peppermint version. It only seems to take several attempts to wash out all the henna with this shampoo. With everything else I’ve tried, it seems to take about twice as much time and effort.
Now you just wait for your hair to dry and you’ll see the amazing conditioning effect right away. I am always blown away by how shiny my hair is right after the application. You’ll notice the difference in the volume and body immediately as well. And your hair will be so soft and manageable you won’t get over it. This effect stays pretty strong for the first couple of weeks. Even long after your henna application, you should notice your hair remains relatively soft and shiny.
What can you do with any henna you have left over, either in the powder or paste form? You can actually save it and it keeps pretty well. Just store it in the freezer. Note that if you buy henna you are not planning to use within 30 days, you should put it in the freezer immediately. Otherwise it will lose its potency.
Unlike with chemical hair dyes, you can actually use henna as often as you want to treat your hair. Each time, you will just strengthen and nourish your hair and make it healthier than ever. Many people apply multiple henna treatments every year. Each time you do it, the color will deepen, darken, and become more vivid, and the conditioning effect will be renewed.
Suppose you hate the color? You can either try to bleach it out (which is challenging but entirely possible), or you can dye on top of it. Again, more henna applications will give you a deeper, darker version of the same coppery color. Other hair dyes will combine with the henna color to give you a different look. Chemical dyes will damage your hair, but at least you’ll have the henna conditioning effect counteracting the damage. I have layered chemical dye on top of henna dye and managed to hang onto the shiny, soft, conditioned look and feel from the henna.
So, Summing It Up …
- Henna is much easier to apply than you may have been led to believe. You’ll probably be a little confused the first time you do it just because it’s brand new, but you should find it much easier the next time around. It is not worth letting henna intimidate you. You do not need to be a chemist to do this!
- Henna is also far less expensive than you probably realize. Again, unless you have really thick hair, you likely need far less of it than you typically see websites recommend. This shouldn’t surprise you; many of them are trying to sell you massive amounts of henna. Actually, compared to other hair dyes and conditioners, henna is arguably less expensive over time. A little bit goes a long way. The conditioning treatment leaves a lasting effect on your hair!
- Henna always dyes hair a coppery color. The exact tint depends on the brand, crop, your natural hair color, and any extra herbs you add. But henna is always reddish. The henna will be brighter and more vivid immediately after you dye your hair, and will tone down a bit after a couple of weeks. The color is permanent, but fades gradually over time.
- Henna conditions and strengthens your hair, preventing split ends and breakage. It makes your hair silky, soft, and manageable, giving volume and body a serious boost. It makes your hair look phenomenal.
- Henna is antibacterial and antifungal and perfect for killing scalp infections which cause itching, dandruff, hair loss, and other problems.
- Because henna strengthens your hair and conditions and cleanses your scalp, it helps your hair to grow faster and longer.
- Henna’s conditioning effect is strongest in the first couple of weeks, but the long-term effect is incredible. You will not find a more powerful conditioning product anywhere.
- Henna is 100% natural, safe, and healthy for your hair and scalp!
So now you know why I am such a huge fan of henna and recommend it to pretty much everyone for hair growth. So long as you are happy with your hair being a coppery color, you can benefit from henna’s potent conditioning properties.
Get rid of infections that are plaguing your scalp, stop split ends, nourish your hair, accelerate growth, and enjoy a luxurious shine!