September 15th, 2011

Henna: a Healthy Hair Dye Alternative

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Healthy Hair Dye

This is a much overdue part two to a post I wrote about whether or not to use toxic hair dye when gray hair kicks in.  In the original post I shared various options for graying hair, ranging from going au natural to using permanent hair dye.

As a green living advocate, like many of you, I pay close attention to the chemicals that go in and on my body. However, my vanity began taking a stance and made it known that gray hair was not an option. I knew I had to do something to cover up those grays that were glimmering in the sunlight, but toxic chemicals weren’t an option.

Giving henna a try

I have spent the past few months experimenting with all sorts of henna products- trying to find a green, non-toxic option for graying locks that actually works.

I have tried 3 henna products multiple times-I wanted to give them each a fair shot.  I only tried the color black for each product (my natural hair color is dark brown).

Light Mountain Natural Color the Gray Hair Color and Conditioner-Black

What I liked:

  • There is no peroxide, ammonia or other additives.
  • Received a very low hazard score (this product received a ONE with zero being the safest possible score and ten the most hazardous) on the Environmental Working Groups Cosmetic Safety Database Skin Deep site-my go to site for checking the safety of personal care products.
  • I could pick it up at Whole Foods and have instant gratification on those really gray days.
  • Cost: around $10.00 per box. Generally good for one coloring.
  • The ingredient list was short-just plain ol’ black henna.
  • Comes with a cap and gloves to use for application.

What I didn’t like:

  • It’s a 2-step system. First application is a paste that you leave on for 5 minutes and then rinse. Then a second step requires another application of a different paste. This process is more labor intensive and time consuming than the single application system.
  • After the first step the gray strands turned a slight red color. The second step brought them closer to brown/black.
  • Very messy application-I may have had something to do with that!
  • The color didn’t stay very long-it seemed to wash out after a few weeks.

green and black henna

Coastal Classic Creations-black henna

What I liked:

  • The packaging was responsible and no frills. It comes in a tin foil looking pouch with a sticker containing the company’s logo.
  • They are committed to sustainability and protecting the environment.
  • The ingredient list was short-just plain ol’ black henna. No chemicals at all.
  • Received a very low hazard score (this product received a ONE with zero being the safest possible score and ten the most hazardous) on the  Skin Deep site.
  • Cost: $8.00 for 100 grams of Henna (good for one application on long hair).
  • It works. My hair holds the color for a few weeks.

What I didn’t like:

  • I had to order the product and have it delivered to my home. Not very green, but delivery was quick.
  • Very messy application-may have had something to do with me.

Green Henna

Surya Brasil Henna Cream

What I liked:

  • The mixture is pre-mixed. The consistency is easy to apply to hair.
  • No ammonia, PPD, peroxide, parabens, resorcinol, heavy metals or GMOs.
  • Cost: $14.00 for single application.

What I didn’t like:

  • The ingredient list was long-scored a FOUR on the Skin Deep site. It contains synthetic colors and other ingredients that made this far from all natural.
  • Didn’t hold the color for more than 2 weeks.

MY HENNA PICK: Coastal Classic Creations. The color seems to stay longer than the other two, it’s a one step process and I like supporting this eco friendly company.

Quick tips for henna application

  1. Henna, in its true form, looks like green powder and has a strong, distinct grass-like smell. Add an essential oil of your choice to help ease the scent.
  2. Apply henna in a place that easy to clean. It goes everywhere-even if you’re careful.
  3. Be prepared to not wash your hair for up to 48 hours. This is the hardest part for me-because the grass smell is so strong.
  4. Be prepared to have your significant other and/or children make fun of you for looking ridiculous in a plastic shower cap while waiting for the color to set.

Now it’s your turn…let me know if you’ve used henna and what you found.

[Top photo used under Creative Commons from D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr]

There are a few Amazon Affiliate links in this post. If you happen to order any of the products in this post through those links it will put a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!

25 Responses to “Henna: a Healthy Hair Dye Alternative”

  1. I’m so glad you finally posted this, because I’m psyching myself up to do it too. I hope the lighter colors are forgiving! I’ll let you know!

  2. Hi Jen-I’m sorry it took me so long to post! I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do. Are you planning to go lighter? I think you’ll like henna. Just brace yourself for the strong smell.

  3. So far I have no grey strands of hair, but trust me, I’ll come back to this post when they starts showing up! Thanks for the review.

  4. You are lucky that you don’t have any grays yet Andrea!! Mine just sort of popped up out of nowhere. Hopefully you won’t have to return to this post for a very long time!

  5. Thank you for posting this! I had been getting my hair colored for about a year before I learned about all the chemicals in hair dye. I appreciate reading about your experience with some different henna options.

  6. You’re welcome Ellen. There can be so many toxic chemicals in conventional hair dyes. Let me know if you try any of the henna products. I would love to hear how it works out for you since everyone’s hair is very different.

  7. Oh thanks for this post!! I have been debating what to do about my gray hair! I have used Henna in the past but not with such great results but after reading this post I am excited to try it again!!

  8. You are welcome Alicia! Let me know how it goes. Is your hair dark or light? I’m really liking henna right now, but I’m not sure it’s going to work long term. We shall see!

