seeing red // henna tutorial & red hair care

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hello everybody -

Long time, no see! Today was yet another school day canceled because of the snow, so I've decided to do a hair-related post.

Although red hair runs in my family (see my twin brother) and I've always been a bit strawberry-blonde, I've only really been a redhead for about a year and a half. I was born with dark brown hair, which somehow turned into blonde when I was a kid, and then gradually changed into a strange sort of brownish strawberry-blonde color as I got older. I first decided to dye my hair with henna right before school started last year, and I've been dyeing it every few months ever since. I absolutely love it.  

There's just something really awesome about being a redhead. I don't even know what it is, but I like the fact that it's just so attention-grabbing, pretty, and natural-looking.

Speaking of natural, using henna is a great way to dye your hair without any damage. I know, dyeing your hair without damage? Whoa. That's like getting free ice cream or something. 

I've heard a few people complain about how henna can dry out your hair, but personally, my hair is nothing but perfectly conditioned and shiny afterwards. So I don't think it's anything to worry about, thankfully!

The only thing that I dislike about henna is the actual process. I've gotten used to it over time, but it can still be time-consuming and quite messy and smell really strange (although some people like the smell). Luckily, I've made this handy dandy tutorial with tips to help out. ;)


So first of all, you may be wondering, what is henna?

Henna is the powdered leaves of a tropical shrub found in various parts of the world, commonly used as a dye to color the hair and decorate the body. So, yep, this is pretty much the same stuff that's used for henna tattoos - in fact, you can actually use body henna to dye your hair as well as the pre-powdered stuff for hair. Personally, I recommend the latter because it often comes with conditioning, but it's up to you!

Henna hair dye is a pure, natural product that is made completely free of synthetic chemicals. According to the hair dye that I use, "these botanicals contain a natural protein that when mixed with warm water and a heat application will coat the hair...this coating action is very beneficial for your hair. It seals in oils and tightens the cuticle resulting in a rich, healthy shine. After application, the new color will go through subtle changes over a period of two or three days". In addition to being good for your hair, another cool thing about henna is the fact that it doesn't fade as easily as other dyes. According to, "the lawsone (dye) molecule penetrates the hair shaft, binding with the keratin in the hair. This makes hair stronger, but also is one of the qualities that makes henna removal near impossible. Henna also coats the hair and fills in rough spots on a frayed cuticle. This adds a second layer of strength, but it DOES NOT lock out moisture." Yay!

This site also mentions that "with the cuticle rough edges smoothed over, the hair feels smoother and the cuticle takes a lot less damage during combing and manipulation. It takes several days for Henna to stabilize. It becomes more flexible and durable as it oxidizes and cures–it is in fact a plant resin that is flexible and solvent enough to penetrate the hair at the cuticle, carrying pigment with it". Also yay! To read more about henna and it's pros and cons from this website, click here.

As far as I know, henna can work on pretty much any hair type or color, but will produce different shades depending on the color of you hair before you dye it. If you're a natural blonde, your hair will most likely turn out more of a coppery or fiery orange color, and if you're a natural brunette, your hair will be more of a deep auburn (henna won't lighten your hair at all, it will only add color).

So, tldr; henna is a great natural and non-damaging way to get red hair that doesn't fade. 


What do I need?

Obviously, you'll need some hair dye. You can pretty much use any brand you wish, but I use Light Mountain Natural hair color & conditioner. I believe it's one of the more popular brands of henna, and I've found that it works really well. You can buy it in a lot of different shades, and I've used about three different ones but haven't really seen too much of a difference (I've used red, bright red, and light red). You can usually find it on ebay or amazon for pretty cheap, I get mine for about $6 per box. Since my hair is so ridiculously thick and also on the longer side, I use two boxes (so two bags). 

The last time I dyed my hair, I used a combination of red and light red.

