Hello beautiful people,
I am here today with my loooong overdue henna update, one of my carry-over posts from 2014.
Last year, I took on henna. I bought my first henna for the classic
product-junkie excuse reason that it was on sale. I’d read a little about it before and I thought, why not?
After my first treatment, I did some more reading and learnt that henna’s benefits are greater over continued use, so I decided to commit to henna for 6 months.
In those 6 months, I did 5 full strength henna treatments.
The question now is: Will I Continue to Henna?
My short answer is NO, I WILL NOT CONTINUE TO HENNA!
This doesn’t mean anyone lied about Henna though. Let me explain in detail with a full assessment.
First, here are the reasons I decided to henna:
- For colour- if not a full head, at least highlights
- For strengthening
- For thicker strands
- Henna’d hair is supposed to be silkier, and hold better definition when styled.
I henna’d every 4-6 weeks, so by the time I was ready to henna, I was actually looking forward to it. It felt good to add something to my Wash- Deep Condition- Moisturise & Seal routine, like I was giving my hair a treat. Like Sunday rice, or a spa day.
I’d get my gloves the day before, wake up in the morning, almost humming as I brewed tea to mix my henna, mix it, leave it to activate for hours, truly looking forward to it. I also really liked the earthy smell. But when I finally started henna-ing proper, I’d be seriously loathing myself.
Is this life? What is this mess? The hell am I doing?
Henna is SO bluddy messy. Ayurveda generally. And messy is so damned stressful!
BUT THE BENEFITS.
Oh the benefits, let’s look at them one by one.
1. COLOUR: 5 full-strength treatments with hibiscus tea did not give me the red tint I wanted. After each henna, I noticed that my singular grey strand that I can’t find right now, went through colour changes. Grey to blonde-ish, to a coppery red. In certain lighting, when I examine my individual strands, they are a rich brown colour. Before henna, my hair was totally black- so I guess I was
crawling moving towards the red. For the most part, even though individual strands look brown in natural light, my full head and individual strands in other lighting look totally black. So, you can say that nothing has changed.
2. STRENGTHENING: I didn’t have a breakage problem when I started henna, so in all honesty I can’t say my hair felt stronger after a henna treatment. But it felt dry and kind of brittle as it normally does when I put heavy protein in so I guess… yeah.
3. THICKER STRANDS: Welp. I’d heard it before, said it myself many times- nothing can thicken your hair strands or multiply your follicles, these things are part of your DNA. Most of my strands are so thin, they are almost transparent. At the end of my 6 month henna, I remember looking at fallen strands in the sink, they looked thicker to me. So I picked them up, and compared to a piece of thread, and next to it, they were just as I remembered, almost invisible. My strand texture hasn’t changed, but I think henna gave me the impression that they had.
4. SILKIER HAIR WITH BETTER DEFINITION: Henna does help with definition. One of my best hair days yet, was after a henna weekend. After a henna treatment, mere chunky twisting my hair to get it out of the way, with no product, nada- I already see the makings of great definition. So on this one, I say yes, henna gets it. I don’t know about the silkier bit though, my fro still felt and looked as cottony as usual.
All Things Considered…
My main motivation was colour. Adding hibiscus tea to boost the dye, I really hoped I could cheat nature and have a rich red tint without going through the damage that comes with chemical dyes. So far, this hasn’t happened, and I guess it could happen if I henna for a year, but weighing that desire against the stress of henna? NOPE. It’s not that serious. People dye their hair with chemical dyes and their hair is still on their heads. I think the stress of keeping up with moisture levels looks more attractive than the stress of henna. When I’m ready to take the plunge, perhaps in the near future when I’m a student again, I will get my colour done.
Also, though I didn’t notice any strengthening per se, I think it’s good to do routine protein treatments. I’m not about the egg and mayo life either, so I’m going to find a protein treatment in a bottle that works. Any suggestions? Help a sista! 🙂
Other Effects of Henna
On my first Henna Day, my hair clumped up in curls like I’d never seen before, when the henna was in. Henna has been said to cause curls to clump like- give natural definition, and also loosen natural curls. One thing I noticed after I started Henna was that my coils tended to spring more when wet, no matter the products used, even after just shampoo.
The interesting thing about my Henna treatments is that I did not get the exact same curl reaction from my hair with each one.
