How to Use Henna to Dye Hair Red

By: Guest Writer, Chetana from StyleCraze

Henna is a tropical flowering plant that has been used for centuries for coloring skin, hair, silk leather and more. Henna is even used to eradicate dandruff and itchiness.  Natural henna is great for dyeing your hair a glorious and rich velvety red by creating a transparent colored layer around the hair.

Chemical dye can wreak havoc on your hair and can even damage it permanently. Moreover, chemical dye get rinsed out within a week and henna can be reapplied as frequently as needed without damage because it is a great hair conditioner which will soften and add shine to your hair. Unlike hair colors and dyes, henna is totally safe for use and can be used as many times as you want.

The following tips will help you to achieve red hair with henna:

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1. Make sure you buy pure henna with no ingredients present.

Body art henna, also known as mehndi, which you can apply on your hands is the best henna to buy when coloring your hair red. WARNING: Do not use henna on chemically treated hair.

2. Depending on the natural color of your hair, the result will be darker or lighter.

Take 100 to 500 grams of good quality henna, depending upon the length of your hair. Mix this with warm water to make a smooth paste of it.  Optional: You can also add orange juice to it.  You can add any of the below mentioned ingredients to get red hair.

3. Cover the bowl with a plastic film and leave it in a dark corner of the house at room temperature.

Let it stay for at least 12 hours. Check in between to make sure that it is not drying out.

4. Optional: It is preferable to wash and dry your hair before applying henna.

5. Apply a cream or a petroleum jelly on your hairline, forehead and ears to prevent henna from staining the skin.

Put on protective gloves as henna stains everything it touches. Make sure it doesn’t drip on your clothes.

6. Divide your hair in half and go inch by inch and finally fill in the back of your head. Make sure you cover every strand of the hair to get an even coverage.

Henna is quite thick in consistency and gets even more difficult to apply if you have long hair. If you find it difficult to apply henna yourself then have someone apply it for you.

7. When you are done, cover the head with a plastic cap to prevent it from drying as henna stops working if it dries out.

Leave it for 3 to 4 hours to gets a rich shade.

8. When it is time to rinse the henna out of your hair, wash your hair with tap water and DO NOT use shampoo.

Your hair might appear super bright the first day while undergoing oxidation. Gradually, the color will deepen over a few days. Avoid using styling tools like blow dryers and hair straighteners as they will dry out the hair.

The color will gradually fade in a few days but you can reapply it whenever you feel like.

Looking to naturally dye your hair red but want an alternative to henna? These following products will dye your hair red too:

  • Filtered coffee for normal red hair
  • Red wine for copper red hair
  • Arabic spiced coffee for dark red hair
  • Water from boiled pomegranate husk for brighter red
  • Paprika for real red color
  • Clove for darker red

Rock it like a Redhead! 

Photo © How to be a Redhead, Model Kelly Kirsten at the Rock it like a Redhead Event
  1. Sidra Vitale

    August 6, 2013

    I’ve been dying my hair with henna for the past several years and love it. I recommend hennaforhair.com and mehandi.com for anyone who wants to learn more about using henna for their hair – they’ve got a free e-book and loads of instructions on how to prepare different blends and properly apply to your hair, photos of prepared henna so you can see the consistency, and a quick mix reference chart for achieving different color outcomes. One of the things I really like about the book is that it has clear photos of previously dyed hair and various hair colors (dark blonde, brunette, gray) dyed with henna so I felt really confident when I finally took the plunge. After that plunge, I’ve never looked back! The last time I got my hair cut the stylist marveled over how strong my hair was!

    Reply
  2. Samantha

    August 7, 2013

    Why can’t henna be used on chemically treated hair?

    Reply
    • Shannon

      August 19, 2013

      Hey – actually, I’ve had great success over the last 10 years or so using henna after chemical dyes (and even one bad-idea perm) as a restructuring, restoring treatment. It’s actually SUPER awesome – basically rehab for damaged hair! Two things to be aware of:
      1. It’s EXTREMELY important that you’re using 100% pure henna/other dye herbs (like indigo or alma) – if it contains metallic salts it CAN damage your hair badly. I buy my body art quality henna from http://www.hennaforhair.com and have never had anything but fantastic results.
      2.Hair that has been chemically altered is at least slightly more damaged than virgin hair. The same is true for heat damage, though – if you’ve been straightening every day for years, your ends are drier than your roots, right? Damaged hair sucks up henna more than healthy hair does, so your areas with more damage will take more color. Pretty much exactly the same as any pigment would be, though – if you applied a demi or semi permanent box dye it’d act the same way. It does seem to even out after awhile, though, as long as your base color is fairly even. I’ve done a hardcore, several-hour henna application and then followed it a few days later with a light semi glaze of a darker brown or whatever to sort of tone it down.

