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Let's talk about henna: A FAQ

Henna’s not just the hippie colour your mum experimented with in the ‘70s, it’s the choice of natural hair dye for anyone who wants colour, gloss, and vibrance, without damaging their hair. Like many a good long-term relationship, henna hair dye requires commitment, but you can expect unbeatable colour, body and shine in return. If you are planning to give henna a try, it’s worth thinking realistically about your routine, whether you plan to perm or relax soon, or know you are going to want to go blue next month. We've tried to answer as many of your questions here so you can henna with confidence and love your results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is henna?

Lawsonia inermis is a flowering plant that contains an ancient pigment in its leaves capable of producing a rich red to orange pigment. Commonly believed to be indigenous to northern Africa and the Middle East, henna has been used to dye hair, nails and skin for thousands of years. 

How does henna work? 

Henna plant leaves contain compounds known as naphthoquinones: a group of natural pigments that are believed to be responsible for changing the colour of fertilised fruits and protecting plants against ultraviolet light, dryness and insects.

A dye is formed when the natural precursors in the henna leaf (known as hennosides) react to mildly acidic conditions, such as lemon juice, and oxidise. The lawsone then binds with the keratin in the hair cuticle, varnishing rather than penetrating the hair fibre. 

Is Lush henna natural?

Lush henna bricks are composed of 100% natural ingredients, including the highest quality Iranian henna and indigo, and herbs and essential oils that benefit the hair and scalp. 

What are the benefits of henna?

Where do we start? Henna is one of the few materials found in nature that has an affinity with the hair’s keratin, meaning it gives amazing lasting colour without the need for a chemical mordant which ‘fixes’ the colour in place. It is also a wonderful ingredient to use if you want to add body to the hair, increase shine, and make your locks look and feel beautifully healthy. It is both a treatment for the hair (use Brun on brown hair to see for yourself!) as well as a natural colourant.  

How do I pick my colour?

Lush henna bricks are available in four shades, from the brightest red to inky dark brown. You can mix and match these to subtly tailor your colour if you like, but if you are planning to go from light, twinkly grey or white to a dark colour you will have to apply a base of Rouge first (see the steps for blonde or white hair below).

Rouge contains no indigo, so it will provide a fiery red colour which varies in intensity depending on your natural colour. Very fair hair will have the brightest results. Rouge is also an essential base coat if you are going from fair to dark or covering a high proportion of grey hairs (See Will henna cover my grey hairs?).

Marron has a high henna content but the addition of indigo to provide a darker, chestnut red.

Brun contains a higher percentage of indigo than henna to provide a rich, chocolate brown colour with minimal red tones.

Noir contains the highest percentage of indigo to provide deep, inky black colour. To maintain the cooler tones, you may want to top up regularly as indigo adheres to the hair less effectively than henna.

I’ve had a black henna tattoo before - is it safe for me to use Lush henna? 

Black henna is a dangerous adulterated blend of henna and paraphenylenediamine (also known as PPD): an ingredient used in permanent hair dyes to create dark shades. It has high allergy-inducing potential (which is why box hair dyes will always warn you to do a patch test). The amount of PPD allowed in commercial and professional dyes is strictly regulated in the UK and EU, but black henna tattoos contain dangerously high levels of this ingredient to give the design a darker colour and make it last longer. If you have ever had a black henna tattoo you may have been sensitised to PPD-containing products without your knowledge and should be very careful using synthetic hair dyes.

 Lush henna does not contain any PPD or similar contaminants meaning it is safe to use if you have had a black henna tattoo in the past. We also regularly test our henna to ensure it has not been adulterated.

I’ve had a reaction to synthetic hair dye before, is it safe for me to use Lush henna?

Henna is a wonderful alternative hair dye for people who have allergies to synthetic dyes. The ingredient has an incredibly long history of use and your chance of being allergic to it is very low indeed (unless you have a genetic condition called G6PD Deficiency in which case you should not use henna.)  However, if you are concerned, you can conduct a patch test by applying a small amount of Lush henna paste to your forearm, leaving it for two hours before removing, then waiting for 96 hours to ensure you have no redness or irritation. 

Do I need to do a strand test before I use henna?

Yes, please. Henna is classed as permanent by many specialists because it brings such lasting colour to your hair, (particularly fairer shades). As your beautiful new colour is here to stay for the long term, snip off a small lock of hair towards the back of the head near the nape of the neck and do a trial run to make sure you are 100% happy with the result. You’ll have a good idea of the final colour after 48 hours.

How do I dye my white, blonde, or light hair dark?

The most dramatic transformation henna can produce is on blonde or white hair. If you are planning to dye your fair hair brown or much darker, you must always start with a red base. This is crucial to avoid khaki tones and potentially patchy coverage. We repeat: step away from the Noir - for now. 

Following the How To Use steps on the henna product pages, apply a base of Rouge first, and follow up with your preferred colour, whether that’s Brun, Noir or Marron. Even if it’s Rouge once more, a second application will make sure your coverage is even and more vivid. You can reapply henna as soon as you like, so either enjoy fantastically bright red hair for a couple of days or whip on your next colour as soon as your hair has dried. If your desired shade is very dark or your natural hair is very fair, additional applications may be needed, but your henna and indigo blend will continue to oxidise over a couple of days and may subtly darken anyway.

