How to Use Henna for Natural Hair Care

Hey All,

This post is for everyone who is interested in henna for hair, has questions about henna for hair, or is just curious what all the fuss is about.

So here’s a quick rundown on the benefits of henna for fine natural hair:

1. Henna treatments offer an opportunity to do a heavy-duty deep conditioning treatment on your hair.
2. Henna strengthens hair like a protein treatment without adding actual protein.
3. Henna is a natural hair dye, giving your hair red highlights and coloring grays to a less visible copper color.
4. Henna is gentle enough to use on fine hair to give it some added strength.

Just as an FYI, my hair is both fine and low-porosity and I regularly use protein in my hair care. But I don’t use true protein treatments. Instead, I use conditioners that contain a protein and I use henna to strengthen my hair. If this sounds like you, keep reading. If it doesn’t sound like you, still keep reading.

Henna is a messy process.

It gets everywhere and it stains everything, so be prepared to do a fair amount of cleaning as you go and after you’re done. Here’s what you need:

  1. Henna powder
  2. Lots of your favorite protein-free conditioner ( I have at least 3 bottles on hand)
  3. Shower cap or plastic bag
  4. A heat source (for example, a Heat Therapy Wrap)
  5. A bowl and a spoon. (Plastic or wooden. No metal.)
  6. Lots of plastic hair clips Wide-tooth comb
  7. Your favorite hair oil
  8. Clothes you don’t mind getting messed up
  9. And lots of TIME

I use the Abbreviated Curly Nikki Method of hennaing my hair.

It’s been a life-changer. The past routines I followed involved steeping the henna powder in green tea overnight and leaving the concoction on my hair for at least 8 hours…Who has time for all of that? So, this abbreviated routine has been nothing short of a gift. No prep work. And only 4 hours of hanging out at home in clothes I don’t mind getting messed up and stained.

The proportions for this routine will change depending on the length of your hair. The proportions listed are based on my hair length, which is about 14-16 inches long. You’ll need to increase or decrease the amount of product you use if your hair is longer or shorter.

Metal reacts with the henna powder, so make sure to avoid anything metallic. 

I put about 12 to 14 ounces of a protein-free conditioner in a bowl (basically one and a half 8-ounce containers of conditioner) and stir in the henna powder until I have a smooth green mixture. I never measure, but I know what to look for. You want a mixture that looks a bit like creamed spinach, cream of wheat, or grits. You want the henna to be evenly mixed throughout. I use about 2 to 3 tablespoons of henna powder in my conditioner. You can also add any of your favorite oils to this mixture. In fact, I recommend it, because it’s going to be sitting on your hair for quite a while and will aid in conditioning your hair. 

Henna conditioner mix

Change into your “I’m at home minding my own business” clothes

Once you’ve got an even mixture, apply it to your dry unwashed hair. Just spread it on. If you run out, add more conditioner, henna, and oil to your bowl, and mix them up.

Once your hair is completely coated in your henna mix, put on your plastic cap. I suggest using heat as well to help the conditioner really penetrate your hair strands, especially for low-porosity hair. I use a Heat Therapy Wrap heated in the microwave for a minute. You’ll end up with an amazing deep-conditioning treatment when all is said and done. 

Let the henna/conditioner mixture sit on your hair for 4 hours. 

Keep a small towel nearby, because the mixture has a tendency to drip from beneath the cap and become an annoying mess. After 4 hours, jump in the shower. At this point, you’ll want to detangle your hair section by section while the conditioner is still in there helping make the process easier. Once detangled, rinse your hair clean. Make sure you have lots of protein-free conditioner on hand, because you’ll need several washes before all the henna is rinsed from your hair. It takes me about 2 co-washes before the water rinses clean. As you rinse the conditioner from your hair, it should feel super soft after a 4-hour deep-condition session. Once you’re done, jump out of the shower and style as usual. Make sure you have more protein-free conditioner on hand, because you’ll want to continue using it for the next week or two after your henna treatment. It’s a good idea to avoid protein for a little bit, just because a henna treatment mimics a protein treatment. 

For those out there who regularly use henna treatments, what recipes do you use? Let me know.

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  1. I have low porosity hair too and used henna for 2 years before it started breaking. Took a long time before I figured it out that henna acts like a protein and even though I wasn’t purposely using protein treatments, protein is in most products. I also was using tap water, as you said, henna reacts with metals. So I changed to distilled water. I also have a water filter to remove the chlorine from the water. For my henna mix, I keep it very simple now. I mix my henna powder with distilled water and a fruit acidic powder from Mehandi. I don’t measure either. Mix until mashed potato consistency. Let sit about 1-3 hours until smooth like yogurt consistency. Apply to hair in sections. Leave on for 30-60 minutes, (no heat, just plastic cap) rinse out with cheap conditioner. Then wash once or twice with protein feee shampoo (to get the earthy smell out) then deep condition with a protein free moisture roach conditioner for 20 minutes with heat cap. Rinse out. Hair is soft and healthy and gray is color copper. Looks like highlights. I have found argan oil works best for my hair for wash and go. I don’t use the henna as often as I used to, weekly or monthly. I just used it again after 10 months of rest to regrow my hair that was damaged from multiple things, heat, chlorine, protein. I plan to use it quarterly. My hair and scalp are extremely sensitive so henna is my only option to cover gray.

    1. Wow. 30-60 minutes works to cover grays? How easy is it to detangle? One the things I’ve found with my low porosity hair is that it’s generally easier to detangle after I’ve used heat to deep condition. But your method doesn’t do that. Any issues with tangling? If not, I might have to give your method a try 🙂

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