Monday, 28 October 2013

How to do a henna gloss

It's official. I'm a henna head. I loooooove the stuff.  Funny, because I was MASSIVELY skeptical about trying it.  I've said it before, I don't like change. Plus I didn't want to walk around with maroon hair.  Which is what I thought happened to people who hennaed their hair.

But eventually, after much coaxing (and some veiled threats) by my friends, I succumbed.  I thought, 'OK, I'll try it once, I'll hate it, my hair will hate it and I can walk around for weeks with a wounded air of smug 'I told you so' -ness'. Win!

Well, I'm woman enough to admit when I'm wrong.

Why henna?
Henna is commonly used to make hair stronger and fuller; It does this by coating the individual strands. Henna can also be used for adding colour to hair, which can range from red, to burgundy to orange to brown, depending on the type of henna and the colour of your hair before application.  The lighter your hair colour, the more noticeable the result. For a few naturals, repeated henna applications can loosen your curl pattern, so it is important to do a strand test first if you are worried about this.

A henna gloss is different from a full strength application in that, with the application of conditioner and oils to the henna mix, it conditions and moisturises the hair at the same. It is less effective for colour uptake but it makes it easier to wash off and leaves your hair feeling softer than with a full strength henna.

What you need for a henna gloss:
1. Henna

This is the first ever henna I tried out and although I tried a pure henna after, I went back to this one: 
Godrej Nupur Henna '100% Natural Henna with goodnes of Amla, Brahmi and Bhringraj'. 

Umm..saywhatknow? Basically, Ayuverdic herbs.  Amla is said to nourish the hair and scalp, add texture and volume and prevent premature graying.  Bhringraj encourages hair growth, helps prevent hair loss and discoulouration and improve general hair health.  Brahmi helps with mental illness and sexual problems.  Ooookkkkk.... Do these herbs really work? Who knows.  But I have never seen an Indian with jacked up hair. Seriously, they know something we don't.  And I want in.  So I use the henna with Ayuverdic herbs so I can have lush hair AND full mental health. The gift that keeps on giving.  

2. Tea
You need something acidic to help with dye release. Many people use lemon juice but I haven't tried it because, with a ph of 2, it is very acidic, which can cause dryness. Tea on the other hand, depending on the variety plus how long you brew it, is much gentler, with a ph of about 4.9.  Kimmaytube did a 4-part you tube series on ph called The Structure of Hair which I think is worth watching.

I have tried lots of different teas; green, black, rooibos, hibiscus and even coffee.  I found the tea mixes had the same effect but the coffee made my hair slightly brown.

4 tablespoons of henna and one cup of brewed green tea leaves

3. Conditioner
This makes up the 'gloss' part of a henna gloss. Use whatever co-wash conditioner you normally use. The conditioner reduces the dye effect of henna on hair but also helps condition your hair while hennaing and makes the henna much easier to wash off.  Not adding conditioner would make it a plain henna application. 

4. Oil (optional)
I like to use coconut oil in my henna mix because it is a penetrative oil so helps nourish the hair from the inside out.

5. Mixing container, gloves, cling wrap, towel, newspaper, hair grips (optional), cotton wool or strip of cloth
Henna stains. Sigh. So make sure you use things you don't mind ruining.

Mixing up your henna gloss

1. Make a strong cup of tea.  Two or three teabags to one cup of water. If you are using coffee, use filter coffee, not instant. Let it brew while you co-wash your hair.

2. Put 2-4 tablespoons of henna in a container and slowly add the brewed tea, stirring as you go, until you have a very thick paste. My first ever attempt was too watery and resulted in a runny mess that streaked down my face. Remember that you will be adding conditioner and oil later which will loosen the mix further.

I have no way of not making this look like baby poop

3. Cover and let it sit.  The longer you leave it, the better the colour release, up to about 12 hours, depending on the ambient temperature.  If you are only after the conditioning properties of henna, you can use the henna straight after mixing. 

4. Once you are ready, add your conditioner and oil.  I use about two tablespoons of conditioner and one of oil depending on how runny I need it.  You are now ready to apply your henna mix. 

If you make too much or find you have no time to apply it after all, you can always freeze the mix before you add the conditioner and oil.  If you make a large batch, freeze it in small bags or oiled ice-cube  trays so you only defrost as much as you need. Defrost at room temperature and use on the same day.

Applying your gloss

1. For best results, henna should be applied on clean, detangled, slightly damp hair.  I co-wash and finger detangle then blot well with a t-shirt prior to application.  Remember, the wetter the hair, the runnier the henna will be once applied.  I also divide my hair into at least four segments to make application easier.  