My hair was curliest after Henna Day #4. See how curly it was.
But by the time I was done drying it with a cotton tee, it was back to good old invisible definition 4C-ness. 🙂
About a week after Henna #2, I tried a braid out with flaxseed gel. I used too much, and ended up with weird dull residue and flaking, so I did a quick co-wash with Hello Hydration to get it out & reset my hair.
On this particular day, my hair was curly in a manner similar to Henna #4 while I had the conditioner in, but reverted to shrunken no definition after the conditioner was rinsed out.
With the exception of Henna #4, I did not experience hang time on a Henna Day (As in, right after rinsing out and deep conditioning). My curls were not elongated and shrinkage was business as usual.
Life After Henna
My hair still isn’t curly but some curls clump more when wet and product-free. I see them clinging to themselves, in a way they never did outside a mudwash. At the back and with a few in the middle, they look slightly looser. I’ve tried to photograph this and failed, so this should tell you how unnoticeable the change is. I notice because I’m the one that studies these curls, but if you were to just look at me, it’d be hard for you to see.
Note though, that even with continuous use, henna is not going to “loosen” your 4C tight coils to bouncy ringlets. Nibi explained it to me this way- it depends on your curl size. My curls can be likened to a spring in a pen. They are that tight. Henna’s loosening isn’t going to melt the metal and fashion it into a bigger spring. It’s the same spring, only more stretched out.
Henna encourages strands to clump. And to my understanding, clumping is what gives curl definition. 4C hair strands have a curl pattern when you look at strands individually. However, our strands for different reasons do not easily clump or stick together, that’s why curl definition isn’t normally visible. So with the slight stretching + clumping, henna can give the appearance of looser curls.
For people with wavy hair, frequent henna use can leave them with straight hair because their curls are already quite loose. To further stretch their curls out following the analogy of the spring, the next bus stop is straight hair.
Again, I had curls only for a moment, so if you’re hoping henna is going to be a natural texturiser, nope. It isn’t going to loosen your curls just like that, and even then, the loosening may be gone with a rub of your palms.
Long Story Short,
Henna works as promised but, I don’t enjoy the process and I don’t consider it essential or necessary suffering.
I think I’d be open to trying a henna gloss in the future. Henna glosses are not full strength treatments, so hopefully they’re not as messy.
Having said all this, let me share a few ideas that helped me with henna.
- Apply henna right before bed and wear it overnight. Drippies irritate the hell out of me, so this was the only way I could remain sane. At night your body is resting, so it isn’t generating too much heat, and won’t drip. Also you’re not really conscious of it, especially if you’re a gentle one-sided sleeper. By the next morning run to the bathroom to rinse.
- Rinse for your life and I mean it. After using a reasonable amount of water, you may think you’re done, but I can almost bet my money that you aren’t! Curly Nikki recommends dunking your head in a tub or a sink, but that gives me anxiety issues. Taking water from a bucket is not an effective way to rinse. Instead, use a shower head or put your head under the tap of running water. The pressure helps shake the henna particles out.
- Use body art quality henna. This is important. If you buy random henna that’s not finely ground, it’d be much harder to get bits and twigs yes I said twigs (I’ve seen it happen, just not with me) out of your hair.
- You Can DC as usual. When I started henna, I was told that I needed to have my deep conditioner on for the same time as I had the henna on. I always left my henna in for five hours. On the first treatment, I had my DC in for 5 hours and almost ran mad. I HATE HATE Drippies! After this, I used my deep conditioners as I normally would, followed their instructions as usual and this was just as effective.
- Full Coverage: Make sure your hair is fully covered by your DC, or else, you could risk breakage in any areas that aren’t feeling the love. If you aren’t normally heavy handed with product, this calls for an exception. Don’t skip using a leave-in conditioner after a Henna day. You need all the moisture you can get!
- Protect! Wear an old tee to henna, preferably in a dark colour and except orange fingernails are your thing, please wear gloves!
- Time your henna well. For instance, you don’t want to Henna the day after you clean your bathroom! Henna day is pretty much always bathroom scrub down day, so plan accordingly.
- And just in case you were wondering, there’s no need to shampoo or do anything before you apply henna!
Where to Find:
Are you a committed henna head? Have you ever tried? Your thoughts?