In addition to the dye, you'll need:

- a large plastic mixing bowl (it could also be glass or ceramic, just make sure it isn't metal, because metal can have strange reactions with henna)
- a plastic or wooden stirring utensil (it can be a spoon or something, also make sure it's not metal)
- old t-shirt & old towels (something you don't mind getting stained)
- hair clips or hair ties (not anything with metal)
- gloves (like disposable plastic or latex ones)
- plastic cap 
- hot water

optional stuff: vaseline (to keep your forehead, ears, and neck from getting stained orange), plain yogurt (adds to conditioning affect and makes it so much easier to apply and get out of your hair, I recommend greek yogurt), ginger, allspice, nutmeg or paprika (can enrich reds and adds a nice smell if you like), a chair (you might want to sit down for this)


Before dyeing your hair with henna for the first time, it's important to read all of the information and instructions that come with your henna. If you're using Light Mountain henna, you can probably just use this tutorial, but otherwise check over the instructions to make sure you're doing everything right.

I know, still pretty red in this lighting. But it was definitely fading and my roots were starting to show a bit.
Also, you may want to perform a sensitivity test. Add a little bit of the mixture to a patch of your skin, leave it to dry, and then observe whether or not your skin reddens, burns, itches, or becomes swollen. If it does, you may be allergic, and shouldn't use henna on your hair (I don't think this is very common though.)

If you've never dyed your hair red, you may also want to perform a strand test. Choose a small piece of your hair to dye, and once it dries, you can decide whether or not you like the color or if you want to make any adjustments to the process before dyeing the rest of your hair. 



First off, you'll need a lot of time. Despite it's other glorious advantages, dyeing your hair with henna can be extremely time-consuming. For me, it usually takes up at least four hours. Don't fret, though - the majority of it is spent either relaxing or showering. If you plan on dyeing your hair, definitely set aside at least four hours of free time.

After you've gathered up everything you need, the first thing to do is mix your henna. Set out your plastic bowl, packages of henna, and stirring utensil. Pour both packages of powder into your bowl. Boil twelve to sixteen ounces of water in a nonmetal container (like a plastic or glass measuring cup) and gradually pour the hot water into the powder, stirring as you pour. Definitely add more water if you feel you need to, it should have a sort of thick yogurt-like consistency and may be kind of gritty - don't freak out if it looks/smells awful. 

absolutely disgusting.

In addition to the water, you may want to add in plain yogurt, which I highly recommend because it makes the mixture creamier, adds conditioning, and overall makes the whole process a million times easier. Last time, I just added a big spoonful of plain greek yogurt and stirred it in after the water. I also tried adding in some ginger and paprika, and I'm not sure if it made much of a difference (but it certainly didn't do any harm).

After this, you need to let your henna cure. This means you should leave your henna mixture covered in the bowl (use a dishtowel) to retain heat and moisture, and allow it to thicken and stabilize for about one to three hours. If you don't have enough time to let it cure, it's not that big of a deal, just let it thicken for about ten minutes. I honestly don't think it makes too much of a difference  anyway, since I've only ever left it to cure the last two times that I dyed my hair. The Light Mountain instructions claim that "this option may reduce the amount of time that the product needs to stay on the hair to achieve the desired color. It will also soften the texture of the product". The only real difference I've noticed is that it's easier to apply.

While you're waiting, you can go ahead and hop in the shower and shampoo your hair. Don't condition it or anything, just wash it really well and rinse it. When you're done, towel dry it and don't put any styling products in it.

Put on some old clothes that you don't mind getting stained, and then set up a chair covered in old towels. You may also want to cover your floor, since henna can also stain bathroom tiles. It'd be good to position yourself in front of a mirror in your bathroom so you can see what you're doing. 



After an hour or so has passed since you've mixed the henna, try to comb your hair out a bit and then put on your plastic gloves. Trust me, you'll need them.  Before you start applying, also make sure to remove any metal jewelry that could come in contact with the henna. 

Uncover your henna and determine if you need to add any more hot water in (like if it's super thick or clumping), and then you're ready to go!

Honestly, I always get someone else to help me apply it because I'm really lazy and bad at this sort of thing. But if you need to apply it yourself, you pretty much just have scoop little handfuls of the mixture and spread it onto each section of your hair evenly. You can work from the bottom upwards, and clip each section of your hair up (or just kind of use the mixture to glue it on top of your head, that works for me). Your hair should be completely covered in a thick, reddish-brown paste and should be clipped or held up on the top of you head once you're finished. Make sure to get your roots!