2. Using an applicator brush or your fingers (wear gloves! unless you want stained nails!), apply the henna liberally, making sure each strand is coated root to tip.  I then twist each section and clip up to keep it out of the way. Tip: coat your ears and hairline with a heavy oil like Vaseline petroleum jelly to minimise chances of staining.

3. Once completed, cover your hair in clingfilm to prevent accidentally messing up your sofas, car, bed...
Additionally, you can tuck cotton balls behind your ears to catch any drippies.  I cut the bottom off a t-shirt instead and tie that around the edge of the clingfilm.  This works really well and I now wear the t-shirt as my 'henna tee', so I don't have to worry about staining it.  

4. Leave henna on for at least four hours.  I try to leave it on as long as I can but I love my sheets far too much to sleep with it on overnight; despite all precautions I have taken to prevent leakage, I am certain there would be some.  

Rinsing and Deep Conditioning 

For me, this is the worst part of the process. I dread it. There are no two ways about it. It takes ages and uses up lots of conditioner. And water. I am not proud of my henna carbon footprint.

1. To save water and remove the bulk of the henna, fill up a bucket of water and dunk your head in it, working the dried henna out of your hair with your fingers. The logistics of this are..well, tricky, but it really helps shorten the rinse process. 

2. And now the real work begins. Rinse your hair thoroughly. Using a generous amount of conditioner, co-wash until the water runs clear. This, for me, takes 3-4 washes and to be honest, I generally run out of steam before it runs clear. 

3. Your hair will probably feel like really thick straw at this point. Because henna mimics a protein treatment, you will need to deep condition it straight after to get it feeling soft again. This I leave in overnight because I'm usually too pooped by the rinse process to do any more to my hair on the same day.

4. Rinse and style as usual.

How often should you do this?

When I first started hennaing, I used to do it once a week.  Yup. A woman possessed.  My hair would feel wonderful on wash day but it would feel quite dry by the end of each week.  This got worse and worse so, despite being quite diligent about LOCing to re-moisturise, I decided to cut it down to once a month. I have since re-analysed and figured that perhaps my deep conditioner wasn't as effective as I had hoped plus, since I started using Shea Moisture Curl and Style Milk, my hair is much more moisturised, even after a henna gloss. Ironic really because it seems counter-intuitive to follow up a pseudo-protein treatment with a protein based leave-in.

Time also played a big factor as hennaing can be a bit of a process.

My hair feels instantly thicker even while rinsing and after a few applications, it feels fuller than before.  It does also feel coarser and drier for a few days after so you would need to be quite diligent about moisturising to counter this.

Henna has not noticeably changed my hair colour apart from the greys, which are now orange :)


  1. I just did a full henna treatment last night. I mixed it on Saturday and let it sit for 48hours so that I could get good colour release. Since I had a 7am meeting this morning, I couldn't let it sit overnight, I went & sat under a steamer for 45 min at the neighbourhood salon, washed off, slapped on my Dc which was basically honey, glycerine and a scoop of conditioner. I carried the whole honey jar to the salon since i was in a should have seen the side eyes from other customers when i was mixing..and the questions from the stylists:-) It came out very well, my ends are visibly darker ( I have found honey & glycerine (being humectants) work wonders as DC after a henna treatment.

    1. LOL!! Can imagine other people texting on their phones about this cray woman putting honey in her hair. I tried this recipe a couple of days ago after my henna and my hair felt totaly lush after,

  2. I was so surprised when reading this post...I am have been doing a henna gloss for the past 6 months, i think, and I have always done my henna with a full dc!!! I had been told about it by a friend and she does it the same way: mix henna and let it steep overnight, mix some conditioner ( I use tresseme natural) , oils ( avocado, shea and JBCO) and the add a deep/thick conditioner ( i use the harvest of sunshine soft butter or the Shea moisture deep treatment mask) I let it stay on for about 4 hours, rinse, cowash and go.
    I wonder if this makes a difference in combating the dryness as well as a DC after?
    What do you think?

    1. No idea. Although it seems so logical, it never crossed my mind to mix my Henna with a DC. I'll try it next henna session and compare; anything to cut down on washing time.

  3. Can i put heena on my three year old daughters hair?

    1. Try a spot test first to make sure she has no allergies. I don't see why not if you use pure henna. However remember that henna is super messy and can be drying to hair so if your bub has the patience for it, be sure to keep her hair super moisturised after.

  4. I read somewhere that if u wanted your henna colour to darken further after rinsing it out,you slather some oil on your hair and leave it overnight-Is this true?

  5. No idea; first i've heard. If i try it, ill let you know :)

  6. gooood idea :) i;ll try mix Khadi with sesame oil :)