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A Natural Redhead’s Henna Experience: Pt.2

Entire Series: Introduction / Part 1 / Part 2


I’m so excited to share this part with you. It was a lot of work! I truly hope that my experience may be useful to other natural redheads who are longing for their old vibrancy. I’m developing an entire, in-depth series on all of this. For this post, however, I will just share what I did, how I did it, and the results.

These are the steps I followed.

  • Purchase quality henna and cassia, as well as needed supplies.
  • Determine which liquid to develop it with.
  • Create a “hairball” to test my color with. Mix up a small batch and await results.
  • The night before applying, mix up henna and leave out.
  • Next day: test henna for dye release.
  • When ready, protect my hands, clothing, and bathroom before applying.
  • Several hours later: begin the slightly arduous task of rinsing it all out!

Where I Bought My Henna + Other Supplies

I bought both my henna and cassia at HennaSooq. They have several varieties of henna. (If you have a lot of hair, or decide that you like it, you can buy a 6-pack from Amazon here for a great price.) Jamila is a commonly used and trusted brand. Most people recommend buying BAQ (body art quality) but I chose Henna for Hair because of its affordability. You can buy henna from a recent crop, or an older one. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s low-quality. It may have lost some of it’s lawsone content, which is the red-orange dye molecule. I purchased the older crop, which had an expiration date of one month from when I bought it. It worked great and I had zero issues!

Just as you mix chemical developer with conventional dyes, you need to develop the henna with something. You could just use plain water, but you have so many more great options! It’s best to use something acidic (or so the common knowledge says) such as orange juice, lemon juice, even tea. I chose chamomile tea for it’s mild properties, with a small amount of orange juice, which is supposed to intensify it a touch. (This is the specific brand of tea I chose.) I bought several jugs of distilled water. The hard water in my state is very bad, which can turn cassia dark, muddy, or green. I used the water to mix the henna, and to rinse most of it out at the end.

I also needed a ceramic bowl big enough for the mixture (I had one in the kitchen), mixing utensils (I used plastic spoons and a tint brush from Sally’s), and plastic wrap. You’re going to need the wrap both for your henna mixture and your head! But we’ll get to the application process in a bit. Last thing: I recommend buying nitrile gloves rather than latex. Some people have found that the henna can bleed through latex.

What’s a Hairball Test & Why You Must Do One


Okay, what’s this hairball thing? I can’t recommend this highly enough. Henna is permanent. You need to know what you’re getting into. Additionally, it’s a lengthy process. The color you immediately have isn’t the same as what you’ll have in a week. Henna oxidizes over time, meaning it will tone down and get darker. I can’t stress it enough: do this first. You’ll thank me.

After you’ve bought your henna and supplies, decide exactly what your formula will be. I had chosen 75% henna and 25% cassia. I mixed up a small bowl of that, along with my chamomile tea and orange juice, and let the dye release overnight. (More on dye release coming up.)

In the meantime, I gathered all the hair from my brush (while prepping for this, I didn’t clear any of the hair from my brush like I usually do every day, because I needed a good amount of hair) and rolled it between my palms until it became a manageable little ball of disgusting old hair. Yay!

Next, I laid out some plastic wrap. First I plopped some henna mixture on it. Then, I added the hairball. I put more henna mix on top of it, and smooshed it around really well. I wrapped it up securely, then placed it in a little box by my bed. Which made me feel pretty creepy.

Based on my research, I’d planned to let the henna develop on my head for about 6 hours. So, that’s how long I let Mrs. Hairball chill. Next, I rinsed the hair really well (over a small bowl, in case it fell out of my hands), dried it, and put it back into the box. OH, not before being shocked with the bright neon orange shade. I thought, “I am SO glad this isn’t all over my head right now.” Eek. However, I knew this was normal. Some call it the “henna blaze”. It just needs time to oxidize.

I checked on it every day, and after about 3 days it had toned down considerably. I could imagine where it would be in a week (average time to reach full oxidation is somewhere around 1-2 weeks max) and felt safe enough to finally put it on my own head. I was able to hold it up to my hair and see what it looked like next to my current color. (Sorry I don’t have a better photo, though.) And I’m skipping ahead, but I want to show you a comparison between my hairball right after being dyed, and my actual hair. IT’S SO ACCURATE. I know it takes a long time. But don’t skip this step!

