How Does Henna Hair Dye Work

Model with henna hair dye

What is Henna Hair Dye? : Going Natural

You may have heard a lot about using henna powder to dye your hair, but before you start colouring, make sure you know exactly what henna hair dye is, what kind of henna is right for you, and how to get the best results on your hair.

The natural hair dye phenomenon is one of the biggest hair colour trends right now. And it makes sense: people want to know exactly what they are applying to their hair, and what they’re washing down the drain. Simpler is better, for our bodies and the environment, right? Yes, but it’s still important to know exactly what your hair is going to look like afterwards. Without the right information, you might be happy with your ethical choice, but not so pleased with the final colour.

Henna is a natural hair dye, made from the lawsonia inermis shrub, that’s been used for centuries for body art, staining material...and hair dye! However, there are a few variations of henna when it comes to colouring your hair, so it’s essential you know the difference.

Different Types of Henna

Pure henna powder

100% henna hair dye gives an orange-reddish tone to your hair. It cannot lighten the hair, and its intensity depends on your original colour base, the quality of your hair (drier, damaged and more porous will absorb more of the colour) and the time you leave it on for. 

Black and brown henna hair dye

Pure henna powder does not give you a dark reddish brown. This result is achieved by mixing henna with another natural ingredient, indigo. Indigo, a tropical plant, produces the same dark blue dye that was used on blue jeans. This dark blue shade, when mixed with henna’s orange/red tones, gives a beautiful rich dark copper shade (depending on their percentages).

How Black Henna Hair Dye Works:

Whereas chemical hair dyes use ammonia or an equivalent to lift the hair’s cuticles and deposit the colour on the cortex, henna (whether pure or in a darker blend with indigo) causes far less damage. The colour naturally sits on the surface of the hair fibre and sinks in. This layer of colour over the hair also provides a protective coat, which is why many people use henna powder, not just for the colour, but also for its shine-enhancing and hair strengthening qualities.

Blonde henna

Henna for blondes? Yes but no. You will find result for “blonde henna” online, but it’s not the henna powder you’re thinking of. It’s actually another natural plant-derived dye, cassia (cassia obovata is its full name). Cassia is used for lightening, brightening and conditioning the hair, and is popular among those with already-light hair who want to boost their colour, or add a few lighter streaks.

How Blonde Henna Works:

Blonde henna (cassia, remember) can be used as a colourless conditioner if mixed with water and used immediately, but when heated its colour is released, and it brings out the golden tones in hair. It will emphasise the different shades in your hair, so it’s great for bringing out sunkissed highlights.

Henna for grey hair

Blonde henna, or cassia, won’t cover your greys entirely (it can add a nice translucent yellow tone though), but pure henna and a henna/indigo mix will do the job brilliantly. Plus, because henna gradually fades out (after 2-4 months) you don’t end up with the classic “helmet” of regrowth at the roots.

How to Find the Best Henna Hair Dye

It’s important, not only to use the best henna hair dye that’s 100% pure, but also go to an expert who knows exactly how to apply the dye, for how long, and whether or not to mix it with any other natural ingredients. 

Botanéa, by L’Oréal Professionnel, is an all-natural hair colour service that uses pure henna, indigo and cassia (mixed with pure coconut oil) to create tailored hair colours that respect the hair fibre, but still offer long-lasting and vibrant colour. Your colourist will know exactly what amounts of each natural dye to achieve exactly the look you’re after – plus, the service includes a toning treatment to prevent any temporary undertones while the colour is settling.

Find Your Nearest Botanéa Salon: UK or Ireland test