  9. Love the Surya Brasil Henna! Just used the black today. I have a system where I only use real hair dye three times a year by using Henna in between. The real hair dye I use is from Whole Foods. While not entirely nontoxic, it is much less so than the mainstream brands – that’s how I justify my 3 times per year. Good luck!

  10. I’m curious to hear more about using henna in between real hair dye. That might be an option for me someday. I’m noticing that the henna doesn’t completely take every time and I think over time it won’t cover the grays at all! Time will tell. Sounds like your hair is black, like mine. Wondering if the henna works as a touch-up in between the permanent dye. Thanks for the interesting idea! p.s. your site is great!

  11. I started going gray early so there is a lot of gray to cover. For me it does cover the roots well in between. Since my hair runs dry I only wash it every other day, which makes the Henna last longer. Like I mentioned, three times a year I use a permanent hair dye from Whole Foods (green box, forget the name). It works as well for me as any of the mainstream, toxin laden ones. It has no ammonia, peroxide,or Rescortinal. It is a system I find works well for me.

  12. I saw the green box at Whole Foods this weekend and thought of you. It’s almost time for a henna rinse -I’m starting to see a few grays. I’m wondering if the henna isn’t working as well. It seems that I have to use henna more frequently these days?? I usually wash my hair every other day as well-it’s healthier for my hair and I’m hopeful the henna stays in longer.

  13. Great post! Haven’t started going gray yet, but I am SURE I will be there shortly with my over-worrisome self!I like how you shared your views good and bad on each product, makes it easier when I am ready to purchase!

  14. No gray Tiffany! Lucky you 🙂 I just have a few, but they’re enough to make me turn to henna. Hopefully you won’t have to go there for a long time. Stop worrying!

  15. Thanks for your post. I was looking into th lm brand but sort of turned off by the 2 step process. I have dk brn black hair and currently use supreme henna from india. Not sure if it is safe so i wanted to switch. The shade is very long lasting about 2or3monthes. My complaint is i cant get the black color and their browns are too red. Like bright auborn in the sun. The coverage on the grey is really good.

  16. Hi Joann, Thanks so much for your comment. A two step process is generally a turn-off for me too. It’s already messy and takes forever. My issue now is the henna really isn’t covering the small amount of grey that I have. I have dark brown/black hair too. Did you check the IM brand on Skin Deep to see how safe it is? That’s generally my first place to check on the safety of a product.

  17. I’ve found it helps to apply the henna paste on really thick. Think cake frosting thick. It looks silly but that’s a key. Dont’ skip the gloves otherwise your hands will be stained for like what seems forever! Don’t be surprised if it takes a few eays for the final color to show up. There’s an oxidation process involved with henna dye like how a cut apple turns brown if left out. So don’t panic if the color isn’t what you were expecting immediately. Given time it may well get there. And depending on your hair, sometimes you may have to repeat the process to get good gray coverage.
    Tori Fitzner recently posted..Get Fuller Thicker Hair Using These 15 Fun Volumizing TricksMy Profile

  18. […] Another option is henna, a natural, plant-based hair color. I’ve tried it and personally, I’m not a fan of the mess or the barnyard scent. However, Lori from Groovy Green Livin is a henna fan and did a great review of a few popular henna brands. […]

  19. Hi Lori. Just started using Henna and switching everything over as green and safe as I can. I have to say that the Light Mountain I tried was a nightmare and it seemed like I had tar and feathered myself. Had to use baking soda several times to get the gravel out, so was not something I will do again. The Surya Brasil Henna was the best and trying to get over the level 4 score. Just tried black tea & sage rinses but it dried out my hair so will probably end up using the Surya. Just wondering if you had a hard time getting the gravel out of your hair after using Light Mountain?

  20. Hi Epi, Thanks for your comment. I have to admit that it’s been a while since I’ve used Light Mountain so I’m not remembering the consistency. I definitely do remember some of the henna products making a huge mess and having a hard time rinsing them from my hair. Would love to hear where you end up. Keep me posted!

  21. […] I tried henna. It was messy and smelly, but it worked. After a few months of using henna my stubborn grays […]

  22. I tried traditional henna (Light Mtn) with disastrous results: witchy green cast to my hair that took a whole bottle of ketchup to kinda sorta neutralize:( I hadn’t used commercial dye in over 10 years, so that wasn’t the problem! Plus, the extensive time involved, not to mention the consistency of the henna was like a fresh cow pie…not a fun day. I began using Surya and that gave the best coverage and was the easiest. But as my hair got more and more gray/silver, it took longer and longer to get the color past the red tones to the dark brown tones I wanted. So at 48 I decided to just let the gray come in. 8 months later it’s almost all gray/silver, and I *think* I love it!

  23. Thanks for sharing your experience Rebekah. Henna can be very messy! I’ve also tried Surya. Gray is so much easier! Unfortunately I’m not very gray- just a bit around my hairline- so I’m not ready to let the gray come in. Maybe in a few years!

  24. Henna: a Healthy Hair Dye Alternative – Groovy Green Livin

    […]Avoid expensive hair transplants; put down scalp injections. Reverse hair loss in 2weeks wt our activating scalp gel[…]

  25. i’ve seen mom use this henna for hair,oh! my granny too been thinking if im going to try it,looks interesting! thank you for sharing!

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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