Dyeing Your Hair With Henna

This post comes from our contributor FP Naomi.

I made a resolution to live more sustainably this year, but there was one thing I didn’t plan for. If I had been smart, I would have booked a hair appointment for December 31st. I would have gotten my hair lightened before I embarked on a whole year of no chemicals, less waste, and reduced emissions.

But then again, what fun would it be if I had? Part of living sustainably is learning how to problem solve. You must ask yourself: How can I do the same things as before, but in a way that is better for the planet?

February came around and my hair hadn’t been touched up in a year and half. It was time give it some attention, and I wasn’t about to forgo my whole mission just to do so. I looked into natural dyeing solutions instead. I asked friends, searched on the internet, and found a lot about henna hair dye. I decided it was the technique for me, so I ordered a bottle of Surya Brasil Henna Cream in ‘light blonde.’

dyeing hair with henna

Advantages of Henna Hair Dye:

–          No ammonia, PPD, peroxide, parabens, resorcinol, or heavy metals

–          Enriched with natural extracts

–          Forms a protective layer around each strand of hair, rather than severing the original structure

–          Developed using natural herbs and fruits

–          This particular brand (Surya Brasil) does not use GMO’s and extracts raw materials with environmental responsibility

Nervous as hell, I slathered the henna cream over my locks on one (very exciting) Friday night. I was pleased to notice no itching or burning like one experiences with box dyes. I smiled to myself knowing that this was the real stuff. Following the directions I let it sit for 60 minutes, and then rinsed it out. I went to bed with wet hair, and woke to see the results.


dyeing hair with henna


dyeing hair with henna

The Outcome: The henna cream did lighten my hair, but not nearly as much as any chemical dye would. The results were very subtle, a beachy sun-kissed blonde over a drastic bleached-out look. The effects showed more on sections of my hair that were already lighter. I do like the way it looks, and I’m happy that it didn’t turn my hair any weird colors. Next time I might leave the henna cream in longer to see if I can get a blonder result. I would not be nervous to do so knowing how gentle and slight the color change is. A plus: my hair felt very silky and healthy after using the dye.

Who else has used natural hair dyes? What have you found works best for your hair color? 

More natural beauty tips from the BLDG 25 Blog.

Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot!

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9 years ago

I’ve never tried lightening my hair with henna – honestly, I didn’t think that was possible! – but for the past year I’ve only dyed my hair using henna from Lush. The difference in color hasn’t been too dramatic, but I have only been using the regular brown; next time I dye my hair, I was thinking of mixing the brown and black hennas. I love how soft my hair is after using henna and I must say, I do not miss paying at least $50 for getting my hair colored and having to deal with the horrible chemical smell and how dead the ends of my hair look after doing it so often!

I’ll be looking into this Surya Brasil brand though because using the henna from Lush is so messy!!

9 years ago

I actually Just dyed my hair with henna for the first time last week! I used an actual henna mix with herbs and powder though… It was a long process and took 4 hours on, not including waiting for the paste to activate and washing it out. It was totally worth it however, and My hair is subtly different in a good way. I have dark brown hair and was worried at what the outcome would be because I couldn’t find any reference photos online. It came out my natural color, but with a hint of auburn. My hair has also been much smoother, softer, and shinier. If any one is willing to go through the time and effort, I would get the powder mixes from your local Indian market. The one I used is the one most people in India use and it only cost me 2$… You can’t beat that deal!

9 years ago

I´ve used Surya Henna many times, since I live in Brazil and it´s quite easy to find. The Henna comes in two options: cream and powder. The powder is made only of plants so you can customize it the way you want, mix it with warm water or any hair cream of your choice. It does wonders for my hair, but I never tried lightening it, never thought it was possible too! The only thing that sucks is that, since it´s so natural, the color goes away very fast, but it leaves your hair shiny and hydrated! I recommend it to everyone! :)

And the best part: Surya is a vegan and cruelty free brand, guys!