Mixing Henna + Dye Release

Most boxes of henna that I’ve found contain about 100g of product. 100g-200g is enough for short-to-medium hair. Any longer than collarbone/shoulder-length you should probably purchase 300-400g. It’s better to have too much than too little, as I learned.

I had 100g of henna and 25g of cassia. Since my hair was barely collarbone length, I thought it’d be enough. I forgot that I have extremely thick hair. If you’re hair is thick or curly you might want to get more than you think you’ll need!

I poured the henna into my bowl, then my cassia on top. Cassia is lighter in color than henna, so it gave me an okay idea of the proportions. I took a photo but it’s a bit hard to tell. (I circled the cassia.) Next, I slowly mixed in my mixture of chamomile tea and orange juice. The tea was still a little warm, but that doesn’t matter as long as it’s not boiling. You’re aiming for a thick consistency like mashed potatoes – but not too thick. Just go slowly, mixing them carefully, until you get the right consistency.

Once everything was good and mixed, I pressed saran wrap onto it, and made sure there were no pockets of air or anything open on the side.

At this point, I had to let the henna sit out at room temperature to develop. I did this early on a Sunday morning, hoping it would be ready by the evening. After about 5 hours, I started to test it for dye release. I peeled back a very small sections of the wrap, used a chopstick to grab a tiny amount of henna, then rubbed that into my palm (the best place to test it!) for 30 seconds, before wiping it off. I was looking for a bright orange stain.

Initially, there was nothing. Henna’s not ready! I went back and checked in an hour and this time there was a good stain. I wanted to see if it would get more vibrant though. 20-30 minutes later, the patch test looked bright orange and I knew that it was good to go!

Protection, Application, and Rinsing

h_protectOver and over, I read about how messy henna is. It gets everywhere – on you, your bathroom, etc. I thought, “Not me! I’ll conquer the mess!” And I did.

I used 3 old bathroom towels to cover my sink, the floor, and the entirety of my toilet because it’s right next to the sink. I spread Vaseline all over my neck, ears, and hairline. Then I donned an epic costume. I wish I’d taken a photo, but I’ve recreated it with this super-professional Polyvore set! My aim was to protect my hands, arms, neck, chest…everywhere. I can be stubborn in peculiar ways. I was really determined to walk away with a clean face, body, and bathroom. It worked great. I wasn’t so worried about getting the henna everywhere, so the application didn’t take as long as it could have. AND I saved myself clean-up time. Efficient!

Everyone applies their henna differently. You can put it in a typical hair dye bottle, or use a brush (some people use small paintbrushes, even), or just your hands. For me, hands worked. My henna was thick enough that it didn’t go flying everywhere. It was simple and easy. I’d recommend looking for some YouTube videos on it – that helped me. I took a one-inch section from the top of my head, at the back, applied it thoroughly, then wrapped it into a little bun and kept working. With each piece, I wrapped it onto the ever-growing bun on the top of my head. By the time I reached the bottom of my head in the back, I was running out of henna!

I should have realized how thick my hair is. But it’s okay! For those last parts, I mixed up a henna gloss. I added some inexpensive conditioner to what was left, stirred it all up, and applied it. It’s not as vibrant as the rest, obviously, but it worked in a pinch and isn’t very noticeable.

I wrapped the henna really well with several layers of plastic wrap. I’ve heard many people recommend putting a swimming cap on over this, but I didn’t have any around and thought it sounded uncomfortable. Instead, I put a grocery bag over the wrap, clipped it with a small claw clip, and tossed on an old, loose beanie.

Now it was time to change out of my crazy clothing and hang out for 6 hours. Some people have issues with the henna dripping but mine was so thick I didn’t have that issue. I had a small amount of dripping in the very back, where I’d done the gloss. I just kept a hand towel around my shoulders.

Here was my concern with rinsing it out. Most people – like, everyone I’ve heard from online – say it took them an hour or so in the shower to get everything out. Since I have very hard water, which cassia doesn’t react well to, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage it. I had jugs of distilled water, and I decided to alternate rinsing with my detachable shower head and with the distilled water.

I started by leaning over the tub and plopping my hair into a big bowl of distilled water. I let it rest, slowly working in conditioner to loosen the mud. I don’t know why my experience was so different, but it was really easy to rinse out. I’d rinse with the shower head, continue reapplying conditioner, rinse with some distilled water, alternating them about 10 times before it was completely out. Based on what I’ve read, though, you may not find it so easy!


