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What color does henna powder dye your hair?


Henna powder is a natural plant-based dye that has been used for centuries to color hair, skin, and fingernails. When henna powder is mixed with water or other liquids into a paste and applied to the hair, it temporarily dyes the hair a reddish-orange color. The exact shade can range from strawberry blonde to auburn to burgundy red depending on the quality of the henna, other ingredients added, and your original hair color.

What is Henna?

Henna is a flowering plant that grows in hot, dry climates. It is known by its scientific name Lawsonia inermis. The henna plant produces a compound called lawsone that has natural dyeing abilities. Henna has been used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, and fingernails, as well as leather and textiles. It has remained popular for hair dye because it is a non-damaging, healthy way to color hair temporarily.

Here are some key facts about henna:

  • Originates from tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, and northern Australasia
  • The leaves of the henna plant are dried and ground into a fine powder to make henna dye
  • Lawsone is the active coloring compound in henna powder that bonds to the keratin in hair and skin
  • Considered a temporary or semi-permanent hair dye that lasts 1-3 months
  • Colors hair a reddish-orange hue depending on original hair color
  • Does not contain ammonia or bleach like permanent chemical hair dyes
  • Nourishes hair and can help strengthen strands

How Henna Powder Works on Hair

Henna powder works a bit differently than permanent chemical hair dyes. Here is an overview of how henna dyes hair:

  • The lawsone compound in henna binds to the keratin (protein) in hair.
  • This creates a stain that coats the cuticle, or outer layer, of your hair strands.
  • The color is not able to penetrate the cortex, or inner structure, of hair.
  • For this reason, it only temporarily dyes the surface and fades over time.
  • Henna does not lighten or bleach hair – it only deposits color.
  • The shade it dyes depends on your original hair color and the henna quality.

Unlike permanent hair dye, henna does not severely open up the cuticle layer and damage the inner structure of your hair. However, some swelling of the cuticle may occur to allow the lawsone molecules to bind to hair keratin. This means it will fade away over several weeks as hair is washed.

What Color Will Henna Dye My Hair?

The shade of red that henna powder will dye your hair depends on a few factors:

  • Your Original Hair Color – Henna results will vary on natural white, gray, blonde, brunette, black, and red hair.
  • Henna Quality – Body art quality henna has the highest lawsone content for deeper colors.
  • Processing Time – The longer the paste is left on, the more intense the color result.
  • Additional Ingredients – Adding ingredients like coffee, cloves, or indigo affects color.
  • Chemical Treatments – Prior permanent dyes or bleaches interact with henna dye.

This table provides a general guide to what color hair henna can produce:

Original Hair Color Color Result with Henna
White or Gray Bright Orange-Red
Blonde Strawberry Blonde to Auburn Red
Light Brown Golden Red to Mahogany
Dark Brown Burgundy
Black Deep Purple-Red Tones
Red Enhanced Red Tones

As you can see, natural redheads will get the most vibrant boost from henna with enhanced red hues. Blondes will see their hair turn a lighter strawberry red, while brunettes will get deeper auburn, mahogany, and burgundy tones. Gray hair turns a bright fiery orange-red.

Henna on Dark Hair

Those with naturally dark brown or black hair who want to go lighter with henna have a couple options:

  • Leave the henna on hair for a shorter time (30 min to 1 hour).
  • Dilute the henna dye with lemon juice to lighten the color deposit.
  • Bleach hair first before applying henna for brighter results.
  • Add chamomile tea to the henna mix to brighten dye.

Keep in mind that henna cannot lighten hair past your natural color. If you want a more drastic color change, you will need to pre-lighten with bleach. However, bleaching before henna can lead to uneven results. Consult a colorist to ensure proper application.

Henna Gloss Treatments

A great way to experiment with henna hair dye for darker brunettes is through a gloss treatment. A henna gloss uses a diluted version of the paste that deposits just a hint of color while conditioning hair. This is a subtler way to try it out before committing to an all-over permanent dye.

Here is how to do a henna gloss:

  1. Prepare henna according to directions but dilute with extra water.
  2. Apply gloss to damp hair, focusing just on the mid-lengths and ends.
  3. Leave gloss on for 30 minutes to an hour.
  4. Rinse out and shampoo as normal.

The gloss will add a sheer layer of red tones to hair without lightening or drastically altering your natural shade.

How Long Does Henna Last?

