How to “Henndigo” Hair


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 pyrex or glass mixing bowls
    [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

Ingredients;

** 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.

FAQ:
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;

  1. to keep the hair/henna from drying as drying can cause hair breakage
  2. 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.

COVERING GRAYS

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

<3 Maya

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29 Comments to “How to “Henndigo” Hair”

  1. thank u so much..it really worked out for me..and i was really worried with my grey hair..quite irritating….and i am really happy because its natural and i also add egg to the mixture…to condition my hair , because i have curly and dry hair..thank a ton..god bless u…

  2. hi Subha, thank you so much for your post! I am really glad my suggestions helped you. I know a number of people who condition their hair with eggs, so, yeah! Great idea :) Happy Henna!

  3. Hi, Thanks for the Post! What type of shampoo I can appy after the application of Indigo powder. Kindly suggest.

  4. Hi Shilpa, Thank you for your post. As I noted in the instructions above, you do not want to shampoo your henna/indigo out of your hair. You need to be sure to follow these instructions; ” 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.” But if you are asking about good shampoos to use after the 24-48 hour wait period, I personally like Aubrey brand shampoos. They use natural products and are not overly heavy or overly scented. But you can use whatever product works best for your kind of hair. Happy henndigoing! :)

  5. Thanks a lot Maya, A very Happy and prosperous New Year to you and your Family.

  6. Hello,
    thanks for the precious info, is it bad for the dying process to put conditioner in the hair when rinsing the hennindigo paste from hair? Is it ok to leave the hennindigo overnight or it gives better results after 4 hours? thanks a million!

  7. Hi Bianca, You are welcome! I am glad you found it helpful. As for the conditioner question, I believe that if you use the oil suggested in the henndigo recipe, you will not need to use conditioner. The amla oil is very conditioning and it is the reason for its inclusion in the recipe (you can also use coconut oil or some other option, if you prefer). The main reason you don’t want to shampoo or use anything else when rinsing the hair is that you do not want distrub the indigo prematurely. Indigo relies on the henna to adhere to the the hair shaft but its grip appears to be rather tenuous at first. I find that I retain more indigo in my hair if I refrain from shampooing for at least 24-48 hours after rinsing. I suppose if you have excessively dry hair, you could use conditioner after but I would pay close attention to whether or not you see a lot of blue going own the drain. If you do, you know you have removed some of the indigo. Much will have to do with the kind of conditioner you use. My general rule is to not use anything at the time of rinsing. As for resting time of the paste on your hair, 4 hours is ample. Some would even say it is longer than necessary. Two to four hours is the typical range. I find that the conditioning action of the henna and oil is more effective in four hours but everyone’s hair is different. So, you might want to experiment with what works best for you. Leaving the paste on overnight is unnecessary and potentially very messy. Also, it is key to keep your hair wrapped so as to hold in the heat of your head and keep the hair moist so the henna doesn’t dry and cause breakage. I would imagine that sleeping with henna on your head would make it less possible to control these factors. I know some folks who have slept with the paste in, but I have not seen any meaningful improvements beyond what can be attained in four hours. Hope that was helpful. :) Have fun!

  8. thanks a million!!! =)

  9. You are most welcome, Bianca :)

  10. hi,
    i followed the above procedure, and happy with the result, but i hav curly and frizzy hair, so just wanna kwn if i can apply hair oil now and shampoooo…. plz advise

    • Hi Subhas, If you have just rinsed the henndigo out of your hair and let it be for a day or two, yes, you can shampoo and/or oil your hair as usual. Am glad to hear you are happy with your results!

  11. Hi there. I wish I’d seen this informative page prior to washing out my Henndigo last night. I used a very gentle shampoo & when I realized it was foaming blue I rinsed it all out with cool water. Hopefully I spared most of the indigo. Color is fantastic & hair feels soft. When do you find the grassy/earthy smell goes away? After 2-3 shampoos?

    • Hi Anna, the grassy scent tends to go away within a week or so, depending upon your hair washing habits and other lifestyle factors. While I don’t mind the scent of henna, it is one of the reasons I use cardamom powder in my mix to help alter it a bit.

  12. Hi Maya,
    I have black hair, which is sun bleached to a reddish tint. How can I use indigo? and can I grind dried indigo leaves and use?

    • Hi Ambiga, You can use indigo powder solo, if you wish but I find that the indigo binds best to the hair if there is henna present. If you want a black result, best to do the two step process where you do a henna application and THEN apply a purely indigo application. Being that I am too lazy for that, I always would combine the henna and indigo and my results were pretty darn dark (looks black in many photos). Be sure to test how your hair will respond to an indigo-only application, though, as it is very alkaline. Do a strand test. Hope that was helpful. :)

  13. This helps a lot. I’ve just dyed with henna once last week. I love it. Bought some more Henna and Indigo and Amla for next time. Can I mix different henna brands together or is that a no no?

    • I am so glad you have found this helpful, Karen. :) Re: mixing henna powders? Some think is usually best to use one type of henna at a time as different crops and growing regions produce hennas that dye release and stain at different rates. On the body, this is true and very important. On the hair, it is not all that important. Side note: please remember that it is best not mix indigo powder and amla powder in hair mixes as it would be potentially too alkaline. Amla oil with the indigo is just fine, however.

