​Best Practices for Using Henna and Avoiding Dry Hair

​Henna is highly beneficial to hair and can promote strength and thickness while also imparting beautiful color. However, using henna requires some vigilance and extra care once you’ve applied to your hair since it can cause dryness. What are some best practices after using henna? Read on to learn more.

First, a little history…

Henna is a wonderful botanical with a colorful history (pun intended). Here at FAR Botanicals we refer to it as “sacred mud”. For thousands of years it was used in Africa and Asia not only as a hair and skin coloring agent, but also as a health and healing aid. In contemporary times, mother Africa and Asia’s gift of henna has found its way around the world, with its legendary properties buffeted on the waves of beauty guru blog posts and hair forum testimonials.

Among traditional communities, henna is referred to as having the aspect of “baraka”, an Islamic and Judaic term meaning “blessing”. In the past, henna was highly regarded as a very important medicinal plant in traditional cultures, and it still is today. Its ability to bond well with protein is the primary reason it makes such a potent coloring agent for skin and hair, this along with its naturally occurring anti-bacterial properties may also explain why it works well with assisting with wound healing.

How to avoid dry hair when using henna

Outside of traditional cultures, people are most interested in using henna as an alternative to synthetic hair dyes and secondarily, as a conditioning treatment, however if used incorrectly henna can leave your hair dry and prone to breakage. Some key things to note before you begin using henna or if you currently use henna and you are experiencing problems:

  • Henna is similar to a strong protein treatment. It has a high affinity for keratin (a protein) and will cling vigorously to our hair strands. Over time, repeated coatings of henna can interfere with your hair’s ability to properly retain moisture.

  • Avoid using protein treatments (in particular, animal-derived proteins) if you’ve used henna. The combination can put you on the slippery slope to dry, brittle hair. However, using a balanced hair moisturizer containing a low percentage of plant-based protein is ok.

  • It’s very, very important to keep your hair moisturized while using henna, neglecting this necessary maintenance will likely lead to dryness and shedding.

  • Lemon juice is widely suggested as a color-releasing catalyst to use in your henna mix, but we’ve found that swapping lemon juice for white vinegar or apple cider vinegar is just as effective and far less drying.

  • When purchasing henna to use on your hair, buy pure botanical powder and avoid compounded blends. The only ingredient that should be present in pure henna powder is Lawsonia inermis. You can also use indigo (Indigofera Tinctoria) over your hennaed hair to deepen your color.

  • If you don’t want color added to your hair but you like the thickening and strengthening qualities of henna, “clear” henna (Cassia Obovata, Cassia Angustifolia or Cassia Auriculata) is a safe alternative that conditions like henna, but without coloring. Clear henna is also less prone to drying out hair.

  • Make certain to rinse ALL traces of plant matter from your hair after a henna treatment or you will end up with an itchy scalp and bits of henna falling out of your hair every time you style it. You can also end up staining clothes and pillow cases.

Tips on mixing and application

To lessen Henna’s potential to dry out your hair, include a quarter cup of Safflower Oil with every cup of henna mixture. Not only will this reduce Henna’s “bite” but it will also make it easier to rinse out. As a bonus, Safflower oil is rich in ceramides which help maintain the strength of our hair.

To avoid over-coating your hair in henna, wait between 6-8 weeks before applying a fresh treatment. If coloring your hair is the primary reason you use henna (not for conditioning), then apply a fresh treatment only to your new growth every 4-6 weeks.

After every henna treatment follow up with a deep moisturizer or protein-free conditioner, and remember now that your hair is henna-treated, deep conditioning at least once a week is a step that can’t be skipped.

In conclusion…

Henna is a wonderful gift from nature and many people have had great success with it over thousands of years. Using henna to color and condition your hair does not mean you are guaranteed to battle chronic dry hair issues. With a little extra care, you can tap all of henna’s benefits with none of the draw backs.

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