Natural hair is resilient and versatile. You can do many creative things with natural hair.
Unfortunately, colouring natural hair with chemical dyes is not one of those creative things.
Irrespective of what the bottle says or promises, colouring natural hair with chemical dyes will eventually lead to dryness, split ends and breakage.
The chemicals are just too harsh for the hair. They work by raising the pH level of hair and breaking down the structural bond of hair.
How to Dye Natural Hair at Home
Despite reading all that, you still want to cover your grey hair and/or switch up your hair color sometimes.
What’s the best way to achieve this without damaging your hair then? Incorporate henna and indigo into your regimen.
I have been using this method for dyeing my hair since I went natural and I’m yet to regret it. It’s gentle, effective and lasts for up to 12 weeks at a time, longer if I’m wearing protective styles in-between.
This is a very detailed guide on how to colour natural hair with henna and indigo so grab some coffee before you start reading and maybe take some notes in your hair diary and planner.
10 Benefits of Coloring Natural Hair with Henna and Indigo
1. Henna and Indigo is Natural
No chemicals is one of the best benefits of dying natural hair with henna and indigo. No synthetic dyes and no pre-mixed dyes. All-natural. Best henna and indigo recommendations below.
2. Safe and Gentle
Henna and indigo is a safe, gentle and natural way to colour natural hair at home without damaging your hair.
3. Henna and Indigo Conditions Hair
Henna and indigo help condition the curls and enhances the benefits of deep conditioning over time.
4. Damaged Hair Recovery
If you have had a previous disaster with chemical hair dyes, henna and indigo can help your hair recover faster.
5. Loosens Curls
Treating hair with henna and indigo loosens the curls but only slightly. More on this on Can Henna and Indigo Loosen Your Curl Pattern?
6. Henna and Indigo Strengthens Hair
Henna and indigo strengthen hair strands by tightening cuticles and promoting shinier and healthier hair.
7. Damage-Free Colouring Method
Henna and indigo cannot damage hair. It’s strong enough to colour but not so strong that it will adversely affect your hair. You should have a great colouring session if you follow the directions below.
8. Eliminates Itchy Scalp
Henna can help reduce itchy scalp but that this may depend from person to person.
9. Reduces Hair Shedding
If your hair is shedding a lot, henna can help control hair fall when used in combination with the methods from The Ultimate Hair Growth Guide.
10. Therapeutic Effects
Henna has a relaxing effect on the scalp. After application, wrap your hair tightly with cling film and a scarf and take a nap. You’ll discover what I mean.
Henna for Hair
Henna is a plant which contains a red-orange pigment known as lawsone. When an acidic agent is introduced into crushed henna leaves, it activates the lawsone molecules.
When the lawsone molecules are activated, it penetrates deep into the hair shaft and leaves a deep stain.
3 Myths About Henna for Hair
There are a few myths about henna, which I will disabuse before you dye your hair with henna and indigo:-
1. Henna Can Make Hair Grow Longer
Henna cannot make your hair grow longer or increase the hair growth rate. That is simply not possible.
It will improve the overall health and durability of your hair, which will lead to healthier hair growth, not long hair growth.
2. Henna Can Repair Split Ends
Henna cannot repair split ends. It can help you hold onto them longer than necessary but it cannot repair split ends.
The only thing that can end split ends is a merger between your hair and a good pair of trimming scissors such as Equinox Professional Razor Edge Series.
Related Conent: Best Tips for Trimming Natural Hair
3. Henna Can Loosen Curl Pattern Significantly
This is unlikely. The next article will cover this myth in greater detail along with pictures of my experiment to test this theory.
Indigo for Hair
Indigo comes from a plant that can be found in tropical areas. This plant contains the rich blue dye used to dye hair.
It can also be used to dye clothes but when applied over hair after a henna treatment, it will leave a lovely blue-black stain with red, orange and brown undertones on natural hair.
Henna and indigo make a perfect combination for dyeing hair. Do not dye your hair with indigo alone unless you want to end up with flaming blue hair like Marge Simpson.
While indigo alone on black hair won’t turn it as blue as Marge’s, it won’t have the same rich, lush results as when combined with henna and will leave your hair dull.
Henna and Indigo Recipe for Dyeing Grey Hair
The recipe below is for dyeing grey hair as well as giving black hair a rich blue-black hue. You will need the following ingredients:-
- 1 – 2 packets of organic henna like The Henna Guys Henna Powder. You may need more if you have long hair. You can freeze unused henna paste for later.
