So, over the years, I have been asked about how I make my own hair color with henna and indigo (affectionately referred to as “henndigo”). I wrote it out for a few folks and realized, why don’t I just make it available online! So, here it is. I have done my best to make everything as clear as possible, so be sure to read thoroughly before attempting it on your own.
A quick note about hair color and color results. The recipe below is for those seeking a dark brown result. Since henna is a big part of the mix, you will also have reddish/burgundy highlights. If you really don’t want red tones in your hair, then henna is not for you. If you have lighter hair to start with, the result will not be AS dark as someone with medium brown hair and so on. Multiple applications will intensify the color result. I want to emphasize that there are variables in this process and that you will need to embrace a certain degree of experimentation in the beginning before you find the ratio of ingredients that are exactly right for you.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL NOTE: Amounts can be adjusted to suit hair length, thickness or personal preferences. The information below is offered in the spirit of sharing and given in the hopes of getting you started with some degree of confidence in the matter. While I have written everything below, feel free to share it with whomever you think might find it interesting or helpful. However, If you wish to share this online, please link back to this site (it’s cool to give credit where credit is due, no?” :)
PLEASE BE SURE TO READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE ATTEMPTING.
If you are allergic to or concerned about being allergic to any of the ingredients, do a dot test on the inner side of your wrist and/or consult your physician. Ok, now that the disclaimer stuff is out of the way, let’s get to it!
Tools needed to prepare mixture;
- 2 Non-metal mixing bowls (pyrex or glass is best, plastic is ok but absolutely NO metal bowl)
[1-medium-ish bowl and 1 smaller-medium bowl]
- Plastic wrap or airtight lid
- 1 quart saucepan (to make the tea brew)
- 4 cups water
- Wire strainer (if you use the loose tea/cardamom/clove)
- Whisk (wire whisk is OK) or hand mixer
Ingredients for Henndigo
** can be found in Indian grocery store and usually priced reasonably
- 50-100 grams henna powder (depending upon hair length/thickness) BAQ best (website buy)
- 25 grams aritha (aka areetha) **
- 2 tablespoons ground cardamom (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon rosemary Essential Oil (optional)
- 2-3 Tablespoons Amla Oil** (Dabur is a good brand)
- small handful Black tea (4 tea bags are fine… and are easier to deal with than loose tea)
- A handful of Cardamom pods & Clove buds (optional)
- ~50 grams ground indigo leaf powder (website buy)
BEFORE YOU START; You don’t have to, but it is best to mix up your henna batch the night before you use it to color your hair. Why? Well, something happens overnight where the amla oil really blends in with the mixture and creates a much more conditioning and creamy mud than if you use it right away. You will be mixing the indigo just before the time you plan to apply the henna, so be sure NOT to put to the indigo in with your other dry ingredients when making your henna batch. [ If you elect to use the henndigo mud the same day, it is best to at least let the henna-only portion sit for one hour before integrating the indigo and applying to your hair.]
Making henna for hair mixes is a personal thing. Talk to anyone who does this and they all have their own recipe and preferences ranging from the very simple (henna and water) to the very elaborate. I like to think of my recipe as being somewhere in the middle. I have added a few options that make things smell really nice and add to the health of your hair, just in case you would like to add to your experience. I like things to smell nice and who doesn’t like strong, healthy hair?
If you wish to experiment and use EO’s other than what I have suggested, please be sure they are appropriate for contact with the skin & hair before you use them. Not all EO’s are suitable for use on skin and hair. Be informed and be safe.
What is BAQ henna? BAQ stands for “body art quality” henna. This is fresher henna powder and gives you better/richer results than general “henna for hair” henna as the henna slated for hair is generally much older and more often quite stale. It is also usually of a less fine sift and can be a bit more challenging to rinse out of your hair than the finer sift of the BAQ henna. It will do the job but just not as well as BAQ henna.
