Disadvantages of Henna for Hair: Dye-ving into the Deets

Like many natural hair dyes, henna has pros and cons. But, henna may not be good for your hair if you use sketchy products, apply it incorrectly, or don’t have the right hair type.

Henna is a natural hair dye made from Lawsonia inermis (aka henna plant). When applied to your tresses, henna can make your hair look darker, shinier, and thicker. But like any cosmetic product, there are some possible probs to keep in mind.

Some potential disadvantages of using henna hair dye include:

  • dry hair
  • difficult application and staining
  • allergic reaction
  • hair damage if applied incorrectly
  • not great for light hair colors
  • more permanent than commercial dyes

Here’s a deep dive into these potential pitfalls, plus how to pick a high-quality henna hair dye for the best results.

person applying henna to hair
Don Smith/Stocksy United

Disadvantages of henna for hair

Wait, so is henna bad for your hair? Not exactly. Using henna to dye your hair offers an array of pros and cons. Here’s what you need to know about the cons.

Difficult to change hair color 

Not all henna brands are actually natural. Many contain harsh additives or metallic salts that can make it almost impossible to reverse. That means you’re stuck with the results for a while, even if you aren’t satisfied.

Also, henna hair dye is powerful and saturates each strand down to the hair cuticle. That means commercial hair dyes might not work on henna-dyed hair.

PSA: Using a commercial dye on top of henna dye can leave you with blotchy, dry, or uneven patches of hair. And if you don’t let henna naturally fade and try to bleach your locks, you could end with red-orange hair.

May leave your hair feeling dry

Some peeps report dry hair after using henna dye. The good news is dry hair might go away with some time.

Henna contains a type of dye called Lawsone. Studies show Lawsone precursors can strengthen keratin, the protein that makes up the outer layer of hair follicles. Unfortunately, this can leave your hair feeling dull or dry for a bit.

A way to remedy this is to wash your hair thoroughly after application. This removes excess henna that clings to your hair follicles. You can also use a hair hydration mask or serum to bring some life back into your locks.

Really only works for dark hair 

Henna looks and works best on dark hair by enhancing brown, warm undertones. You also can’t lighten your hair with henna, and it doesn’t work well with lighter hair colors. If you apply henna to graying or blonde strands, you could end up with more of an orange than an auburn sheen.

Keep in mind that henna may also darken your hair over time.

Incorrect application can damage hair

High-quality henna prob won’t damage your hair if applied correctly. However, low-quality or poorly applied henna can strip hair of its natural oils. This can lead to dry, damaged hair and an irritated scalp

Using henna too regularly might also leave you with uneven or streaky hair.

Henna allergic reactions

It is possible to have an allergic reaction to henna. In most cases, allergic reactions to henna involve mild skin irritation, but it is possible to experience blisters and scarring.

However, severe reactions involving black henna can be extremely dangerous. Black henna includes paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical that can cause chemical burns and life-threatening allergic reactions.

FYI: You should always do a patch test before applying henna to your hair, scalp, or skin. (More on patch tests in a minute!)

It might interact with metal 

Certain types of henna can oxidize metal, leaving it stained or tarnished. This is especially true with iron or aluminum, so mixing your henna dye in a non-metal bowl is best. Opt for materials made from glass, ceramics, or plastic instead.

Application can be tricky

Generally, henna is more challenging to apply than commercial hair dye. The application process can be messy AF, even if you’re used to dyeing your hair. Henna is also tricky to apply evenly, leading to blotchiness and missed spots.

P.S. Henna can easily stain your skin, clothes, and pretty much anything it touches. So, wear an old t-shirt you don’t care about and wear gloves.

Benefits of henna for hair   

There’s a reason why henna has been around for thousands of years. While it might have some drawbacks, it def has some perks. Here’s a rundown of the benefits of henna hair dye.

Adds nutrients to hair

Henna contains tannins, proteins, and minerals that might benefit hair health. Tannins might reduce premature hair graying. Just keep in mind we need more evidence to show how well this works.

Henna also contains vitamin E, which can help soften hair. Its natural antioxidant properties may also help keep your hair strong. But again, we need more research to know for sure.

Adds shine

Many peeps claim henna can give your luscious locks a vibrant shine while smoothing out flyaways. And since it coats the hair shaft, it can also make your hair look fuller.

There’s also some anecdotal chatter that henna can reduce split ends, but there’s no scientific evidence to back this up.

Anti-fungal properties

Henna has some fab anti-fungal properties that may help treat dandruff, which is commonly caused by a fungus called Malassezia. There’s also a chance it can help absorb oils that lead to dead skin cell or product buildup on the scalp. But again, we need more evidence.

Helps graying

Some folks claim henna can help stave off premature graying. However, it can also leave a bright orange luster on lighter locks. So, commercial dyes might work better on grays than henna.

What to know when using henna hair dye

Here’s everything you need to know about henna hair dye before you use it.

Make sure you have a compatible hair type 

Henna results are different for everyone. But, the dye tends to work best on dark hair that is porous or absorbent. You’ll see a more noticeable difference if you have lighter hair, but you risk orange tinting if you’re blonde.

Add moisturizers to combat dryness

Your hair might feel dried out after a henna treatment, but adding a moisturizer to your dye may help. Some natural options include honeycoconut oil, or aloe vera.

Don’t leave henna on too long

Applying henna frequently — or leaving it on too long — can cause protein molecules to build up on your hair follicles. This can make your hair feel heavy and dense. So try to keep henna on for less than an hour if you want to keep your curls bouncy.

Patch test

Henna allergies aren’t common, but they can happen. You might experience redness, swelling, oozing, or inflammation if you have an allergic reaction. That’s why you should always do a patch test first!

To do this, apply a tiny amount of henna dye to the inside of your arm. If you don’t have a reaction after 24 hours, you should be good to go.

Avoid black henna

Not all henna is created equally. Avoid black henna at all costs. The paraphenylenediamine (PPD) in black henna is known to cause chemical burns. In severe cases, it can also cause scarring and allergic reactions that affect breathing. So, play it safe and always stick to brown henna.

Check for unsafe additives

Some henna hair dyes contain unsafe additives that can trigger allergic reactions or an inflammatory response. Here are some ingredients to avoid:

  • carmine
  • pyrogallol
  • chromium
  • silver nitrate
  • disperse orange dye

Use a quality product

There are a bajillion different henna products on the market. Many come ready-made in paste form, saving you from DIY-ing the mix yourself. However, you have to be careful about what henna you buy. Always stick to high-quality brands that have nourishing ingredients like:

It’s also important to note that not all brands are legit. Some companies market their products as “all-natural” or “Ayurvedic,” but that doesn’t prove quality. So again, really do your research and stick to a trustworthy product.

Rinse hair and leave alone for 24 hours

Aftercare is just as important as the dyeing itself. To make the most of your henna dye, rinse it thoroughly with water after the dyeing is complete. Then leave your hair alone for 24 hours. After this, you can shampoo and condition your hair as usual. You may also want to add a moisturizing mask into the mix for extra hydration.

Bottom line

Henna dye is a popular method for darkening hair. Some research shows it can help strengthen hair follicles while making hair softer and shinier. However, like any cosmetic product, you have to be careful.

Henna is pretty hard to apply solo. If applied incorrectly, you could be left with blotchy or uneven hair that’s hard to fix with commercial dyes. You also need to be careful about what products you use. Some contain harsh additives that can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, or dry out your hair.

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