What does and doesn’t work when it comes to the perfect henna recipe? There are so many different recipes that add different ingredients to the henna mix, including fruit juice, herbs, and oils. But does henna work on hair if mixed with oil?
Written by Nicola Sloan
In short, henna won’t work as well on hair if it’s mixed with oil. Oil may block the color molecules and give you an underwhelming color result. If you’re new to henna, it’s best to start with just water and a splash of lemon juice.
What Is Henna?
Henna is a plant native to the Middle East. It has been used since ancient times to dye the skin and hair.
Unlike synthetic hair dyes, henna is good for your hair. Instead of penetrating the cuticle of the hair, it coats it leaving your hair stronger with a more radiant color. This is why henna is great for dying dreadlocks.
Henna is naturally an orangey reddish tone. Commercial boxes of henna tend to be pre-mixed with other herbs and ingredients to create different shades.
Henna is also a permanent hair color that adapts to the tones in your hair, so you will still have different tones and highlights that would be lost if you used a chemical hair dye.
You can also reapply henna as often as you like, to layer color or to touch up roots.
Does Henna Work On Hair If Mixed With Oil?
You may have read about all sorts of ingredients being added to henna mixes like yogurt, egg, milk, and oils.
This is not necessary, and henna will not work as well on hair if mixed with some ingredients such as oil.
If you want to deep condition your hair, we recommend you apply an oil treatment after dying your hair with henna, but do not mix your henna with oil.
Ingredients To Use With Henna Instead Of Oil
If you’re a newcomer to dying hair with henna, we wouldn’t recommend adding anything to your henna mix other than warm water, except maybe a dash of lemon, orange, or grapefruit juice to help release the dye.
You only need to add a dash of acidic juice though as it can be quite drying for the hair.
Another popular option is to add tea or coffee brews to henna – you could use these to make the henna paste instead of water.
Be aware, however, that coffee can be drying for the scalp so you might want to avoid it if you have a sensitive scalp.
Chamomile tea is also a popular option.
But it’s completely up to you. Keep it simple at first, and if you’re not happy with the results the first time around, you can then experiment with adding extra ingredients.
We wouldn’t recommend adding any sort of oil to your henna mix as henna won’t work as well on hair if mixed with oil.
When To Use Oil On Hair
If you do want to use oil to help soften your hair, wait until after you’ve finished the henna dying process. Even better, condition your hair after using henna.
Oil comes in two different forms: penetrating and sealing. Hazelnut oil is a penetrating oil whereas castor oil is sealing. Try using castor oil if you have protein-sensitive hair or as a method to seal hair for length retention.
How To Choose A Henna Hair Dye
As mentioned earlier, pure henna can only create tones of orangey red. Henna mixes that create darker tones will probably contain coffee or indigo.
Always check the ingredients list of your henna to make sure it only contains natural ingredients.
Avoid any henna mix which contains PPD (paraphenylenediamine), as this is bad for your hair and skin and has been known to cause extreme, even fatal, allergic reactions.
PPD is banned from cosmetics for skin in the U.S., as it can cause dangerous skin reactions. However, it is still a common ingredient in many conventional hair dyes on the market.
If you are worried about the chemicals in hair dye or are allergic to them, pure henna is a much safer alternative for coloring your hair.
How To Use Henna To Dye Your Hair
Using henna is a little different from using conventional hair dye. It’s messier and takes longer, but the result will be worth it! It’s just a matter of getting used to the technique.
Do a strand test first to get an idea of what color results to expect. Leave to develop for at least two hours to get the best idea of the color.
Henna is usually left between 2-6 hours, or even overnight, depending on how intense you want the color to be.
You will also need to mix your henna beforehand and leave it for a few hours to develop.
What You’ll Need
Your chosen henna mix (a good brand to start with is Light Mountain)
A pair of rubber gloves or marigolds
A bowl for mixing
A mixing spoon
Plenty of towels (henna is messy!)
Clips to section your hair
Shampoo and conditioner
Vaseline or coconut oil for putting around the hairline
Wide brush to apply henna (optional)
Saran wrap or a shower cap if you want a more vibrant red result
How To Apply Henna To Hair
1. Prepare The Henna
Put the henna powder in a bowl and slowly add hot water and any other ingredients you want to use, such as lemon juice.
Add the water gradually and keep stirring until you get a thick creamy consistency like stirred up yogurt.
Now cover the bowl with saran wrap and leave to develop for a few hours.
2. Prep Your Hair
When you’re ready to apply the henna, first wash your hair to make sure it is clean and free of styling products.
This will help the henna adhere to the hair. Clip a towel around your shoulders or wear dark clothes you don’t mind getting messy. Also, be careful to not spill any dye on carpets.
Apply Vaseline or coconut oil to the hairline and ears to prevent staining.
3. Apply The Henna In Sections
You can divide your hair up with clips or apply the henna to your hair a section at a time. Twist the hair into a coil and stick it to your scalp (the henna should keep it in place, or use pins)
Start at the roots first and work your way down the length of the hair as henna takes longer to adhere to the roots.
You can use a brush to apply if you want, but you might want to finish with gloved hands to really help coat the hair.
4. Leave To Develop
If you’re using natural red-toned henna instead of a darker henna blend, you may want to wrap your hair in saran wrap or a plastic shower cap.
The heat from your head will create a more vibrant color result.
If you’re using a darker blend, leave your hair exposed to encourage the shade to oxidize more fully.
Leave the henna on your hair for at least two hours, but you can leave it for longer than this, even overnight if you want to.
5. Shampoo And Rinse Your Hair
Thoroughly rinse your hair to get rid of all the henna. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times.
Rinse until the water runs clear.
It’s best to do this over a bath with a detachable showerhead as henna can stain your skin (although it will wear off after a couple of days).
You can also add conditioner, deep conditioner or apply oil to your hair at this stage.
The henna will continue to develop over the next few days so your end color result may be subtly different than it was after your first rinse.
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