Henna Pros and Cons (Don’t even THINK about using Henna on your Hair until you read this!)

by Resa Eastwood

“Hellooo-o-o-o Red!”

Unfortunately, that was the phrase uttered to me by a creepy truck driver when I was on a road trip and diverted into a small town for an emergency pit stop. I think it was that moment when I realized I should consider quitting my henna habit. Too much attention! Hmmm…would that be a pro or con for you? 

Henna is a fantastic way to wear red hair, but as with any beauty process, there are good things and bad. If you are thinking about becoming a henna head, I’m going to share some of my own experience from what I dubbed “The Great Henna Experiment”! It took me over a year of hemming and hawing about it to take the plunge, and then I kept it up for almost two years before going back to my natural honey brown.

During this time, I happened to run across a little company selling some hair accessories called “flexi clips” on a blog while looking for ways to style my then-long hair. There’s another story in my discovery of Lilla Rose that has taken me down some exciting roads, but let’s carry on with the henna.

Here are my top four pros and cons of using henna to help those of you considering whether or not to give it a try! (The pros and cons are alternated since one usually is paired with another):

pros and cons of henna natural hair dye

Pro #1: Literally, drop-dead gorgeous, auburn color!

 I have a son who was blessed with natural auburn hair–and my henna-head almost spot-on matched his. Gleaming, radiant, rich, lucious, deep red.

Con #1: The color is hard to control

 It can differ with the seasons of the henna plant, so the same plant in the fall could give you a slight variation in the spring. Your natural color can also affect the outcome, so what is vibrant on one person’s hair may be darker on yours. Also, if you change your supplier, you might get henna from a different region or with other additives.

Pro #2: Healthy hair

Henna makes your hair silky and strong. The natural henna leaves do not contain the chemicals that do the damage you experience with box or salon color.

Con #2: The smell

 Henna has a soft but definite odor–I always described it as old tea leaves or the ever-descriptive “wet dog” smell. The odor doesn’t last long, maybe 3-7 days depending on how often you wash your hair, but it is definitely there.

I thought adding cinnamon might be a good way to mask the scent during one touch-up session. I still feel like it would have been a great idea--if not for the fact that evidently my skin is allergic to cinnamon! It "burned" not only my scalp, but all the skin it touched as I rinsed the mask off of my hair. Learn from my mistakes, ladies, learn from my mistakes. Sigh.

Pro #3: Henna does not fade

 Ever try box coloring your hair with a shade of red or auburn? You know it fades lickity-split, am I right? Not henna. Once it’s on, it’s on. The pigment found in henna leaves, lawsone, binds to the protein in your hair and does not let go. You will have that color until it grows out.

Con #3: Henna does not fade

 You read that right, it’s both a pro and a con. The con side of the issue is that there is no quitting henna by letting it fade out. You will have a line. You can make it darker, but it’s really hard to lighten–at least as a DIYer (ahem, I tried). After my experiment trying to lighten it, I ended up using box color as it grew out that would fade a bit until I had the then-popular ombré look. I finally cut it off. This con could also be dubbed the “too much maintenance” con if you are a natural girl like me that doesn’t like to “keep things up.” 

Pro #4: You can customize your henna color by mixing in other plants

 Layer indigo for shiny black hair, add buxus for brunette, or try cassia for a strawberry blonde. All these options leave the creativity up to you! This is also a plus for people who do not want the pure auburn, but need a chemical-free option for coloring their hair.

Con #4: Applying henna is a time-consuming process

The dye must be prepared hours in advance; putting it on your hair is like coating every strand in pond scum and leaving it for hours; if your hair is long it gets very heavy and awkward; rinsing the henna out is an Olympic event; and, finally, you must wait at least 48-72 hours for the color to oxidize and to see the final result!

If you decide to make the plunge into the land of henna, I wish you luck and much love of your auburn locks!

The following snapshots show you just a glimpse of the fun of the henna process, as well as the fantastic results. Please note that as everyone's hair is unique, your experience may result in a completely different outcome. One thing I would certainly encourage is to find a friend who is willing to help you on the first time through. Not only will a second pair of hands be helpful, it's also a great way to make some memories!

Before henna:

Henna paste ingredients:

The strand test:

During the henna process:

Immediately after henna:

After oxidation:

Still red a year later:

Almost grown out and ready to be cut off in this video:

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Thanks so much for checking out my post on the pros and cons of henna natural hair dye! Please share and pin if you enjoyed it. Thanks! 🌺

henna pros and cons hair

about the author, Resa Eastwood

Resa is a slightly hair-obsessed gal from Kansas City. You might find her with a pixie cut one year and then a sports-mom ponytail the next or somewhere in-between. A former homeschooling mom, she now works full-time in marketing for her local public library, but you're more apt to find her caring for family and friends, camping in her motorhome, climbing at the rock-climbing gym, or feeding the hummingbirds on her back deck. 

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