The pursuit of beauty has been of prime concern since time immemorial and for centuries beauty aids and cosmetics have been used to enhance or alter physical appearance, combat the manifestations of ageing, highlight concept of femininity and also serve to assert social status. Archaeological indications dating back more than eight thousand years prove that cosmetics were used by men and women and makeup was considered an important aspect in the social as well as personal context. Roman Philosopher Platus opines that, “a woman without paint is like food without salt.”
Henna, (Lawsonia Inermis,) is a plant that grows in hot dry climates and has been used as a cosmetic all over the world for more than 6000 years, especially in Ancient Egypt, India, Middle East and Africa. In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra and Nefertiti have been known to have used henna to color their hair. The mummy of Ramses II was found with henna in his hair and nails. The eighteenth and nineteenth century also saw the popularization of henna and Lucille Ball and other Hollywood actresses dyed their hair a bright auburn using henna. In Islam henna is considered as ‘Sunnah’, meaning auspicious. Muslim men dye their hair as well as beards with henna following the tradition of their prophet, Mohammed. In the Bible, henna, (Camphire) is mentioned in the Song of Solomon, where the cluster of henna flowers was a metaphor for forgiveness and absolution.
How does henna dye the hair?
Henna contains a tannin dye molecule in its leaves called Lawsone which is released only upon crushing the leaves and mixing it with an acidic base such as lemon juice, which causes the cellulose from the cell walls to dissolve, thereby releasing the dye molecule. When applied to the hair, the lawsone molecules migrate from the paste and breach the cell walls of the cuticles of the hair shaft and bind with the keratin, imparting a bright orange color to the hair which keeps getting darker in the next couple of days. Henna seals the oil into the hair, closing off the cuticle, leaving the hair well conditioned and with a healthy shine. This is a permanent hair dye and the color stays for six to nine weeks.
Body Art Quality Henna:
Henna for hair is usually confused with black henna, red henna or other herbal combinations containing little or no henna at all. Most of these henna dyes are not pure henna as they contain, besides different herbs, certain bleaches like barium peroxide and chemicals that are responsible for lending a dark shade to the hair shaft like paraphenylene diamine (PPD), (used commonly In synthetic dyes). This form of henna is not desirable as it can lead to severe allergic reactions.
The best form of henna is the Body Art Quality Henna which
- Is pure and has high natural dye content.
- This form of henna has been thoroughly dried, cleaned, ground and sifted.
- Contains no other additives other than pure lawsonia inermis (Henna) leaves.
Body Art Quality Henna is
- Safe to use, easy to mix and apply to hair and is also easy to rinse out because of the fine sift.
- It gives a permanent color to your hair and has better gray coverage and dyes the hair a robust red or auburn tone and tends to graduate over time to a darker shade due to an oxidation process.
- Mixing the henna with lemon juice or any acidic liquid helps to preserve the hydrogen on the corners of the lawsone molecules, ensuring better binding to the keratin in your hair.
- This color does not fade.
Benefits of applying henna to hair:
- Henna seals the oil in the hair and conditions the hair, making it more manageable and less frizzy.
- It takes about 4 months for the henna to fade.
- Henna protects the hair against sun damage and is in fact a better hair conditioner than other commercial hair conditioners.
- Henna lends texture to hair giving it more body and volume.
- Henna helps in getting rid of dandruff, head lice and helps in elimination of ringworm.
How to apply Henna on Hair:
- Add tea leaves to boiling water and allow simmering for ten minutes. During winter it is a good idea to add a couple of cloves to the water. This helps to keep the head warm and also imparts a rich color. To get a darker burgundy tinge, add half a beetroot to this boiling water.
- Add about 4 tablespoons of pure body art henna in a bowl and pour the strained tea water into the powder to make a fine paste, the consistency of toothpaste.
- Adding coffee powder to this paste gives beautiful highlights to the hair.
- Soak overnight or for about 4-6 hours..
- Next day, just before applying to the hair add some curd and a teaspoon of olive oil to the paste. Apply on the hair in parts and pile the hair on top of the head. Cover with a shower cap and leave on for more than four hours. The longer the henna soaks into the hair, the richer the color of your dye.
- Wash off the henna from the hair. Do not use shampoo. Apply coconut oil to your hair and leave overnight. Next day, wash off your hair with a mild shampoo.
Precautions and tips:
- Remember to wear gloves while applying henna as the henna can stain your hands and fingernails.
- To avoid staining apply oil or glycerin on the hairline.
- Before putting on the henna, apply some coconut oil or olive oil to your hair. This helps in retaining the moisture in the hair and prevents the hair from becoming too dry.
- Do not mix the henna in a plastic bowl or use plastic spoons to mix the henna as plastic is porous. To get a richer shade you can soak henna in an iron bowl to allow the better release of dye. For a better result I also add a couple of iron nails into the mix and leave overnight for better results. However, please remember to remove the nails before applying the paste to your hair!
Henna for Hair: FAQ’S
1. What is Black Henna? Is it safe to use?
Black Henna, even though dyes the hair black in just 30 minutes, is not natural henna. The ingredients in this henna include, along with other herbs, barium peroxide, which is a bleaching agent, and paraphenylene diamine (PPD), which is commonly used in synthetic hair dyes and can cause severe allergic reactions. PPD is a chemical that is added to make the dye adhere to the hair strands better and for a longer time. It is not recommended for use as metallic salts and PPD it is not safe for your hair and health.
2. How long should henna be left in your hair?
The lawsone molecules in the henna generally take about four to six hours to release the color to your hair strands. For a darker shade you can even leave the henna on overnight, after taking precautions to prevent staining of pillows and sheets. Even after rinsing off the henna, it takes a couple of days to get a richer shade.
3. Does henna leave the hair dry?
Yes, henna does have a drying effect on your scalp. Just before applying the henna, add a tablespoon of curd or olive oil to the henna mix. This will moisturize the hair and prevent it from becoming dry.
4. How long does the effect of henna dye last?
Henna is a permanent hair dye and takes anywhere from 60 to 90 days to fade.
5. Is it safe to apply henna on hair? Can it be applied at home?
Henna is a natural colorant and is absolutely safe for the hair. Henna application might be a little messy and time consuming, but it is better than using bleaches and chemicals found in synthetic hair dyes, which, in the long run may damage your hair. Henna can be applied at home and as it is quite time consuming it would be definitely better to dye your hair in the comfort of your home.
Henna used for coloring hair and used as body art has evolved through the years and the process is still on. Heightened awareness regarding use of synthetic hair dyes and the harmful reactions of chemicals, coupled with easy accessibility to latest information through the internet has seen a shift in use of commercial hair dyes and people are turning to henna as a more natural option to color hair.