Is it a good idea to use henna on chemically-dyed hair?
April 25, 2007 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Is it a good idea to use henna on chemically-dyed hair?

So, about 2/3 of my shoulder-length hair is chemically dyed (reddish brown) and the other third has grown out (light brown). I'd like to dye again, but would rather avoid chemical dyes, which really do a number on my hair. The advice on whether you can use henna on chemically dyed hair is contradictory--some sites say you can, some sites say it'll break your hair (yikes). I know I can just do a strand test, and I will, but I'm wondering if anyone has any experience/advice on this subject.

Is there a particular brand/type I should use? Any good tips for how to do it, and how to avoid dying my skin? And how do I make sure it lasts as long as possible (I pretty much have to wash my hair daily or it gets greasy, so shampoo suggestions are welcome).
posted by agent99 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You should make sure that you get "body-quality" henna. The issue with henna over chemical dyes is typically do to metallic salt. I've never henna'ed my own hair, but know people that do. This LJ comm is pretty good with their stuff.
posted by kellyblah at 12:18 PM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: Most resources I have looked at say that pure henna (Lawsonia inermis) does not react badly with previously chemically-treated hair. The problem only arises if the brand you buy has additives, synthetic dyes or metallic salts. Read the ingredients or use body art quality henna. Colors of henna other than red often have some additives to get those other shades.

My sister has used henna interchangeably with synthetic dyes repeatedly with no ill effects but she only uses red henna.

Mix in a plastic or glass bowl. You can add cinnamon to make it smell a bit better.
Rub vaseline or something like it around the edges of your hairline and neck.
Wear gloves.
Wear clothes you don't care about, cover the floor-- You will make a mess, it's hard to keep bits of it from flying around the room.
After you've smothered your hair in it, wrap your head up in a plastic bag.
Wipe off any chunks from your skin immediately.
It dyes better with heat so use a blow dryer on your plastic wrapped head. Feel silly yet? Hee heee!
Do that for an hour or as long as you can stand.
Rinse it out. There will be A LOT of mud to wash out.
I don't have any recommendation on shampoos, whatever works.
You won't need to condition it after you wash it out the first time.

Enjoy your beautiful new hair color!
posted by bobobox at 12:35 PM on April 25, 2007

As for good brands, Rainbow Henna has no additives or chemicals.
posted by bobobox at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: The LJ community mentioned above highly recommends I'm also about to make the switch from chemical dye to henna, and that's where I'm ordering my supplies.
posted by lhall at 2:10 PM on April 25, 2007

Do a deep moisturizer the day before, henna is protein and can make delicate hair brittle.
posted by hortense at 5:27 PM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: bobobox has good advice. Here's a few other tips:

Start with clean, dry hair that has no product in it.
You can also add plain yogurt or a raw egg to the henna mix to make it a little smoother and easier to goop on your hair.
When you're mixing it, don't use anything metal.
Sectioning your hair helps get it on more evenly, but again, nothing metal.
If it's warm out, you can sit in the sun with your plastic-wrapped head for a couple hours and get the same effect as the hair dryer would create.
Rinsing it out takes a long time, and is really messy. Use plain water to get the bulk of it out, then a little shampoo to remove the last grit.

Henna is really pretty, in my opinion, and fun to do. I've never had it make my hair brittle; rather, it's always softer and shinier after.
posted by donnagirl at 7:50 PM on April 25, 2007

good tips - and yes, as hortense says, a deep moisturizer beforehand woudl be good.

I've found that the one time I did use a full henna treatment - and authentic, non-chemically stuff - was after I had already chemically dyed my hair, and the henna didn't really 'take' as much as I would have liked. It might have been because my hair is pretty dark - and your results may vary of course. But you never know until you try - and cleaning the 'mud' outta your hair is a once in a lifetime experience.... :)
posted by rmm at 10:18 PM on April 25, 2007

You should be fine dyeing your hair with henna. My understanding is that the length of time between chemical dye and henna is a factor - if you've dyed your hair with a chemical dye in the last week you should give it some time, but it sounds like you haven't used chemical dye in awhile. You should be fine.

I second (or third) the recommendations to look at Henna For Hair - it has a lot of really good information. Its sister site is Mehandi, and you can buy body art quality henna from there.

(Definitely buy body art quality, or 'BAQ' henna. It's less likely to react badly with your dye. And like another commenter said, don't use metal tools. I usually use a plastic bowl and a wooden spoon.)

A few other suggestions:

* You can mix the henna with other ingredients to get different effects. There are suggestions on the Henna For Hair site, but you might also take a look at ">this thread on the Long Hair Community forums, which has suggestions about (natural) additives.

* Henna should be roughly the consistency of brownie batter before you slop it on your head.

* I second the recommendations to start with clean, dry hair - what I usually do is shampoo, but not condition, my hair. You can henna over wet or dry hair; I usually do it on somewhat damp hair.

* Get a friend or family member to help you apply it, if you can. Also, lay down newspaper. I usually have a wet washcloth nearby to wipe off counter splatters.

* I have a process for getting henna out of my hair. The first step is to fill the tub a little bit with hot water, remove your saran wrap or shower cap or whatever, and lie down in the tub. I let my muddy head "soak" for a short time (a few minutes at most) and I use my fingers to loosen up the grit on my head. Your bathwater will probably turn opaque with the henna! I drain the tub at this point and start washing my hair. Sometimes I shampoo, but usually I use conditioner instead - it does double duty of sticking well to the grit on your head, and it moisturizes your hair. I usually do this twice.

* Give it some time if you don't like the color - henna usually takes about 2 or 3 days to fully oxidize. It usually gets a bit darker and richer.
posted by rikhei at 11:12 AM on April 26, 2007

Every single henna question you could ever possibly have is answered intelligently and thoroughly here. I believe that the woman who runs the site did her master's thesis on henna traditions.
posted by jennyjenny at 9:50 PM on April 28, 2007

And from here...

"Compound henna often reacts badly with synthetic hair dyes and other chemical hair products! If you use compound henna soon after you have done your hair with para-phenylenediamine dyes, your hair may be brittle, trashed, and may turn frog butt green or offshore sewage outlet black. Compound hennas have metallic salts which react disasterously with the ammonia in synthetic hair dye. Problem is ... many pre-mixed henna powders do NOT have these ingredients listed!

Body art quality henna can be used over commercial hair dye and other chemical residue in hair. "

Frog butt green? That would suck.
posted by jennyjenny at 10:00 PM on April 28, 2007

« Older Should I return the damaged bike I bought on eBay?   |   What the hell was wrong with me? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.