Why Buy From a Henna Artist/Supplier? I recommend buying your BAQ henna from a supplier who is also a henna artist. Why? Because they USE their product on a regular basis and will have good quality, fresh henna! This is a time when it is best not to be shy about internet purchases. I find it is very challenging to find fresh henna in a store front. Best to go to a place like Sarahenna.com or hennabee.ca . There are a many good artists out there who are also great providers of good quality henna. Explore!
GETTING DOWN TO IT!
In the large saucepan, heat up ~ 4 cups of water to a boil. You won’t necessarily be using all of this liquid but it is best to have more than you need than not enough. Any left-overs you can leave on the stove and reheat the next day when you mix the indigo powder. Once the water has boiled, turn heat down to low and add the tea, cardamom pods and clove buds. Give it a stir and cover; allowing the brew to simmer for 10-15 mins or so. Remove from heat and set aside (and remember to take a good whiff, it smells heavenly!)
In a medium-sized non-metal mixing bowl, place all your dry ingredients (all except the indigo). Mix it together to integrate the ingredients. Next, pour in some of the warm(not boiling) liquid (strain it first, please!), a little at a time, mixing as you go.IMPORTANT NOTE: You will notice that the henna absorbs a lot of liquid but you must be careful not to pour too much in at once as you don’t want your mix to be too runny or it will drip off your head and be most inconvenient and messy. So, adding about 1 cup of brew at first and then a little bit at a time, mixing well. You want the consistency of mashed potatoes (or really thick pudding). The henna might absorb a little further when left overnight but you will be able to thin it out, if necessary, the next morning when you prep the indigo.
Midway through mixing in the liquid, it is good to add the amla oil + the rosemary essential oil (EO) and blend well. This allows you to take the oils into account when judging the consistency of the mix. Absorbency varies between henna crops, so some henna batches may require more or less liquid than others. That is why it is good to “eyeball it”. When you feel you have reached the texture that you want, it is good to mix really well with a wire whisk or hand mixer to fully blend all ingredients.
When you are done mixing your henna mud, cover it securely with saran wrap/plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid. Place on the counter in a warm place (not hot) and out of the way of sunlight. If you have pets, make sure you place it up high and/or put something heavy over it as the curious scents might prove too tempting for your cat or dog and you may have a mess on your hands!
THE NEXT MORNING OR AFTERNOON
You may notice that the henna mixture has separated slightly (small amount of oil on top). This is normal. The top of the henna paste will appear a bit darker than the paste underneath. This is also normal.
Reheat the tea brew you left on the stove. No need to boil it, just warm is enough. Place the indigo leaf powder into the smaller-medium sized bowl and pour a little warm (strained) tea into the powder, mixing as you go (just like you did with the henna). Indigo has a rather odd smell to it and isn’t necessarily pleasant to some. Don’t let this throw you off …. If you scented your henna mix, you will be just fine. Also, the texture of indigo is very different from the henna. It won’t appear as smooth. Just get all the indigo moist and just slightly loose to stir. Cover and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
In this time, I find it is best to wash your hair that you will be henna’ing with a simple shampoo (no conditioner, no other product etc), towel dry, comb it out and prep your application station.
APPLICATION STATION; You will need:
- Plastic or latex gloves (you don’t want stained hands and fingernails!)
- rat-tail comb (optional)
- Hair coloring brush (optional)
- Saran wrap/plastic wrap
- A head scarf
- Paper towel roll
- A small towel
- A washcloth handy for spot cleaning/pickup
So, now that your indigo is done resting; Scoop all the indigo into the henna bowl and blend the two mixes together well. Again, a hand mixer does a really fine job here.
I find it best to part the hair down the middle of the crown and apply henna mud to the hair at the crown of your head first in small sections, piling the hair on top as you go, working your way around it in a “U” shape, piling it on top as your work your way down. Make sure you really saturate your roots & hair well and try not to cover too much hair at once. Patience and thoroughness really pay off here. Some folks like to put cold cream or some other kind of oil/lotion on the skin near the hairline to avoid a potential orange ring from the henna. Not everyone stains on the face but if you do get an orange ring, fear not! It will fade within a day or so (especially if you give it a light scrub with soap). But placing the cold cream/oil on the area will block the henna from staining the skin in the first place.
