Experiment with henna

I’ve been meaning to dye my hair for absolutely ages but really wanted to use natural dye, which I couldn’t find anywhere. Then when browsing in Lush, I spotted that they sell blocks of henna, which led to me spending my entire bank holiday Monday trying not to dye my entire house red. I thought it would be interesting to document the process. Apologies for the terrible cameraphone photos…


I started today with hair that was a sort of mousy light brown with blonde highlights and more grey than I’d like. I covered the bathroom in newspapers and old towels, dug out all the hair clips I never use and headed to the kitchen for the fun part.

I broke up the henna block into a bain marie (one of those kitchen items we own but never use, which made me feel better about the risk of totally ruining it for all future food uses) set over a pan of boiling water, and gradually added water until the henna had turned into a slightly crumbly hot paste. It’s a bit like melting chocolate but takes a lot longer and a lot more liquid. Also it has a weird green tinge, which I didn’t expect.

henna cookery
Henna cookery.

Then came the hard bit: applying the henna. I don’t know if I didn’t melt it enough, but there were still lots of dry crumbs in the henna paste and they went everywhere. Good thing I’d lined the bathroom as thoroughly as if we were painting the ceiling. The instructions said the hotter the paste is the better, so there was also the fun of trying not to burn/scald myself. As the paste dried on my hair it became nearly solid so it was a lot harder to make sure it was evenly covered than the usual chemical-filled hair dye.

Next step was to cover my hair for up to three hours. The instructions said to keep it warm to bring out the red tones, so I used a shower cap and a towel. And then I sat down to read. This was the part I’d been looking forward to, and it made me feel much better about spending most of a day dying my hair!

The end result looks way better than this photo suggests. It’s a lovely deep red brown. At some point I’ll take a picture with a real camera. So was all the time and fuss worth it? Right now, I think yes. But I still might try to find some henna that’s made up as a dye for next time. Any recommendations?