      Henna’s a lot more versatile than a lot of sources say! The thing to know is that it lasts *forever* – it fades, but the only way to get it out is to completely bleach out to white which obviously you probably don’t ever want to do! It’s easy enough to cover with brown dyes, but that hair has a red base until it’s cut off.

      Reply
      • Rekka

        August 24, 2013

        One of the things I liked about henna is that when your hair starts growing back in with its normal color, the henna doesn’t leave an obvious “line of demarkation” the way other hair colors do. It just gradually fades into your natural color as the hair grows. :)

        Reply
  3. How to be a Redhead

    August 7, 2013

    Samantha, No! It should not.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      July 25, 2014

      Ughhhhh do some research first! There is NOTHING wrong with using Henna on top of chemically colored hair. But you HAVE to use 100% natural, body quality henna. If you use store bought henna that was made for hair, it won’t be natural and it will have metal in it. That is what melts chemically treated hair.

      Please stop giving people these uneducated, unresearched answers. 100% natural henna is great for everyone’s hair.

      Reply
      • Elsa

        November 13, 2014

        You are so right!!! You CAN use PURE henna on chemical treated hair!! But be sure it’s ‘pure’ henna!
        I did it for years!

        Reply
      • Morgan

        January 2, 2015

        I buy Rainbow Henna – made for hair Henna – from Whole Foods Market! No metals in it. Just two ingredients: Mahogany Henna and Indigofereae. I do believe the reason they suggest that you not use it on chemically treated hair is because you COULD get an uneven coloring due to the damage that has been done to your hair. BUT…I do agree that henna is so awesome for your hair that it would be great to put on damaged hair to help repair it. but Henna isn’t meant to repair. You should do protein treatments to help rebuild the damage that was done by chemicals.

        So when you are buying Henna just check the ingredients. If there are metals, salts, or any other sort of weird ingredient…..don’t buy it. not ALL hair henna is bad – but most are. Just do a quick ingredient check

        Reply
        • Meagan

          January 20, 2015

          100% Natural Pure Henna works on chemically treated hair…We have tried and it worked awesome.

          As a grey hair family , we have been using many different hair dying products over a period of time. Some of them gave somehow satisfied results and rest disappointed. Most of them included chemical irritants , including those with satisfied results.
          Meanwhile One of my cousins searched for 100% natural products and she told about pure henna. We all started using this product. But still there were irritants unless we reached to some fabulous products from Thehennaguys. They have quality 100% natural henna and other hair color products with Body art quality satisfaction.
          They are 100% natural and chemical free which caused NO HARMS since we are using them. i give them 5 stars for every product.
          You can find their products here
          http://www.thehennaguys.com

          Reply
  4. Katherine

    August 7, 2013

    How to be a Redhead, could you tell me why not? I’m just curious. What does it do? Damage it further? Thanks!

    Reply
    • How to be a Redhead

      August 7, 2013

      No problem :) If you read number 1, it gives the warning. The natural ingredients of henna do not mix well with chemically treated hair. #RockitlikeaRedhead

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        July 25, 2014

        No, it’s the metals in crappy henna. Body quality, 100% natural henna will not ruin hair that has been previously colored.

        Reply
      • Lily

        October 16, 2014

        you absolutely can use bady art quality henna on color treated hair. I do it all the time and I also bleach my roots then apply henna after to allow my roots to blend with the rest of my copper red hair.

        Reply
  5. Emily

    August 11, 2013

    I am a natural redhead and I can’t find anything about applying henna to natural red hair, just notes about using henna to dye hair red. Would you recommend using henna to give natural red hair a bright boost or, do I run the risk of being too red?

    Reply
    • How to be a Redhead

      August 11, 2013

      Hi Emily! It’s actually best if natural redheads dont use it if you dont want an intense red. Instead, use glosses and/or color depositing shampoos (all info on howtobearedhead.com!) But, if you choose henna, it does wash out in 4-7 days.