At last, it’s time to go over my results. My initial hair color was really, really crazy. Especially under fluorescent lights and in sunlight. But I kept strong! I work from home and had several days before I had to go anywhere (other than a couple trips to the store) so it wasn’t so bad. Some people don’t mind the bright color. You can cover it with headbands, headscarves, hats, or an up-do which might make it look less intense than if it was all down, flying around. It’s up to you.

To remind you, this was my hair before:


Here’s what it looked like immediately afterwards, in a variety of lighting:


After 3-4 days, it was perfect:

It did darken more than I had hoped after about a week and a half.

But here’s the cool thing about henna. Sure, when it finally oxidized, it was darker than I wanted. Not a problem. I used a special honey mixture to lighten it and voila! I have the perfect color! I found the information through the wonderful website Long Hair Community. They have an extremely detailed thread on the process, which you can find here. I will say the process is very messy, as the mixture can be drippy, but it was worth it in the end.


Huge difference, right?! I am so happy with this color. I do need to wash my hair in the regular shower sometimes, to get it really clean, so I’ll probably use honey and vinegar occasionally to keep it bright and free from mineral build-up.

Do you have any questions for me? Comment below! I’d love your thoughts on what the next post in the henna series should be. Options to lighten and darken it? More about developing it and which liquid to use? Let me know!

30 thoughts on “A Natural Redhead’s Henna Experience: Pt.2

    1. I posted my results on the Henna Forums years ago here is the link that has pictures.

      I had good luck with using henna with Ancient Sunrise® Kristalovino as my fruit acid. I was using Ancient Sunrise® Rajasthani Monsoon Henna 75% with Ancient Sunrise® Sudina Cassia at 25%. Now that I am almost completely pale blond with copper highlights, I am switching those percentages to get a strawberry blonde.

      Have you noticed as you age that you adjust to make your recipe a bit lighter? My roots are showing badly now thus going lighter with my mix. I do love the results as my curly hair is way less frizzy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christina! I’ve been working on getting a post on that finished. I’m in the midst of doing it fairly often because I just need the henna to be closer to the shade of very light roots, it’s too much upkeep! So I’ll have that soon. You can check back later or sign up to be alerted when I post. I think it’ll be very helpful for others and I want to be thorough! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hi there! i had a similar henna experience as you, with a similar start out color as well! I was a natural copperhead but it lightened with age so I’ve been using henna to bring back the fire.
        I would LOVE to know your honey lightening method so i could do it between henna applications to make my hair match my roots more. I haven’t found this other article you mentioned but would love to read it!


      2. Yes, I am waiting for those instructions as well. I’ve tried to combine honey and coconut oil, heat it a bit and apply it to my hair, but it hasn’t worked.


      3. I am having the sugar to cinnamon (redheads don’t get salt ‘n pepper) effect now that my hair is practically a gold with copper and silver at the roots.

        Tomorrow I am having highlights foiled into my hair for the transition to the lighter batch of Cassia (500 grams) to Henna (9 grams)


  1. How much did you mix for the hair ball? I didn’t get cassia, I just got henna, will it be too red? I’m a natural redhead so I’m nervous! When does it go back to your natural color?


    1. Hi Hannah! Glad to hear from you. For my personal mix, I used a tablespoon or two of henna and half a tablespoon for the cassia. I was basically just eyeballing it. Then I mixed in my chamomile tea until a reached a slightly lumpy texture. I let it develop the same way that I mentioned in regards to the full mix.

      What brand of henna did you get? And what shade of red are you? That’d give me a better idea of what you’re working with. As for returning to your natural color, henna is permanent. So you wouldn’t be able to go back to your natural color until you grew it out. That’s why doing research first is good, like you’re doing!

      Now, you can lighten it using a honey mixture. I do this every week myself simply because I live in a city with hard water so it darkens my henna fast. But in order to drastically lighten it, you’d need to be applying it often for a while. So that’s good to take into consideration.

      Oh, and what color are you going for? You can always create a henna gloss instead, it’s still permanent but it will give you more “translucent” coverage.


      1. I purchased Hannah Naturals Henna. I did a hairball test and it looks about like yours. I have extra henna from the hairball, how long can it sit out? I was a bright red but I live in Florida so the sun made it more blonde. I’m looking for a classic natural red. I’d love to try the honey lightening treatment. How do I make a henna gloss? Im only 18 so I don’t want a constant upkeep color. Thank you!!