Henna is considered a semi-permanent hair dye. The color will begin fading after the first wash and last around 1-3 months before completely rinsing out of hair.

How long it takes the henna to fade depends on:

  • Your hair’s natural porosity
  • Frequency of hair washing
  • Use of clarifying shampoos
  • Exposure to sun and swimming

Those with more porous and dry hair will hold onto the henna color longer than those with oily hair. Washing hair less often and using gentle, moisturizing shampoos will help the henna last longer. Avoid clarifying shampoos that can strip color. The sun and chlorine from pools can also hasten fading.

Some may choose to do root touch-ups every few weeks to maintain bright color. But for many, the temporary nature of henna is a benefit for trying different shades!

Benefits of Henna Hair Dye

Using henna powder as a natural alternative hair dye has many benefits:

  • Conditions and strengthens hair strands
  • No ammonia or bleach damage
  • Safe to use during pregnancy
  • Poses minimal skin irritation risk
  • Provides sun protection to hair
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Temporary, flexible color changes

The plant compounds in henna have been shown to seal the hair cuticle and reinforce the hair shaft. This helps improve moisture retention and protect against breakage.

Henna is ideal for pregnant women because it does not expose them to harsh chemicals. It is also very low allergy risk and safe for those with sensitivities.

The natural dyes act as a protective barrier against UV radiation. Henna’s antimicrobial properties can also combat dandruff and other scalp issues.

For many, henna is the healthy, versatile option that allows them to experiment with shades without long-term commitment.

Mixing and Applying Henna Hair Dye

To achieve the best results with henna hair dye, follow these steps:

  1. Choose 100% natural henna powder. Avoid products with added dyes, metallic salts, or PPD which can be damaging and interact poorly with henna.
  2. Mix the henna powder with water, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or tea. The liquid helps release the dye compound. Acids like lemon brighten while tea darkens color.
  3. Add other ingredients to modify color like cloves, coffee, indigo, or cassia.
  4. Let the mixture rest for at least 6-12 hours to allow dye to fully release.
  5. Apply on clean, dry hair and work thoroughly from roots to ends. For best results, apply to hair that hasn’t been chemically treated.
  6. Leave the paste in for 2-4 hours depending on desired color intensity. Wrap hair in plastic and keep paste thick.
  7. Rinse thoroughly with cool water until water runs clear. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Always do a patch test before a full application to test for allergic reactions or unexpected coloring. It is best to apply on clean hair without residual products like conditioners, which can interfere.

How to Care for Henna-Dyed Hair

After dyeing hair with henna, follow these tips to extend the vivid color results:

  • Use sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. Avoid frequent shampooing.
  • Rinse with cool water and limit sun exposure.
  • Use a leave-in conditioner or hair serum to boost shine.
  • Avoid using heat tools at high temperatures.
  • Get occasional trims to remove faded ends.
  • Use a clarifying shampoo once a month to remove buildup.

The right shampoos and conditioners will help seal in moisture and color without stripping. Lower heat tools, minimal washing, and protecting hair from sun exposure will help the vivid color last longer. Get trims every 6-8 weeks to remove faded ends and keep hair healthy.

Common Henna Hair Dye Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about coloring hair with henna:

Does henna damage hair?

No, henna does not damage hair like permanent dyes. It coats the strands without penetrating the cortex, so it does not require ammonia or bleaching agents.

Can you reverse henna hair color?

Henna cannot be reversed, but it will fade gradually over weeks. You can dye over it with a regular permanent color but results may be uneven. Bleaching alone will not remove henna.

Can you color over henna?

It is challenging to apply permanent color over henna. The plant compounds can react with chemical dyes leading to unexpected results. Consult a professional stylist familiar with henna.

Will henna turn my hair green?

Henna should not turn hair green, but compound henna mixes with metallic salts could have this effect. Always use 100% natural henna free of additives.

Can I do henna if I have gray hair?

Yes, henna works beautifully to color gray hair! It will dye gray hairs a bright, vivid red-orange. Perform a strand test to preview the results.


Henna powder offers a healthy, natural alternative to conventional permanent hair dyes. It infuses hair with reddish hues ranging from light copper to deep burgundy. Henna cannot lighten past your natural color but can add depth and shine. For best results, opt for body art quality henna free of metallic salts. With proper application and aftercare, you can enjoy weeks of vibrant henna color before it gradually fades.