      Reply
      • Rekka

        August 24, 2013

        If you want the benefits of henna without the same intense red shade, you can mix it with cassia or amla.

        Cassia is another plant that give similar glossy, super-conditioning benefits, but the color is a very weak shade of golden yellow that only shows up on white or very pale blonde hair. A mix of about 2/3 cassia and 1/3 henna, with chamomile tea or lemon juice as the mixing liquid, will give a nice gloss and just a hint of red.

        Amla is used to counteract the red pigment in henna, and is often used when people use henna to get blonde tones (by mixing henna with cassia and amla) or dark brown tones (by mixing henna, indigo, and amla). Again, you can mix it with the henna to get the texture and just a hint of red instead of “ZOMG, RED” shade.

        Reply
    • Rekka

      August 24, 2013

      I’m a natural redhead, and I’ve used henna on a fairly regular basis.
      Depending on the mixture, it doesn’t impact the color too much on my own hair since my natural color is very close to “henna red” anyway. I do have a lot of natural blonde highlights, and the parts of my hair that get less sunlight sometimes dull to brown, so the henna does color those brighter red. I’ve also used it do go dark brown.

      The thing you have to remember about henna is that it doesn’t change your natural hair color; it just layers bright red color on top of what you already have. This is actually exactly how the genes for red hair work: you have one set of genes that determines where you sit on the blonde-brown-black spectrum, and a separate set of genes layers red pigment on top of that base shade. Red hair is actually a lot more common than people think, since half the population has hair dark enough that the red doesn’t really show much.

      Henna was first used for the health benefits: it’s like a natural super-conditioner. The color is a wonderful side bonus. So if you want a little bit of oomph to your natural red hair, and you want that super-soft spider silk texture, go for it!

      Reply
      • Troy

        November 7, 2013

        I am redheaded and tried henna a couple of months ago. My hair was RED the first days and has now calmed down to a deeper, coppery red. I love it and I was wondering how it will effect the color if I reapplied on all of my hair instead of just doing the roots? Will it get darker? More Red?

        Reply
  6. Yvette

    August 13, 2013

    Great Article! I’ve always wanted to go red, but that look doesn’t go on me :( Thanks for sharing with us!

    ballbeauty.com

    Reply
  7. Like

    August 17, 2013

    My friend dyed for years her hair with strong chemicals and she had no problem to sWitch into henna. Nothing wrong have happened.

    Reply
  8. Charisse

    November 2, 2013

    Wow, why are you saying it washes out in 4-7 days? It most certainly does not. Henna is just about as permanent as you can possibly imagine.

    Reply
  9. Aspartame

    November 3, 2013

    No, you’re wrong, Chetana. I have done plenty of research and the only time dye and henna ever have adverse effects is if you aren’t using body art quality henna. This is because other distributors will combine metallic salts to the henna to give different hair colors. If a person has previously dyed her (or his) hair and uses henna with metallic salts the hair is likely to melt off. Not kidding. It will happen even if the person used that suspect henna prior to dying the hair and then proceeds to dye it after using henna. It is only wise to combine body art quality henna with indigo (for brown tones) or cassia (to dilute the orange/red stain of henna). The only problem with indigo is that it can appear blue/green if you attempt to bleach it afterward.

    People have successfully removed henna from their hair, and I suggest checking out forums at the long hair community if interested.

    Sorry to call you out, but more research should have been completed prior to suggesting it was dangerous.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 24, 2013

      no it no

      Reply
  10. Yekta

    December 12, 2013

    Hi :)
    I’d like to ask: if i had dark hair would it make a change when I am adding red wine instead of water? Would make the color brighter?
    And: Do I need to heat the wine?

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    December 16, 2013

    Hey :)
    I have very dark brown hair, can i get bright red or dark red hair with normal henna (with no chemicals)?

    Reply
    • AlieSkies

      August 24, 2014

      The first time you henna your hair will be deep deep red, the more you do it the more noticeable the red will become, i have extremely dark brown hair, and when i first henna’d you could only see it in sunlight, but now after 3.henna sessions i have noticeably wine red hair indoors. I use colora brand henna and i mix burgundy and sunset red.

      Reply
  12. Autumn

    December 18, 2013

    What about regular copper colors? Are there any alternatives for those colors?

