Why or Why not dye with henna and/or indigo:
The benefits are that it is: not just not harmful but actually really good for most hair types, also better for your scalp, less toxic to you and the environment than chemical dyes, and can be fun! Additionally I have read that these dyes act as mild relaxers on natural African hair (but can't corroborate that from my own experience, obvs.) and are obviously much less damaging than chemical relaxers.
The drawbacks: it really is potentially messy, kind of smelly, way more time consuming, and results are a bit unpredictable (no, you won't turn your hair green unless you have bought something that isn't really henna from an unscrupulous dealer). Personally, I enjoy the process, it's kind of like turning your hair into an extended science process, and consider it self-care time. The main thing to consider however, is that neither henna nor indigo can be bleached out and attempting to do so will fundamentally damage the structure of your hair (I had clumps of hair literally melt off in my hands). They will fade somewhat (indigo more so than henna), and you can always dye over them to get a darker color, but generally the only way to get rid of the color is to cut it out.
I have started dying my hair dark auburn and will explain that process in detail, then will add notes on how to get straight red or pure black hair.
- Enough henna and indigo (2:1 ratio) to cover hair (100 grams will cover the same amount of hair as a box of chemical dye, so guesstimate from there. I use 250 grams to cover bra-strap length, medium thick hair)
- Lemon juice, purchased, hand-squeezed provides no benefit and must be carefully strained so in generally more trouble than it's worth for this.
- A glass or ceramic bowl large enough to hold the mix (preferably glass as ceramic can stain)
- a wooden or plastic utensil for mixing. I use wooden chopsticks (never use anything metal)
- A truly ridiculous amount of plastic wrap
- Optional add-ins that are worth your time: cocoa butter and/or shea butter, about 1/2 oz per 100 grams of henna to make the mix even more beneficial for your hair (I started using this after trying Lush's henna, which is mostly not worth it but adding cocoa butter was a good idea), and essential oils that blend well with the smell of henna, I like jasmine and ylang-ylang
- Add-ins that are NOT worth your time: spices such as cloves and ginger which are supposed to intensify the color but do no such thing and can irritate your scalp, some people use many different liquids such as tea, coffee, or wine, in the belief that this effects the color, but they mostly don't. Wine gives the color a very temporary nudge in the direction of purple, but meh. Coffee and tea don't seem to do anything and since I leave my henna on overnight and caffeine can be absorbed through the skin....
Choosing a brand of henna: what makes a henna good or bad is the concentration of pigment (something you can't tell until you have tried it normally) and the fineness or coarseness of the sift. Most of the major complaints henna n00bs have can be attributed to buying henna that has a really coarse sift, which just makes it harder to get in your hair (especially if it is thick), harder to wash out, and generally give poorer results. Most of the kinds you can find in places like Whole Foods (Light Mountain, Rainbow, or Avigal brands for instance) are super coarse and terrible. In fact, if henna comes in colors, miss that brand, that is almost always a sign or crappy quality. Sometimes the best are the kind you get for a few bucks at an Indian grocery (or Amazon), Jamila is for instance high quality always, just make sure it says "100% henna" or "100% inidgo" and do a test swatch when using a new brand. Another reliable shop mehandi.com, actually they have the best quality of anything I've used; I am just usually too cheap.
Step 1: Mix henna with just enough lemon juice to moisten
add a wee bit of water and allow to sit for a few hours to allow the dye to release.
Step 2: Add indigo and cocoa butter then stir in enough very hot water (just below boiling) for the mixture to have the approximate consistency of sour cream
Step 3: Let cool for about half an hour, but less than an hour. Stir in any essential oils at this point.
Step 4: Rub petroleum jelly along your hairline, ears, and probably whole neck
|I am a cone head|
Step 6: Leave in for as long as you can stand. Generally if you can't leave it in for at least an hour don't bother. Fours hours seems to be the sort of max time for really intense color and longer than that doesn't impact the color that much. I generally leave it on overnight, because that is the most convenient, and I have enough hair that the weight of it covered in henna paste is hard to deal with for any length of time in any position but lying down.
Step 7: wash out. I find that after an initial rinse out, adding conditioner to my hair makes the rest rinse out actually very easily. Dry and style as usual
|I am modeling this hair with my Applejack Ketylo hairsticks to add something to the Red and Black theme)|
To dye hair black: If your hair is light (let's say medium brown or lighter) follow the steps to dye with henna (the lemon juice, wait, add more water, put in hair), only leaving henna in for about an hour, rinse out, dry, then dye with indigo (mix indigo with just water, put in hair without letting sit) and let sit for as long another hour. The pure color or henna is red-orange, and indigo is green-blue. If you just use indigo on light hair, it will be green-ish (that's probably what happened to Anne of Green Gables, unless she had adulterated dye), so the henna cancels out that unfortunate tint to give a neutral black. If your hair is darker you may be able to skip the henna step for a dark, blue-black. Do a test swatch.
To dye hair red: Leave out the indigo (yeah, pretty obvious) otherwise following the above instructions and note what I said above about how the color builds. Since henna is good for your hair, if you want intense red ASAP there is no reason you can't dye it ever weekend (or day to be honest) until you get it like you like it.
|This is my goal color, FYI|