9 years ago

I dyed my hair with henna & indigo for the first time this week! I have my hair dyed black & my roots were showing so I figured I’d give it a go. It didn’t work. The henna looked lovely in my hair, a gorgeous fiery light auburn, but the indigo turned it brown, not black. Later I found out you can only dye your hair black with henna if it’s already dark brown naturally. At least it’s dark enough now that I can wait another month before I dye it again.
On a side not my hair is incredibly soft & shiny now! It feels like silk threads! I used an olive oil treatment every week. I used oil on it the night i dyed it to help seal in the color but the henna made an even bigger difference! I noticed a difference as soon as I was done rinsing the henna mud out of my hair. As it dried, it felt incredibly smooth & silky & it even enhanced my natural waves!

9 years ago

The only bad thing about henna is that it doesn’t react well with other dyes. So if you plan on dying your hair with anything but henna, don’t use henna. My boyfriend used it once to color his hair a kind of reddish color, and later wanted to go platinum blonde. He thought all of the henna dye was out. The result was a sunflower yellow color (after 3 bleaches). However, if you want to use henna for the rest of your life, go for it! It lasts a long time and produces a lovely color.

9 years ago

I’ve been using henna for a couple of years and it works really great for me – I use the herbal powder which gets harder and harder to find, but it’s the most natural one. My hair is fair and I use a fiery red color – looks amazing and stays for as long as a month. Also, the hair after henna is gorgeous, looks and feels a lot healthier.
I think you can’t really see the difference here because your hair is dark and you wanted it to change to blonde, but henna doesn’t really work this way :)

9 years ago

This isn’t a natural dye! Just reading the Amazon reviews on the page you linked to showed dangerous chemical carcinogens in the labeling. NOT the way to henna. True henna can NOT lighten hair, only give color tints and a healthful shine. Do your research, or just READ COMPLETELY! Shame for recommending this “natural” product.

9 years ago

I’ve always used henna hair dye. However, the product above is not chemical free. Real henna dye just barely lightens your hair to the point that its very hard to notice. Its more for just making your hair healthy and smooth. If you bought henna powder from a south asian store (as it is quite cheap) and mixed it with herbs and water then put it in your hair you would be using a natural product. The stuff above is not natural.

9 years ago

I have decided to switch from chemicals to henna dye. I use black dye (my hair is naturally medium brown) and I’ve heard it’s the worst one. Has anyone ever used the indigo henna for dark brown/black hair? I’m curious about how well it works

9 years ago

My bad, I just saw Beka’s post :)

9 years ago

I was told If I used henna with already chemical dyed hair.. my hair would fall out?

9 years ago

I used henna when I was in my twenties, it gave a reddish auburn color to my hair. You make a mess when you apply it and it takes a long time but it´s worthwhile. Make sure the label says lawsonia inermis.

9 years ago

If you are worried about how your hair will react do a test strand, Cut a small piece from underneath, tape it to foil and color it, Henna is usually fine with other colors but It is technically a metallic dye so you defiantly don’t want to do it on permed hair.

9 years ago

My hair is dark brown and I use LUSH Henna+Indigo. I leave it for 4 hours, a bit messy but turned out really nice, deepen my hair color, it last about 4- 6 weeks.

9 years ago

Its really not possible to lighten hair with henna. Making sure you purchase a good, body-art quality henna powder should prevent bad reactions with existing or future chemical dyes you may use. I have dyed back and forth between henna and box dyes using henna powder from this site: http://www.hennaforhair.com/ with no complications. They also have loads of recipes with before and after pics to help visualise the possibilities. Henna really can make your hair stronger and shinier, and makes better reds than any colorist ever could!

9 years ago

Henna DESTROYED my hair!!! It’s naturally very curly, and when I tried Lush’s red henna on my medium dark brown hair it made my hair more frizzy, didn’t really change my hair color, and it washed out all over my towels. Henna is different for everyone so I would really advise you to think twice before trying henna.

Tara Scarlett O’Hara
4 years ago
Reply to  Phoenix


2 years ago
Reply to  Phoenix

Mine too. Mine is straight and after trying Henna once it broke and cracked and was super dry.

9 years ago

Agree with Jess. Been using Surya for years now, even living in Sweden -whenever friends or family from Uruguay visit me, they bring me loads of packets for storing.