Hennaed fair hair will require the most maintenance to keep your colour tip top. Top up as often as you like and as suits your lifestyle; monthly will keep your colour in beautiful condition. 

Will henna cover my grey hairs?

Henna has a stunning effect on greys. Grey hair is composed of fibres that have lost their melanin and turned white, and fibres that still retain their natural dark colour, creating an overall impression of ‘grey’. That’s why blondes and redheads tend to go fairer as they age. Only brunettes appear to go ‘grey’.

You may have noticed that grey hairs tend to be a little coarser than pigmented hairs. 

Henna will not fully cover these but coats them in a dazzling, twinkly way that looks natural.  On hair that is over 40% grey, the result will be very vibrant, and you should follow the same procedure for treating white hair as blonde (see above), using Rouge as a base colour to counteract green shades and then following with your chosen colour. You may need to apply Rouge twice if that is your chosen colour. Re-apply your henna as often as you like to keep the coverage fresh and your lighter hairs extra twinkly. 

Can I use bleach before or after using henna?

Resist the urge to immediately bleach hair that has been coloured with henna, as bleach opens the cuticles of the hair and forces the colour deeper inside. You should wait until there is a noticeable fading of the henna on your hair before you try to lighten it and always conduct a strand test to check the final shade. 

You can, however, apply henna to bleached hair. As bleach will make your hair more porous, it is especially susceptible to very bright results so be extra vigilant with the strand test. If you want to dye bleached hair darker you will need to apply a Rouge base first, followed by the darker shade. See the steps for blonde or white hair.

Can I use henna on hair coloured with synthetic hair dye and vice versa?

You can apply henna to synthetically coloured hair, but chemically colouring over the top of henna is a much trickier task, as your dye will find it harder to penetrate the cuticle. Wait at least a month or until your henna has noticeably faded and rely on a strand test to predict the results. You may need to wait longer, depending on how well the henna has taken to your hair.

Is henna suitable for Afro hair?

Yes! Henna can have a lovely protective effect on curl patterns 3A to 4C, especially if it is high porosity. The lawsone adheres to the cuticle, sealing any broken or open parts of the cuticle, and is a gentle alternative to synthetic permanent dyes. You may notice that the combability of your hair is not improved when using henna (that’s because you are slightly increasing the density of the hair fibre) but the shine is fantastic. Some people may also find regular use loosens and defines their curl pattern slightly, which may or may not be an effect they like.

Can I apply henna to braids or a similar protective style?

It’s advisable to only apply henna when your hair is loose to ensure that you have a thorough and even result (and are able to remove the henna successfully). 

Can I use henna on my locs?

Henna can have a lovely effect on locs but it does take extra work. The main difficulty is removing the henna, so we advise using a co-wash to aid slip in the hair and be prepared to spend a reasonable amount of time washing it out. Strand-testing is the best way to judge the scale of your job and your aptitude for it. 

Can I use henna on my extensions?

Henna can be a great option for human hair extensions (not synthetic) to add depth or change colour without inducing damage. Just make sure to do a strand test on both the extensions and your own hair to ensure you have a colour match you are happy with.

Can I use henna before or after a perming or relaxing treatment?

Both relaxer and perming chemicals need to penetrate the cuticle to induce structural changes in the hair, however, so using henna beforehand (which adds a layer to the cuticle) will reduce the effectiveness of your treatment. Using henna after your treatment, however, is a lovely way to bring condition, shine and strength to hair damaged by the process. 

It is advisable to avoid using henna on your hair two weeks before you relax or perm it, and to wait at least three days but ideally a few weeks after relaxing or perming the hair to allow the structural changes to solidify. If you both henna and perm or straighten your hair regularly, you may not quite achieve the desired structural changes, but your hair will look in much better condition. It’s also natural for a little of the henna colour to come away during a perm or relaxer.

Can I use henna if I am transitioning from relaxed to natural hair?

Yes, but again bear in mind that you are working with different textures. Relaxed ends are likely to be very porous and accept the colour more quickly than natural roots. If your hair is dark, this is unlikely to show but bleached or blonde hair may have a very bright result in some areas. Multiple applications will be key.

Can I use henna to colour my beard, eyebrows or eyelashes?

Lush henna is a great option for colouring your beard. Beard hairs are coarser than scalp hair fibres and so may require further applications. You’ll get the best result if you thoroughly cleanse your beard beforehand. Kalamazoo is a good choice but a gentle scrub like Dark Angels will also help to lift away dead skin and reduce the chance of staining. If you have a very long beard use a shampoo through the lengths and ends. Apply Ultrabland around the hairline and follow the steps below.

Lush henna bricks have been designed for use on thicker scalp hairs and so we do not recommend using them around the eye area, as both the area of skin is very delicate, and the hair fibres are very fine. 

How often can I apply henna?

You can henna as often as you like to keep your colour in beautiful condition, whether that’s once a week or once every few months. Frequent applications will also build up the colour for a darker or brighter result, depending on the amount of indigo or henna in your chosen brick. Indigo adheres less strongly to the hair and so Noir, Brun and Marron may require more frequent top-ups than Rouge.

Can I freeze my leftover henna?

We wouldn't advise this - Lush products are best used fresh!

Want to find out more? You’ll find a henna masterclass from Mark Constantine here as well as plenty of background information on Lush’s passion for henna.


Further questions? Contact our UK Customer Care team on 01202 930051.

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