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How to Apply Henna to Hair

Applying henna is not like applying any hair dye. It is like handling whipped cream vs. handling pizza sauce with meat balls in it. (Clean vs. messy). The longer the hair, the messier it gets. However, henna is a non-damaging treatment for the hair and fades less quickly than artificial dyes.

Henna is a transparent dye that coats the hair shaft, binding with the keratin. It conditions the hair giving it shine and body, in addition to a rich red color. Because it is a transparent dye, it will not change the color of your hair, only coat it with color. Therefore, black hair will just have a reddish sheen when seen in direct sunlight, but blond or gray hair will become a brilliant orange and brown hair will become a deep shade of auburn. If you are dyeing your hair to cover the gray, the gray hairs will come out a bright, almost pink orange.

Choose henna that is body art quality to ensure that you get good color. The recipe is simple: an acidic liquid and henna powder. You can use lemon juice (or other acidic juices), tea, or coffee. Mix a paste that is the consistency of yogurt. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the henna to cure for a minimum of 12 hours in a warm place. Once cured, put the henna into a plastic bottle (or a plastic bag with the corner cut off). (More more information on mixing the henna see How to Mix Henna for Hair.)


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    Assume your head is a globe. You want your hair to be piled at the north pole. That way, you don't need any pins to keep it in place.
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    Apply vaseline to the parts of the face that are close to your hairline. This will prevent them from getting henna stains. You can start with wet hair or dry hair, but dry hair may be easier.
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    Put on your gloves and start applying the henna. Start at the top and take a very small partition of your hair.
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    Apply henna just to the roots and skin closest to the partition of hair. Use a lot of henna and a thick application.
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    Apply more henna to the length of the hair.
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    Start with the roots, and apply to the remaining length of hair as you are winding it.
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    Twist the hair section and leave it lying out of the way.
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    Make sure your next partition of hair is the one closest to the section your just did.
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    Understand that the hair will stay in place without clips, because you piled it at the top, and alternated the direction or wrapping, for each partition. Keep doing this, until you have applied henna to your entire head of hair. (There are also other methods for applying henna, if your hair is getting too messy. See the tips section.)
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    Leave the henna in for 2-4 hours, or longer for a deeper color. You can leave it in overnight if you like. Wrap your head in saran wrap or a plastic cap. Then wrap it all with a shower hood to prevent the henna from getting anywhere.
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    Rinse out all the henna. This can be rather hard to do. You should put your head under a tap and start washing it with water until it's clear. Use a conditioner with good slip to aid in removing the henna. Repeat 2-3 times to ensure all the henna is removed from your hair. Then apply a moisturizing treatment to your hair. Henna acts like a protein treatment so your hair will be very strong, but if may feel stiff or dry. That's why you need a moisturizing treatment to counteract this. Leave the treatment in for at least 10-15 minutes. Then rinse your head again, apply more conditioner if needed and detangle. You should wait at least 3 days to use shampoo, as the henna color deepens over this time.


  • Henna gives more thickness to your hair, and you'll find it makes your hair healthier and shinier!
  • Try rinsing with conditioner instead of shampoo.
  • Make sure there are no chunks in the henna mix before applying to your hair.
  • If you want an even darker color, henna your hair several times to build up layers of color. For maintenance of your color, henna once every month or two. You can henna just your roots instead of the whole head.
  • To get best results, add some tea in a warm water then add henna , mix it well. Use this after 4-5 hours.
  • So your clothes don't get stained, wear an old shirt or something that you don't like wearing.
  • To darken it further, apply oil on your hair overnight. Mustard oil is the best for this.
  • Henna changes color over a period of days. You may begin with a lighter cast, but then oxidize to a deeper over time.
  • You can dye your hair brown or black with henna additives. You can use indigo after henna for a black color, and you can mix henna and indigo for a brown color.
  • Listen to music or an audio book while you are doing this. You may be in the bathroom for a while.
  • Sometimes the henna is a little drippy after a while, even if it is thick. Adding a quarter teaspoon xanthan gum to 2 cups of henna mix will gel the watery component of the mixture and prevent drips.
  • Make sure you always have a cloth on hand to clean up the random stray drops that may fall on your skin.
  • If you get it on your forehead rub it off with water as soon as it gets there. Or apply vaseline before hand to prevent stains.
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    There are other ways to apply henna besides the method described in this article that may be easier if you are doing this yourself. Another way involves applying the henna as shown here to the hair strand, but then coiling the hair section into a ball or bun. Then you continue applying henna to sections and wrapping them around the ball. Eventually you will end up with 2-3 large balls on your head that are very secure. This method may be easier and a more organized way to apply henna to yourself.


  • Use rubber gloves when applying Henna, or you'll have orange stained hands for weeks!
  • Henna stains some things, so don't get it on your clothes or shower curtain - if it does, remove it immediately. It will not stain metal, some plastics, or ceramics. Just wear old clothes and use old things when applying henna.
  • As always make sure the henna mix suits your hair by doing a strand test. You can use hair from your brush.
  • Do a strand test on hair from your hairbrush to see the color and if it will break.
  • Do not use henna if you have used chemical dye, bleach or you have had your hair relaxed or permed without doing a strand test first. The official rule is to wait six months after any chemical changes to the hair to apply henna. Natural henna can go over these products, but compound henna (with metallic salts) over chemical dyes can ruin your hair. (The peroxide in the chemical dyes and straighteners reacts with the metallic salts and can do anything from making the hair go black, utterly ruining the hair shaft -that is, it could make the hair turn into a rubber-like substance or dissolve completely- or bubble and fizz violently.)

Things You'll Need

  • Disposable gloves
  • Dye brush or a chopstick: just to partition hair cleanly
  • Body art quality henna (250 grams for waist length, 100 grams for shoulder length)
  • Acidic liquid to mix with the henna
  • Bowl to mix the henna in (ceramic or glass - do not use metal because it reacts with the henna)
  • Wooden Spoon to mix henna
  • Plastic wrap to wrap the hair
  • Shower cap or towel
  • Old clothes
  • Conditioner to help with rinsing the henna out of your hair (It is best not to shampoo for 24-48 hours after your henna treatment)
  • Deep hair treatment (or you can make your own)

Article Info

Categories: Henna for Hair