I am a natural redhead, but now that I’m in my mid-thirties and live in a sunny climate, my hair has faded to red-tinted blonde. But of course, I want to stay bright ginger!
But, red hair is naturally dry, so I’d like to avoid drying it further with chemical dyes. What I need is a natural product that both reddens and conditions.
Ladies and gentlemen, henna does both.
Natural henna has been used for centuries to create a permanent ginger tinge. While non-gingers use henna to achieve red hair, natural redheads can use it to freshen and boost their red shade. It looks particularly natural on redheads and is simpler to apply than you may think.
Firstly, locate a henna supplier; try an apothecary or natural hair product store. Select a plant-based henna – not a chemical version.
Things are about to get messy
Henna comes in many shades from brown tones to strawberry blonde tones. You may need to try out different shades to find your desired hue.
You can also add a dash of ginger, paprika, allspice, or nutmeg to bulk henna powder to increase the red (I prefer just basic red henna.) Ask the store clerk for colour suggestions and how much henna is appropriate for your hair length. Lush carries a variety of natural henna products which can be broken down into powder, available in the UK and US.
If you’ve dyed your hair with peroxide within a month, be aware that some henna products can effect colour negatively!
Also, another warning: henna permanently dyes hair strands, you won’t be able to strip it out!
Aside from henna powder, you will also need:
- Drop cloth or old towels
- Oil, skin cream or Vaseline
- Rubber gloves
- Small paintbrush
- Non-metal bowl and spoon
- Hair clips and comb
- Plastic bag or plastic wrap
- A friend to help, if possible
1. Wet and comb hair (it’s best to apply henna a couple of days after its last shampooing).
2. Drape floor/counter with drop cloth/old towels. Drape a towel over your shirt or wear something you don’t mind getting stained.
3. Put oil, skin cream or Vaseline on the skin along the hairline and atop ears to avoid staining skin.
4. Don gloves to avoid staining hands.
5. Using a large bowl and spoon, mix hot water with henna powder until it is the consistency of pancake batter. You could also use an automatic whisk to whip into a smooth texture, which helps the henna soak in (thoroughly rinse utensils after use!). Depending on the henna product you are using, you may need to let it sit in the bowl covered for several hours to “set”; consult manufacturer directions for this.
6. Then, using a comb, select a section at the top of your head and apply henna thoroughly using the paintbrush. Press paintbrush against the roots repeatedly, while avoiding facial skin. “Paint” henna into the entire section of hair to the tips. Pin finished sections up and apply to all hair.
7. When you’re done, place the plastic bag or wrap over your hair and tie at forehead. Wipe any excess henna from your skin (we warned you it would be a bit messy).
8. Allow the henna to sink into your hair for 2-3 hours or blow-dry your head with a warm dryer setting for 1.5 hours to expedite setting time (be careful not to hold hair dryer too close to plastic).
9. Take a shower or use sink to rinse hair thoroughly. Rinse sink/tub of residual henna. If you notice any staining, it should wear away after a few days.
10. Don’t shampoo or condition hair for 48 hours. Use an old pillowcase on your pillow in case of overnight staining.
…And there you have it!
After. YES, it’s amazing.
The henna will look particularly intense within the first week or so, but will soon tame down. I have found it takes about 4-6 months for the henna to noticeably fade from my hair, so I apply henna 2-3 times a year.
Final step: enjoy all the compliments you are sure to receive, whether you are a natural, freshened-up ginger or a chosen ginger!
If you feel like using natural henna a bit scary, try our Henna and Horsechestnut hair products for redheads, which uses henna but not too much that it permanently dyes your hair! You get the enhancing benefits for as long as you use the products.
Alexa Ara runs Little Redhead Books, selling illustrated novelty booklets, notecards, and multi-media art featuring the topic of red hair and more. Products can be purchased at her Etsy online store, and more info can be found at LittleRedheadBooks.com.