- Bottled lemon juice. You may need up to 2 bottles of lemon juice.
- Roll of Cling film
- Gloves to protect your hands from staining
- If you want a cooler undertone to the dye, consider adding 2 tablespoons of amla powder to the henna mix.
- 1 – 2 packets of indigo powder like The Henna Guys Indigo Powder. You may need more if you have longer hair. You cannot freeze unused indigo paste so mix sparingly.
- 1 – 2 packets of CMC powder. This powder makes the indigo mix creamier so it spreads easily and evenly through your hair.
Henna Mix Ready to Apply on Hair
Henna Application on Natural Hair
Henna and Indigo Directions for Dyeing Grey Hair
- Mix the henna with enough lemon juice to form a smooth paste the same consistency as chocolate mousse. If you plan to add amla powder, do not use lemon juice for this step. Lukewarm water is best.
- Cover with cling film and set aside for at least 24 hours before you plan to dye your hair. The longer you keep it aside, the more dye is released from the paste.
- When you’re ready to dye your hair, mix in enough lemon juice (water only if you’re using amla powder) with the paste to form a smooth runny consistency but not too runny.
- Apply some vaseline on and around your ears so the henna doesn’t stain.
- Slip on the disposable gloves then apply the henna mix to your hair and scalp generously. Don’t worry about applying too much. Saturate your hair with the henna mix.
- Wrap cling film around your head and leave on for up to 8 hours. You can apply at night and leave in overnight.
- Rinse out with a cheapie conditioner like Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Conditioner, Alberto VO5 Moisture Milks Moisturizing Conditioner or Suave Naturals Conditioner and water.
- When your hair is free of henna, pin-up and mix your indigo paste.
- Mix 1 – 2 packets of indigo powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 packet of CMC powder with enough water to make a creamy consistency.
- Apply to hair the same way you applied the henna paste.
- Wrap cling film around your head and leave in for an hour minimum but you can leave it in for several hours more if you have the time.
- Rinse out with lukewarm water until your hair is clean.
- Follow with a deep conditioning session and style as usual. The blue-black colour will get richer over the next few days.
Indigo Mix for Natural Hair
Indigo Application on Natural Hair
Henna and Indigo Recipe for Brown Highlights
The recipe below will give brown, reddish highlights. You will need the same ingredients mentioned above.
- Mix the henna with enough lemon juice to form a smooth paste the same consistency as chocolate mousse.
- Set aside for at least 24 hours prior to dyeing your hair. (Water only if you’re using amla powder).
- When you’re ready to use the paste, mix in enough lemon juice with the paste to form a smooth runny consistency but not too runny. Set aside.
- Mix your indigo powder and CMC powder separately with enough water for a runny consistency then mix in with the henna paste and apply to your hair immediately.
- Leave in for up to 8 hours. Rinse out with water and a cheapie conditioner afterwards then follow up with a good deep conditioning session.
- The ratio of the henna and indigo mix can change based on how much highlights you want in your hair. The recipe above is for equal amounts of henna paste and indigo powder but you can use less henna and more indigo or more henna and less indigo.
Henna on Natural Hair: Before and After
Below are some pictures of my results with henna over the years. Colouring natural hair with henna and indigo is a great way to enhance and promote healthy curls.
It also allows you to experiment with hair colour. My hair is shorter in the second picture, which was one of my first experiences with henna and indigo.
You never know if you developed some sort of allergy since the last time you used it.
Below is a visual aid for dying natural hair at home with henna and indigo:
Best Henna Brands for Dyeing Natural Hair
- The Henna Guys Henna Powder
- Cavin Schon USDA Certified Organic Pure Henna
- Merlion Naturals Organic Henna Leaves Powder
- H & C 100% Natural and Pure Henna Powder
Best Indigo Brands for Dyeing Natural Hair
- Cavin Schon USDA Certified Organic Indigo Powder
- The Henna Guys Indigo Powder
- Merlion Naturals Organic Indigo Powder
- Metiista 100% Pure Indigo Powder
If you have any questions about using henna and indigo for coloring natural hair, let me know in the comments section.
Abi delved into the world of hair care after suffering from a bout of severe hair loss. She is the founder of Healthy Natural Hair Products & Natural Oils for Hair and Health, as well as the writer of the Healthy Hair Care Series. She is also the creator of the The Self-Empowerment Network Portal. Read more…