Henna does not cover gray hair: it is written on the product box and it is part of the culture of hair coloring. But times have changed. And it’s no longer a choice between going gray or using commercial hair dyes.
There are two ways to cover gray hair with henna.
1. Henna kits made specifically for gray hair.
2. Using pure henna powder in a whole new way.
Henna Kits for Gray
Most henna kits for gray hair are 2-step processes. The hair is first coated with a natural, non-toxic primer. This helps the gray hair become more receptive to henna.
There are also premixed cream hennas on the market that will cover gray hair. Most, however, take 2 or 3 applications before the gray hair is completely covered. Some products, such as Henna Surya Cream, are easier 1-step processes that aim to cover gray hair in the first application.
Henna, as you probably know, covers your hair. It does not split or rough the hair shaft like most commercial dyes do. And because gray hair tends to be rougher and slipperier than pigmented ones, henna tends to fade gray hair. That is why henna is classified as a semi-permanent hair color. Even the best application of henna clears up a bit with each shampoo. And that’s why most 1-step henna powder boxes will warn against using it on gray hair.
Pure Henna Powder
Most henna users are already familiar with this green powder. It comes in a plastic bag (some buy in bulk) and is made with leaves from the Lawsonia tree. To create different colors, other natural ingredients are added, such as walnut or cloves.
If you have gray hair and want to use pure henna, you can. It’s a long process, but it worked for me and I will never go back to anything else. Light Mountain Henna it is good as are many other brands.
Do a strand test. If you cut your hair, save a curl to use for the strand test. Otherwise, cut some hair under or behind so the cut doesn’t show through. Hold the hair sample with an elastic band and carry out the entire coloring process with this strand. This is important because it is the only way to calculate the wait time. Unlike commercial hair dyes, henna varies greatly in how long you want to leave it in to achieve your desired color. The time to dye gray hair can be from 2 to 6 hours.
Another reason for the strand test: to make sure the final color is what you want. Henna on gray hair will come out lighter than henna on pigmented hair. Henna on blonde hair is hit or miss. The strand test will let you know.
A note on buying henna. Read the ingredients carefully before buying. Make sure there is nothing on the list that you don’t understand. Any hair color that contains PPD (p-phenylenediamine, sometimes labeled paradiaminobenzene, para-aminoaniline, p-aminoaniline, paradiaminobenzene, or PPDA) is prohibited for health and safety reasons. However, most hennas you find at a reputable health food store will be pure and safe. Hennas purchased online often list their ingredients, and I encourage you to read them.
Ready, Set, Go
- The first step is to apply a line of emollient to the forehead. This will prevent the henna from staining your face.
- Next, mix a brown-based henna powder in a non-metallic container with freshly boiled water. Add a couple of pre-beaten eggs if desired, to help keep the mixture sticky. Slowly add more hot water until the mixture is a smooth, thick paste.
- Apply to clean, dry hair, free of styling products, conditioners, sprays, or moisturizers. This is a key.
- Apply to roots first, as you would commercial hair dye, but use more product, at least a golf ball-sized dollop of paste each time you part and apply hair. Each strand of hair should be completely covered with henna. Wear the plastic gloves included in the package and apply them with your hands for the best coverage. Continue dividing your hair in 1/4-inch rows, rubbing the henna into the hair, until all the gray is covered.
- Yes, henna will stain your scalp, but it is non-toxic and will wash your scalp (not hair) with a shampoo or two.
- After covering the gray hair with the paste, apply the remaining henna to the rest of your hair if desired.
- Cover your head with a plastic cap and cover the cap with a towel.
- Once an hour (or less, if you have a short standing time), remove the towel and plastic cap and spray the henna pack lightly with water. Put the cap back on and scrub the hair by hand (but gently) so that the moisture reaches the scalp and to ensure that each strand of hair remains covered in henna. Reapply the towel.
- You may want to bake the color even further, using a heating cap or a hooded hair dryer for 10 minutes every hour.
- When the time is up, rinse the henna from your hair with warm (not hot) water. Your hair can be very tangled – that’s normal for now. So be gentle, don’t rub or pull. Apply a small amount of mild conditioner, such as Jason gold Aveda Color Conserveand rinse it off after about 30 seconds. Do not use shampoo at this time.
For more details and product recommendations, see My Makeup Mirror [http://www.mymakeupmirror.com/HennaOverGray.html]
How to prevent henna from fading
Wait at least 2 days before your first shampoo. After that, if you can shampoo every other day instead of every day, that will better preserve your new color. Make sure to use a shampoo that doesn’t cover the color. Some brands to try are Pureology, Aveda, Jason, Arbonne, Y Aquage, Among many others.
Note: I would not recommend too many styling products. Many of them are stained in color. But if you have a leave-in conditioner that you know won’t remove the henna in your next shampoo, go ahead and use it to detangle your hair and protect it from styling heat.
Your new hair color should be beautiful, shiny, and healthy. Because henna covers the hair, it makes the hair appear thicker. And best of all, you have colored your gray without harming yourself or the environment.