    Reply
  13. V

    June 9, 2014

    I’m going for something close to Lucille Ball red. Just used henna for the first time. Love it so far but want it brighter. Any suggestions? I used apple cider vinegar and lemon juice in it this time.

    Reply
    • BayouBaby

      August 18, 2014

      Adding hibiscus powder will intensify the red and is also great for stimulating hair growth! I always add it to my henna!

      Reply
  14. Rachel

    July 7, 2014

    Everyone here seems to be pretty knowledgable so I was just wondering if anyone had any tips on how to go LIGHT AND BRIGHT red. I’ve tried paprika, cloves, pomegranate juice, beetroot, etc and everything always turns out deep red. My next plan was to mix the henna with conditioner and leave it on for less time. Does anyone have any recipes for a more bright/orangey henna that wont darken my dirty blond hair?

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    July 25, 2014

    There is so much wrong in this.

    1) You’ve been using some really bad quality henna if it washes out.

    2) Again, you’re using BAD QUALITY henna if it melts off hair that is chemically treated.

    I’m really not trying to be a rude person here, but this kind of stuff truly gets under my skin. Is it really too much to ask for someone writing an article to be educated and knowledgeable on the subject they are writing? It kind of hurts my heart when there are people who would love to try henna, and you’re spewing this misinformation to them and telling them that they cannot do it.

    Henna is amazing, and anyone should be able to use it if they so please. You just have to make sure you are using henna without any additions of metal, which is obviously what this article is talking about.

    Ladies: Get some 100% natural henna (NOT from a grocery or health food store), and treat your hair to some strengthening and conditioning, with the benefit of a gorgeous color! You have to be committed, though. Used properly, it will not come out!

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    November 11, 2014

    Hello, I’ve tried henna on previously bleached and dyed brown hair, no melting, and the outcome was super! However for various reasons I stopped using henna and after bleaching my hair again, I have now dyed them (chemical treatment) copper/red. Can I reapply henna you think or the color will be too dark?

    Reply
    • Morgan

      January 2, 2015

      They suggest that you don’t use Henna on chemically treated hair.

      Reply
      • Veronica

        January 20, 2015

        You can use henna in chemically treated hair if you use natural body art henna. What you really really don’t want to do is…. Use any unnatural henna with metallic salts in it and then bleach it, that’s where the melting part actually comes into play. However if you use bleach after henna and it’s a natural henna, nothing bad will happen besides the normal bleach damage.

        But yes using henna over hair that has been dyed with chemical hair dyes won’t melt your head or anything, if anything it can help with some of the damage from the previous chemicals.

        I’ve done it multiple times with various natural henna brands.

        Reply
  17. Morgan

    January 2, 2015

    I’ve used Henna for a few years now. I love it! I use Rainbow Henna – Persian Mahogany from Whole Foods Market (they do have a website though – http://www.rainbowresearch.com). It’s about $7 for a jar of it. I don’t have to add any coffee, wine, orange juice…or whatever else was listed in this article. Those things have things in them that are not great for your hair. Rainbow Henna consists of two ingredients: Mahogany Henna – Lawsonia Inermis and Indigofereae. That’s it. It looks gross but I actually just used it on my hair last night. This morning my hair is so shiny and smooth! It’s awesome! If you are thinking of coloring your hair….seriously think of using Henna. It’s better for your hair, cheaper than the chemical stuff you buy at the store or getting it done at a salon, AND it gradually fades therefore – no stark color line as your hair begins to grow. And if you don’t like the color you can use mineral oil to remove the color – which is ALSO not hard on your hair like stripping it at the salon. So seriously…try Henna first!

    Reply
  18. Jessica

    January 6, 2015

    Hello! I have been researching henna hair color for a few days now but I have not found any advice on my particular situation. I have damaged chemically treated hair. Currently, I have been coloring my hair red with permanent dyes and I love the bright auburn color I have. However, the back of my hair doesn’t take color as well do to previous damage. Overall, it looks pretty even but if I don’t color it every two weeks it looks very dull and coppery in the back. I am thinking of using henna so I do not keep damaging my hair. My question is will dying it with a red all natural henna give me crayon red hair since my hair is already chemically red? I want it to look as bright as possible while still looking more natural. I have mainly seen light blondes and brown go red with great success but no one who had previously colored red hair. I love the red and have no problem with it being permanent.