      2. Oh and p.s. My mom had red hair when she was younger but now it’s faded and she dyes it brown. So it may be genetic?


  2. Hello there,

    Thank you for such a great, informative post with excellent photos! Please share your honey lightening technique. It may save me from a buzz cut. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a naturally curly strawberry blonde to medium redhead. My hair is down to the middle of my back un straightened and to my waist straightened. How much Henna do you recommend and what shade did you use and what is the brightening method?


  4. I was just curious if you are still using Henna? And if so has it darkened over repeat applications? I am a natural redhead who’s hair was also fading. I started using henna in fall of 2016 and have been using it ever since. I really like the result but it has gotten darker over the year plus I have been using it. Just wondering your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mine has done the same thing. I’ve been using henna for about a year now and I am currently looking for ways to strip it. It doesn’t look the same as when I first started using it. My roots fade really fast, the front to middle is a nice red shade, and the back is auburn. Not only do I not like the color variance, it has killed my curls. I have had naturally curly hair all my life and it is now stick straight and limp. YUCK!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Are you using heat? Any heat treatments such as hair dryer, hot rollers, or flat iron will darken henna over time.

        Since I know mine is pure henna, it is safe to bleach color out. If you use pure henna, you should be able to apply bleach for lightening.


      2. Hi Michele! So sorry to hear about your results 😞 the darkening happens to lots of people so you aren’t alone. This is just my thoughts but I would highly highly recommend you avoid bleach, at least for the moment. I researched it thoroughly and the results are so inconsistent that it was definitely a risky choice. Everyone is different but if you want to go that route use EXTREME caution. I will find a good thread from the Long Hair Community (THE best henna resource!) that talks about bleach. I will also link you to the thread about honey lightening. That’s what I did at first. It’s a tough process though.

        What finally brought my shade down a couple levels with Sun In. It isn’t bleach, but it is peroxide which needs to be handled with care. Still, it’s safer than bleach. I will find those links and add them soon 😃


      3. LHC post on bleaching henna:

        Honey lightening thread:

        Sun-In to lighten henna (approach this almost like bleach—it can work but you have to research and be smart. Some people ruined their hair. I successfully lightened mine plus it stayed healthy. But I followed this very detailed thread!)

        Hope this helps!!


    2. Sorry for such a late response Beth!!! 🙊 Not sure where you are with your henna these days, but yes, henna will get darker every time you use it if you do it all over. I only do my roots and so I haven’t had any darkening.


  5. Hello,
    Great post! I am wondering, do you think that it would be possible to just mix some of the Henna mixture with conditioner for a lighter application? Would it still cover a few stray grey hairs? That’s really all I am looking to do, my color hasn’t started fading too much (yet!!) in fact it seems to be getting a little darker with more coppery highlight tones. I am a natural redhead and have never dyed or done anything to my hair before, it’s completely “virgin” hair. So…I am petrified to try anything haha!
    Thanks in advance (P.S. your hair looks beautiful!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi PJ! Yes, you can absolutely use conditioner to make a henna gloss. Thad actually what I do now! I’m pretty lazy (lol) and my hair is so light now that when my roots start to show, it’s a stark contrast to bright copper. So after lightening my henna a couple shades with honey and Sun-in, I transitioned to a henna gloss. I use 75% cassia/25% henna. I’ll use distilled water that I’ve infused with weak black tea (amps up the color the tiniest bit in my experience) and make enough that’s about 3 cups total (of the mixed henna/water, don’t add measures water to henna, add it little by little until the consistency is like mashed potatoes). For that amount I like to add up 1/3-1/2 cup of conditioner (I use an inexpensive brand like Suave Professionals Almond & Shea Butter. Aussie makes one called Mega Moist that’s great for it too). You’ll want to play around.

      Don’t forget to still do the hair ball test I detailed! It might be a light color but it’s still henna which is 100% permanent. I hope this helps!


      1. This really does help Rachelle, thank you so much! I was toying originally with using Aveda conditioners (in Clove and Madder root as they both contain a light amount of color). I went to the Aveda store and they said the mixture of the two would produce a really beautiful red color…however (like you) I did a bunch of research only to find out that Aveda uses synthetic dyes in their shampoo/conditioners that are definitely not good for you or your hair. ( I was bummed too because I really like Aveda stuff and though they were “all natural”…learned a good lesson there about reading labels) Just thought I would pass along in case someone else is in a similar position trying to figure out what to use, natural is always better!
        Thanks again and I will be trying this soon 🙂


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