05 May Best Practices for Using Henna and Avoiding Dry Hair
Henna is wonderful stuff. Around the FAR Botanicals studio 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 buffered 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 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. 
Outside of traditional cultures, people are most interested in using Henna as an alternative to synthetic hair dyes and 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 is Lawsonia inermis. You can also use Indigo (Indigofera Tinctoria) or “clear” Henna (Cassia Obovata, Cassia Angustifolia or Cassia Auriculata) or a combination of these pure botanicals.
- 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.
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, we’ve found the following to be a successful method of application: Wait between 6-8 weeks before applying a fresh coat of Henna. If coloring your hair is of optimal importance, shorten the time between applications to 4-6 weeks and apply a portion of Safflower-Free Henna to the hair closest to your scalp, and a 50/50 blend of Henna and Safflower oil to the previously Hennaed length. Allow the mixture to soak into your hair for an hour or two, then wash out with a sulfate-free shampoo. Follow with a deep moisturizer and style as usual. For maintenance, deep moisturize after every shampoo.
Henna is a wonderful gift from nature and many people are having great success with it (thousands of years worth of proof!) People with dry hair can tap this botanical’s benefits too with a little extra care and ingenuity.
Enjoy your sacred mud ritual.