  14. I didnt see your reply sorry. So I’ve read to mix the henna. Let it sit. Then Mix indigo and add it. Is this right? And putting amla in the henna as well. Isnt a hendigo mix common? Also I do not want to add lemon or anything acidic. I have read that’s fine. And that the dye releases faster. The Lemon or acv makes it take longer but the color brighter. I’d this right? Any advice is helpful. I am planning to do pack of henna then Mix in a few tsp of indigo… Thanks for your reply. Oh. And my hair is a dark brown with reddish in the sun. The 2 hennas I’ve done rainbow and light mountain have been brown. I wanted to start that way since I’m a beginner. The next stuff is from an Indian market. I’m really loving henna!

  15. I do not recommend putting lemon juice or any apple cider vinegar in your henna mix for hair. Some folks recommend them for henna on skin recipes, but in the hair mix, you run the risk of damaging your hair and drying it out. Also, if you use indigo in the mix, you do not want to use amla powder at the same time for reasons previously stated on this page. Amla OIL is fine but not the powder. Rainbow henna and other brands from the healthfood store are not pure henna (no matter what the package claims). They contain metallic salts which is why most professional hair colorists will not touch you with a 10-foot pole when they hear you have used henna. Using pure henna and mixing your own recipe like I have suggested is the safest way to henna your hair. Healthfood store box henna’s will look pretty and your hair will likely be healthy, too, but it limits your options for safe hair processes once they have been applied. Using the henna recipe I have suggested will not be a problem after healthfood store henna…. just be careful with chemical processes (if you decide to go that route before that hair has grown out).

    • Ok. Will keep that in mind. I have amla oil to. I didnt know about that. I dont plan to go back to chemical dyes. The last time I used it it made me feel unwell. So this is it! The next hennas I use are from indian markets. So I’m guessing will be even nicer results. I was afraid so just started with something that wouldn’t make my hair Flaming red. And to learn and didn’t know light mountain was a bad one. How long after you mix it do you put it on and how long? Thank you for your responses. Very helpful!

  16. Please read the entirety of the page above, Karen. It answers those questions. Best of luck to you. I am sure you will enjoy the healthy beauty of henna!

  17. Hello,
    After much research, I know that I must do an Indigo application post Henna, in order to achieve a super blue black hair color. I would love to have the bluest black possible, and currently have naturally super dark brown hair.

    My hair is also extremely dry, med-fine, and naturally wavy.
    I am in need of any suggestions to end up with as BlackBlue a tone as possible, and would also appreciate a USA link to purchase Indigo and Henna that are supporting farms that do it as pure and natural as possible.
    I found this brand on a Uk site, India Desert Earth Pakeezah Indigo, and it is rather pricey.

    I appreciate any advice to achieve and maintain an exagerated BLUE black as possible, or advice on any additives to bring out the blue.

    K-

    • Hi Kate, it is great you are doing your research but I am sorry to tell you that you will not achieve a “BLUE black” result with henndigo. The indigo needs the henna to adhere to the hair shaft and henna is red. The red highlights will always come through, to some degree. You are correct that you will get the darkest result with a two-step application; henna first and indigo second. But this doesn’t change the fact that henna is red. I am not familiar with any natural hair products involving henna/indigo that will provide a purely blue black result. The fact that your hair is naturally dark is to your advantage. As for suppliers, the one in the USA that I used to use does not import anymore. I now use a wonderful supplier out of Canada (http://www.hennabee.ca/bee-bazaar/). She has excellent quality BAQ henna and indigo. If you do not wish to order from Canada, my advice to you is to buy from a henna supplier who is also a working henna artist. They will have fresh product and be very aware of the quality of their product. Best of luck to you!

  18. Thank you so much Maya! I have a few grey hair sprouting here and there and after reading the labels of several ‘leading’ synthetic hair color and research I have decided to try Henndigo. I have a couple of questions:

    1. Will my grey hair be covered if I use the exact same recipe shown here, or will be they orange; I don’t like that color :(
    2. Or should I do henna alone the first 2-3 times and then do Henndigo/Indigo so there is enough henna for indigo to stick to?
    3. I live in India and have bought Oxyglow Rajasthani Henna (claims to be 100% natural) and Radico Indigo Powder. Do you have any suggestions on the best brand we can get in India?

    • Hi Sajitha, No your greys will not be orange if you use the henndigo. If you use henna only, they will be orange at first… so best to do henna and indigo from the outset. Your scalp should be fine. No, it won’t turn blue. Sometimes, some folks have an orange ‘halo’ at the edge of the scalp near the hair after first application but this goes away very quickly. You can avoid this by placing cold cream or some other oil on the skin before applying the henndigo to your hair (as is mentioned in the instructions). as for brands in India, I can’t really help you there with any authority. Just be sure to get pure, natural products and you will be fine. :) All the best to you!

  19. Hello! I mixed up my henna paste yesterday, but I’ve just realised I added the indigo too – will this be a problem do you think? Thanks!

    • Effie, I won’t hurt your hair, you just won’t get much out of the indigo. You can always use it knowing your results will be more red and then do another application later done properly to get the darker color.

  20. Thanks for your response. I went ahead and applied the mix anyway. Do you think I can put the indigo on direct, without the henna? It might be a bit easier then mixing the whole lot up again.

    • Yes, you can apply indigo by it’s self but know that it will be runnier and also give you a much darker result than if you apply it mixed with henna. If you want dark dark brown hair, then go for it.

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