8 years ago

I love henna. I have tried Surya, and, while it is not completely harmless or natural, it is certainly preferable (IMO) to many of the commercial stuff you can buy. You can buy a lot of powdered henna online. I’ve tried Lush henna and it was okay. I got some from Mountain Rose Herbs that I liked, and I also bought some from Amazon. It is VERY cheap and does a great job of covering grey hair. I’ve never seen a chemical dye color hair as beautifully as henna does. However, like others have said, you can’t really go lighter with it. It also smells, kind of like hay or spinach (I think) but that dissipates. I like to use oil with henna on my hair, then it is like a deep-conditioning treatment.
I’ve also used cocoa powder and coffee to color my hair…be warned that the hair will smell like either chocolate or coffee afterwards. :-) Cocoa powder made it a beautiful color but it didn’t last long.

8 years ago

Hi everyone,
Full disclosure here. I work with Surya Brasil and I just wanted to clarify a few things. Every shade of Surya Brasil’s natural color contains vegetable extracts including herbs and fruits from Brazil and India, which offer a simultaneous coloration and deep conditioning treatment for the hair as well as intense treatment for the scalp. Surya Brasil Henna Cream Color and Powders do NOT contain ammonia, PPD, parabens, peroxide, resorcinol, heavy metals, artificial fragrance, mineral oils, GMO’s or gluten. Like all of Surya Brasil’s products the Henna Cream is 100% vegan and cruelty free.

Easy to use, these at-home healthy color shades are hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested as well as safe for use on chemically treated hair, color-treated hair and highlights.

Available Henna Cream shades
Ash blonde, black, burgundy, chocolate, Swedish blonde, silver fox, reddish dark blonde, red, mahogany, light brown, light blonde, golden brown, golden blonde, dark brown, copper – 2.3 fluid ounces.

You can learn more by visiting http://www.suryabrasilproducts.com

8 years ago

I had never colored my hair before trying henna on it. I have dark dark dark brown hair and the henna subtly changed it. It enhanced my natural red highlights, and gave a great light sheen to it. My hair also feels much softer and stronger after using the henna.

I used 100% organic henna powder and mixed it with lemon juice 12 hours before I applied it to my hair. Then I let it sit on my hair for 4-5 hours before washing out. It was super easy and hardly any mess, I definitely recommend it.


8 years ago

@Madeline johnson (and all):

Is it or is it not safe to use permanent color (with bleach) after using Surya Brasil? One customer service rep told me that it was okay to use permanent color, but others report speaking to Surya reps who advised that permanent color after Surya will cause severe damage to hair.

Please advise.

5 years ago

Kate’s right. This is not henna and henna will not lighten To blond.
I’ve used Mehandi.com products for a few years now with great success, and unlike what you used, totally natural. I use a combination of henna and amla (root fiber) to give me a toned-down auburn. Hair feels great and last forever, till I need to do my roots. Covers gray well too.
If your looking for light color, Cassia is the way to go

5 years ago

I have been using henna for 3 years now. Real henna doesn’t lighten hair. Henna works with your hair color and will be different for everyone. I have medium brown hair naturally and my first henna treatment was using lush products. Lush uses several ingredients with henna. It barely changed my hair color, but it did give it some vibrance. Pure henna will turn your hair red! The tint and vibrance will depend on your natural color. I wanted a dark brown color and found that henna mixed with indigo did a fabulous job. Once your roots grow out though, only dye the roots. I was dying my whole head and the hendigo made the bottom part much darker and it was difficult to match to my roots. It does not fade for a long time! The problem was solved with a 2 step process – henna then indigo. I love love the way that turns out! My hair has never been healthier. I do advice if you go this route, you are stuck with it. Once you go super dark, it’s impossible to go back lighter without lots of waiting for your hair to grow out and fade. Hope this helps someone :)

5 years ago

Fantastic Guide, thanks so much x

4 years ago

I love Surya henna!!! Also if you have grown out brassy or warm highlights – you can do a toning mask with purple or purple and blue shampoo (ie shimmer lights) depending on the tone of your hair. It doesn’t damage at all and sometimes can make hair and highlights appear a lot brighter giving the illusion of fresh blonder look without using any bleach or color :)))