    Reply
    • Veronica

      January 20, 2015

      So at one point for me I had actually used chemical dyes to the point where my hair would no longer retain dye… I loved red but it would last for a single day then wash out.

      Depending on the type of red you want depends on the length of time you set it in for. Also if you add other ingredients. You wouldn’t really go crayon red, natural henna tends to have an orange rusty/coppery undertone to it from my personal experience.

      Reply
  19. Mercè

    February 16, 2015

    Hi, I’m a natural redhead (my color looks just like Stephanie’s) and I’ve been curious about henna for a few months now. I bought a pack of “red sunset” henna a couple months ago but, although I’ve been reading a lot about how to apply it, I am still not sure if I should, mostly because I don’t know exactly what color my hair would get. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

    Reply
  20. Laura

    April 10, 2015

    Why is it suggested not to use henna from a nature food store? I bought organic red henna with nothing else added. It smells like hay just like it’s supposed to. How is this worse than buying it elsewhere?

    Reply
  21. Laura

    April 10, 2015

    Why shouldn’t henna be purchased from a nature food store? I bought organic red henna that has nothing else added. It smells like hay just like I’ve read it should. What is the difference where I buy it?

    Reply
  22. Susan

    May 10, 2015

    You CAN use henna on chemically treated hair. You just need to make sure that it’s 100% pure henna.

    The problem with many “hennas” that you purchase from health food stores is that the ingredients may contain things besides henna. And you can’t judge by the smell. Henna comes ONLY in red/orange. There is no black, brown, chestnut, or blonde henna. Henna that contains other ingredients is also known as “compound henna”, and often reacts badly with chemically treated hair.

    To be safe, only buy henna that is verified to be 100% pure henna. I get mine from http://mehandi.com/. They guarantee all their henna to be 100% pure, and they can also tell you the dye content of each batch.

    Reply
  23. Stephanie Ganger

    May 11, 2015

    I am a natural redhead but my color faded over the last decade of my life as my medications dulled my hair color. Since I have always had red hair I realized one day that having dull hair was making me miserable. I talked to my hairdresser next time I got a haircut and she suggested using the Colora brand hennas. They mix other natural ingredients in it to change the depth of color. I use “red sunset” and my hair is slightly more vibrant color than what I had most of my life. It has seriously restored my sense of self.

    The nice thing about the Colora is that you just mix it with water and it is ready to go. It is best to apply it like they say in the article above. Honestly I could not do it for myself but I can get others to do it for me. Works best with a brush to work it into the hair and the roots very thoroughly. I usually put my hair in a shower cap and leave it on for as long as I can stand it. I personally find it very difficult to get all of the product out of my hair unless I use some sort of shampoo or soap. I personally use a doctor bronner’s soap for the initial removal of the henna. Follow it up with Shikai henna shampoo and conditioner.

    Reply
  24. April

    June 11, 2015

    I am a natural born copper redhead whose hair is fading out as I am aging. I decided to use Colera Chestnut on my hair and it went dark brown …. sigh. I think because I didn’t research and I was using Pantene red color shampoo to keep my hair looking perky. So now I am wondering what to do? I tried making a oil mixture and slept with Argan, coconut and olive oil and plastic wrap on my head and it seems to have lightened and the slight green cast seems distant. Any suggestion as to my next best move? Can anyone predict what will happen if I now try to do a simple red henna – 100 % pure on it? I understand henna will not lighten only darken…is that correct? Will I get auburn hair…not perfect but ??? I would LOVE help and ideas :)

    Reply
  25. Fernanda

    June 14, 2015

    Hi girls! I apologize in advice for my bad english (I’m from Argentina lol). I’ve been doing a lot of research on henna because I’d really like to be a redhead, but my hair is so damaged by chemical dyes that they’re no longer an option. It’s been 8 months since I last dyed it, so I think it’s safe to try henna this time :) The color I would like to get is The Henna Guys’ Deep Red (not neccesarily this particular brand, just the color) but it’s not available in my country and, long bureaucratic story short, I can’t get it shipped here. The only henna I found here is imported from India, 100% Lawsonia Inermis, which will have to do. During my research, I found that the componens of the henna guy’s deep red are lawsonia inermis AND HIBISCUS powder. I was wondering if I can add it to the henna mix myself to get a more reddish color? will the result be permanent or will it fade to orangey? has anyone tryed this, or any other way to get a redder colour?

    Reply

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