Dying hair has been practiced for ages as a symbol of beauty or to cover gray hair. It’s even become part of a routine for most people since hair dye is not a permanent solution and needs to be re-applied every few weeks. Turns out many hair dyes contain chemicals that may damage the hair. That’s why many people are turning to henna or indigo hair dye. In its natural form, henna is safe and with no side effects. It’s also said to strengthen and smoothen the hair, giving it a lustrous shine. The same goes for indigo, which is best known for dyeing textiles. However, there are a few things you should know before using henna or indigo to dye your hair.

What Is Henna?

Henna is common in the Middle East, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Eastern Europe. It’s derived from the leaves of the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis, which are dried and ground to form a powder. The powder is then combined with water (sometimes with lemon juice) to make a paste, which can be used to dye hair or fabric.

It’s also traditionally used to make temporary tattoos.

What gives henna its dying properties is lawsone, a molecule that binds to proteins to dye hair, fabrics, and skin. The molecule is also an antimicrobial and antibacterial agent. Henna gives hair a rich, red tint that most people love. There are also black henna and neutral henna that have different intensities.

However, these variants are mixed with other ingredients like Indigo and Cassia obovate to produce darker shades.

What Is Indigo?

Indigo powder is also a common hair dye, particularly, if it’s 100 percent natural and organic. It’s derived from Indigofera Tinctoria, whose leaves are soaked overnight, resulting in the water turning blue. The leaves are then dried and ground to form Indigo powder.

Pros of Using Henna or Indigo Hair Dye

Using henna or indigo hair dye has several advantages:

Natural Hair Dye

As earlier noted, both henna and indigo are natural dyes that come from plants. It means you no longer have to deal with harsh chemicals that may damage your hair and scalp. Most artificial hair dyes contain chemicals like ammonia and peroxide, which may lead to allergic reactions.

Since it comes directly from natural plants, henna or indigo can be used by pregnant women. However, it’s always advisable to consult a qualified doctor beforehand.

Improves Hair Appearance

Henna has a high concentration of tannins, which may help prevent premature hair graying. Since it’s a permanent hair dye, it provides a rich hue that lasts longer than any other chemical salon dye.

Indigo, when mixed with henna, gives your hair a rich brown color. When applied over henna-treated hair, it gives your hair a lush black color.

Henna Strengthens Your Hair

Henna, unlike other chemical hair dyes, binds with the hair, strengthening and conditioning it. This leaves it looking silkier, smoother, and shiny. It doesn’t cause breakage, dryness, or hair loss.

Indigo also enhances your hair color and shine.

Improves Hair Health

Henna provides your hair with nutrients, like vitamin E, which is a natural hair softener. It’s also rich in proteins and antioxidants, plus it has an antifungal effect – three helpful components that fight dandruff.

Regular use of indigo on hair can help in treating and preventing premature hair graying.

Henna Fades Gradually

The henna color will look vibrant for the first four to six weeks, or longer, depending on your natural hair color and application. It then starts to gradually fade but doesn’t go away completely. It thus looks more natural compared to conventional hair dyes that leave an obvious line where the hair has grown.

Disadvantages of Henna and Indigo Hair Dye

Despite being all-natural, henna and indigo hair dyes have some cons too:

It Can Get Messy

Both henna and indigo can be messy to apply and can stain your skin. Once mixed, the henna paste has the texture of mud that makes it feel awkward to apply. Plus, you can expect it to drip down your face and the floor during application.

To avoid that, do the whole process in the bathroom, where you can easily wash off any mess. Before applying henna or indigo, protect your skin by applying a thick balm or cream around your forehead, ears, and neck. This prevents it from touching your skin.

Henna Takes Longer to Set

Depending on the vibrancy of the color you’re going for, it can take anywhere between one to six hours to develop. So, you may want to carve out half a day for this process.

The Resulting Hair Color Is Unpredictable

Here’s the thing with henna. Its effect on your hair fully depends on your hair’s natural color. It might take to one person’s hair on the very first application, while other people may need to reapply twice or thrice to get the color to stay in their hair.

It’s Not Easy to Remove

Once you’ve applied henna dye to your hair, it’s difficult to change the color. It stays deeply in your hair cuticle, making it extremely difficult for commercial hair dyes to penetrate your strands. That means if you’re unhappy with the results, you’ll have to live with what you have.

There’s one case where using bleach caused a customer’s hair to “smoke”. It’s, therefore, advisable to let your hairstylist know that you’ve dyed your hair with henna before they try any bleach on you.

If you use indigo hair dye, it may last up to four weeks, especially if you wash your hair frequently.

Be careful when using indigo hair dye as it has been shown to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. You may want to test a small patch on your skin to check for any reactions.


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