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:


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 and 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!

  2. Samantha

    August 7, 2013

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

    • 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 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.

      • 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. :)

  3. How to be a Redhead

    August 7, 2013

    Samantha, No! It should not.

  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!

    • 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

  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?

    • 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!) But, if you choose henna, it does wash out in 4-7 days.

      • 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.

    • 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!

      • 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?

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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.

    • Anonymous

      November 24, 2013

      no it no

  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?

  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)?

  12. Autumn

    December 18, 2013

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


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