Once your whole head is well covered with the mud, clean up your face, neck and behind your ears with the damp washcloth. Wrap your head in saran wrap, making sure that all hair and hair roots are covered (and that you can breathe! ).
IMPORTANT NOTE: The reason you wrap with plastic wrap is;
- to keep the hair/henna from drying as drying can cause hair breakage
- it holds in the heat of your head which helps with the coloring process
So, this isn’t a step to skip or do poorly. Some folks like to use old produce bags from the grocery store in lieu of plastic wrap, knotting it after pressing the air out. Either way you go, once wrapped, secure the plastic wrap/baggie with a fabric head scarf. I find tucking some rolled up paper towel under the scarf at the nape of the neck and behind the ears is a good way to avoid drips. (Do not worry about henna stains on the fabric scarf as it washes out with normal washing. I have scarves that I have used for years and I don’t just use them for henndigo application, I also wear them out, once laundered)
Find something entertaining and mellow to do for the next few hours! 2-4 hours is a good amount of time to leave the mud on your hair. The longer you leave it, the better the conditioning and color. There is no better time to watch your favorite Bollywood movie or dive into that book you have been waiting to get to! Henna is a cooling agent, so you may notice that your body temperature may drop a little… so, wrap up a bit more if it is winter or enjoy the relief if it is a hot summer!
When it is time to rinse your hair, be gentle with your hair. It may take a little while, depending upon the density of your hair. Hand-held shower heads are a wonder at rinsing out henna but if you have a standard shower head, no worries, you will just need a little time. Massaging the scalp gently can help loosen resistant henna mud. Use only water… NO SHAMPOO. If you shampoo at this stage, you will be sending most of your indigo down the drain! Indigo needs some time to settle and attach to the henna on your hair. Avoiding washing your hair for 24-48 hours after henndigo application is best. If you can’t wait 2 days to shampoo, at least wait a day.
You will not need to condition your hair as the amla oil etc will have done that job for you. Just rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear. IMPORTANT NOTE: it is not unusual to find henna-colored streaks on your towel after drying your hair even though the water ran clear when rinsing. This might happen over the next couple washes (you will likely even notice a bit of henna rinsing off in the next couple shampoos as well) but just know that the henna WILL wash out of your towels. Sometimes, I even go so far as to place a fresh towel over my pillow the first night I sleep. Just know it will wash out. That is the most important part
You can then dry and style your hair as usual. Know that your color will continue to develop over the next two days. In most cases, it will continue to darken. If you already have really dark hair, you may not notice much change.
Gray hair is covered well by henndigo. That said, they might be a bit brighter than the rest of the hair your first time out. They shouldn’t be too bright with the indigo, but know that your color will get darker with subsequent applications.
OTHER NOTES ABOUT HENNA/HENNDIGO
You can henna as often as you like (it won’t hurt your hair) but can be a bit labor intensive if your hair is long. I usually henna mine once every 4-6 weeks (like typical hair color) sometimes leaving it as long as 2 months. You can always do smaller batches and do root touch ups in between whole-head applications, if you like.
Regular use of henna will help relax unruly hair a bit. If you have frizzy hair or really curly hair, you will likely see some smoothing out of your hair over time.
If you have used harsh chemical processes on your hair prior to using henna, be sure to do a strand test first to make sure everything will interact OK for you. (Strand testing is basically best for all hair but especially for chemically treated hair.) The likelihood is that everything will be fine … the main thing that can be a problem with the Indigo (being very alkaline) is if you are using chemical straighteners. If you use chemical straigtheners, be sure to give your hair some time before attempting henndgio. Hair pulled from your hairbrush is a great way to do a henna test.
OK! You now know what I know! Happy henndigo’ing! Please let me know how it goes for you and if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I am happy to help promote the use of safe and natural hair alternatives.
Have a beautiful henndigo day