Lockdown made me do it: dyeing my hair with henna and its amazing benefits

Lockdown made me do it: dyeing my hair with henna and its amazing benefits

Relieved by the fact that a real human being wouldn’t see me in person for a good few weeks and doing it in the comfort of my home, I decided to take a bold step with my appearance and learned some good things in the process.

Henna is one of the oldest known dyes in the world and is used to dye or color hair, skin, fabrics, and many other things. It is made from a plant called the henna tree or its botanical name Lawsonia inermis. The leaves of this tree are dried and crushed to dust, from which the powder is used to make the tincture.

On the traditional Turkish henna night, the bride will get a quantity of henna in her palms and press a coin 

Cultural influence

Henna is used mostly in the Middle East and Asia to dye nails, hair or skin into the characteristic shade of warm brown that comes from the red-orange pigment. Speaking from personal experience, the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions henna, especially if it is from a Turk, is the traditional “henna nights,” a kind of hen party so to speak. As part of a classic ceremony accompanied by a passionate Chinese song of henna, the palms of the bride’s hands are marked with a little dye with a gold coin affixed inside. Friends, family, and guests are also encouraged to draw a little henna on their hands as well.

Perhaps the most popular and well-known way to use henna is mehndi (as it is widely known by its Hindi and Urdu name) to create intricate designs on the hands. While henna night is just one example, decorating the body with this natural dye is deeply rooted in many religions as well. Even the ancient Egyptians used it to mark the hands and fingernails of a person before embalming. However, the actual origins of the dye have not been traced.

Health benefits

While the henna itself is a dark green colour, it gives a coppery-orange color to the skin and hair after it has been mashed and begins releasing the lanon. Henna is not only used for decoration, but also has traditional medicinal uses, being used as a healing agent to soothe burns and eczema, as well as as a coagulant for open wounds. Henna also helps make hair look and feel thicker, more silky and helps it recover. Speaking of hair, it is also said to help treat dandruff. Although this only applies to natural henna and not black stuff used only for decorative purposes. Other ingredients can be added to henna to change its properties, but they can cause an allergic reaction. It is also not recommended to use black henna on hair.

Before diving into dyeing your hair with henna or trying some body art to create beautiful designs on your body (which can last about two weeks when fully cured), you’ll want to test it out on a small patch of skin first. The inner part of the elbows or the back of the ear is a great place to try it. After applying and waiting 24 to 48 hours and not having any negative feedback, you can proceed.

Dye your hair with henna

I have brown hair that tends to get lighter in places if it gets enough sunlight and after recently joining a 30+ year club, I came across some strands of gray hair that settled their way into my head. The henna makes a wonderful, unusually bright orange color that blends with my brown hair which turns into a deep brown that I absolutely love! So, do you want to try this? Here is how you do it:

The basic “recipe” is to mix henna powder with some water and two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix it well, gradually adding water or powder until you get a thick paste. Make sure the paste isn’t too thin, or it won’t stay on your hair or head. When the texture is similar to a clay mask, stick it on your head, making sure your roots are well covered. Once you’re done, wrap your head in plastic wrap and let it dry for at least 5 hours. The longer you leave it on, the more intense the color will be. Some even leave it overnight. Of course, the main factor is the quality of the henna itself, which you should be able to determine during a patch test.

Wearing gloves and an old shirt is a must. Henna mixed with oil will stain other things as well, so you may also want to cover the floor. However, the color bleeding that will occur after washing your hair can be washed off easily. I’ve experienced this by waking up to horrifying-looking sheets after sleeping with wet, freshly dyed hair, but thankfully my pillowcases are back to their fresh selves.

How do I make the color darker or lighter?

For a darker tone, replace the water with black tea or else you will get the darkest shade of red by cooking the fresh nut shells (the green rind over the actual nut), although the regular rind will help achieve more depth. The longer the tea or walnut peel water is left, the darker the result will be. For lighter colors, you will need to prepare chamomile and use it as a medium for mixing.

The most important thing here is to test it on some threads beforehand to avoid surprises. I knew what I was doing because my mother had been dyeing her hair with henna for years and went through the process several times. As another note, the color also darkens with time and loses its intensity within a few weeks.

fabric dye

While researching henna, I saw that it is also used to dye fabrics. As an avid craftsman, I had dyed my cotton aida (a special cloth for cross stitch) with tea and coffee leaves to achieve the darker beige tones. With henna, you can get more muted orange hues, depending on the fabric you choose and how long you treat it.

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