The application process usually takes me thirty minutes or so, and can be pretty messy - however, last time, I found that the addition of the greek yogurt and the curing definitely helped make it an easier, less messy process, because the mixture was a lot less clumpy and gritty. Go yogurt! Another thing you can do to make it easier is use an all-plastic paint brush or a squeeze bottle with a large opening to apply the mixture.


Obtaining the color

Right after you've finished applying, cover your hair with a plastic cap, towel turban, or plastic wrap/cling film of some sort to retain heat and moisture from escaping, as well as prevent clumps of henna from falling everywhere, because that would suck. Make sure all of it is covered, and then clean any henna off of your face if needed.

Next, you may want to apply heat to set the color. I'd never done it before until last time, but I do think it helped a bit with the richness of the color. I simply blow dried over the plastic cap for about five minutes. You can also do it for up to ten minutes, just make sure not to melt the plastic.

Afterwards, set a timer for 1-4 hours, depending on how patient you are or how much time you have. I'm usually pretty impatient so I only leave it in for one hour, but I think leaving it in for longer would probably make your color deeper and more saturated.  I only left the henna in for 30 minutes the first time and it still ended up red, but less so. 



Oh boy, here comes my favorite part. (Not.)

After however long you feel like leaving the henna in, you'll need hop back in the shower rinse it out with warm water. Usually this takes me the longest amount of time in the whole process, because the mixture can be very gritty and cling to your hair. It's a frustrating process and you may feel like you'll never get the stuff out of your hair, but trust me, you will! I advise using a lot of conditioner - it makes the henna softer and easier to get out. Rinse your hair with conditioner and water until the water runs clear (no more orange/reddish water). I shampoo the ends a tiny bit after that just in case, but it's really up to you whether or not you want to use shampoo at this point - I don't think it contributes to any loss of color, but it may dry your hair out more since you've already shampooed it. Lastly, I just condition it as I usually do and attempt to wash the muddy mess off of the bottom of the shower and curtains. 

Again, the last time I dyed my hair, the greek yogurt helped so much with making the mixture easier to get out. I think it may have nearly halved the time that I normally spend rinsing, because there was really no grittiness the in paste. 



After you've made sure that the henna mixture is out of your hair, comb and style your hair as you normally do. Once your hair is dry, ta-da! It should be voluminous, shiny, soft, and a vibrant shade of red or orange. Don't freak out if it's too vibrant, because the shade of your hair will shift a bit over the next few days and washes and it'll become more subtle. You should look like a natural redhead, rather than a bright artificial red or orange. 

some after shots, right after i finished blow drying it

ahh, much redder.
still a little bit wet in this picture
If you don't like the color, it's not the end of the world. There are instructions in the Light Mountain box for removing it, and I'm sure there are plenty more online - you simply need crystal light lemonade and conditioner. 

The great part about henna is getting to experiment with different methods and shades to achieve different colors. So if the red starts to fade any in the next couple of months or any roots start to show, you can give it another go!

my hair a week or so after dyeing it - it's shifted to more of a copper shade, which is how i like it 

Welcome to the redhead club. :)


Red hair care

To keep my hair vibrant, I use Revlon Professionals' Nutri Color Creme in shade 740 (copper) every few weeks or so. I bought it online for about $20 and I absolutely love it (I'll probably do a full review about it at some point). I apply it after shampooing much like henna, and then rinse it out with conditioner. It's an orange gel-like substance that smells wonderful, is easy to apply, and you only have to leave it on for three minutes. (I know. Three. whole. minutes.) Afterwards, my hair is always much redder, as well as super soft and shiny. 

my hair after using the creme

In addition, I also use Aveda's daily color conserve product. I have it in a little sample tube and usually apply it to my hair before styling it, and honestly I'm not sure if it really makes a difference or not? It smells nice, though. Since I started using it fairly recently, I'll update this post if I notice any changes.

I've also heard a lot about special shampoos and conditioners for red hair, and I think I may check that out at some point. If I do, I'll update or do a review. :)


Anyways, that's how I do things! I hope you enjoyed, and I wish you the best of luck. Don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or revisions in the comments below. 

XOXO, Kate

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