How To Apply Henna For Gray Hair

A comprehensive guide to giving an auburn tinge to your silver strands with natural ingredients.

Reviewed by Tiffany Young, Certified Trichology Practitioner
By Jyotsana Rao

Covering your gray hair with commercial hair dyes leaves your hair vulnerable to chemicals that may damage your hair. Have you considered using a natural alternative like henna for gray hair? Henna, commonly known as mehendi, colors hair in an enchanting reddish-orange shade. It is traditionally used to keep hair thick, and has antimicrobial properties that keep your hair and scalp protected and healthy (1). Keep reading to know how to dye your hair with henna to ensure full gray coverage.

What Is Henna?

Fresh henna cream in a bowl beside henna leaves.

Shutterstock

Henna leaf or Lawsonia inermis is cultivated throughout India. It is popularly used as a hair dye, for body art, and is known for its medicinal and therapeutic properties (2). Natural henna leaves an auburn color on the hair. However, the color may differ as per the variety of henna leaf used.

It gives an instant cooling effect and has antimicrobial properties. Henna extract is effective against the acne-causing S. aureus bacteria and may help minimize scalp acne.

Traditionally, mehendi or henna is believed to strengthen the hair, promote hair growth, and add luster to it. However, there is no scientific proof for these claims. Henna is commonly used to cover gray hair and is a popular alternative for chemical hair dyes.

Fun Fact
Ramesses II, the Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty of Egypt, used henna to cover his grays. This was a common practice in ancient Egypt.

Does Henna Cover Gray Hair?

Yes. Henna can cover gray hair and leave an auburn or reddish-orange tint on the strands. However, the results may differ depending on your natural hair color.

Adding other herbal ingredients like jatamansi, kuth, kattha, and amla (Indian gooseberry) and coffee with henna can produce a significant coloring effect and cover gray hair effectively (3). The next section explains how you can use henna to cover gray hair.

How To Cover Gray Hair With Henna: A Complete Guide

Gather the ingredients that you may need. They include:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of black tea leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoons of henna powder (adjust the quantity)
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon of lemon juice
  • Applicator brush
  • A mixing bowl
  • An old T-shirt

Step 1: Boil Black Tea Leaves

Tea leaves are boiling in water on a stove.

Shutterstock

Boil the black tea leaves in water for a while. Once it starts bubbling, let it simmer on low heat until the water reduces to half. The water should be in proportion to the quantity of henna powder you use. Always use natural henna powder rather than those which come with a developer.

Step 2: Prepare A Henna Mask

Henna mask in a bowl.

iStock

Soak the henna powder in water for around 8 hours or overnight. Mix the henna paste, black tea, and lemon juice. You can also add some amla powder to this mixture. However, this is optional.

Step 3: Apply The Mask

Woman applying henna mask on her hair.

Shutterstock

Wear the old T-shirt to avoid staining and then section your hair. Use the applicator brush to cover the section from root to tip. Repeat with all the hair sections. Wear a disposable shower cap to keep the hair intact and wait for at least 30 minutes for the hair to absorb the paste.

Step 4: Wash It Off

Woman washing her hair in the bathroom.

Shutterstock

Rinse off the paste with cold water. Ensure to wash thoroughly and apply a conditioner to the hair. Do not shampoo right away and let the color settle. You may shampoo your hair the next day. You can apply henna once or twice a month.

Check out this video for a better understanding:

Henna is considered safe for the skin. Animal studies show that it may treat androgenetic alopecia (4). However, you may experience a few side effects.

[Read: Ashwagandha For Hair]

Side Effects Of Henna

Henna may cause allergic reactions, and you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Itchiness
  • Dryness
  • Sore and red eyes
  • Redness
  • Blisters

However, these side effects are rare and often caused by commercial black henna containing synthetic ingredients like PPD. If you observe any of these side effects, consult your doctor without any further delay.

If you are applying henna to your hair, here is a set of precautions you need to follow.

Precautions To Take While Applying Henna

  • Do a patch test to prevent allergic reactions.
  • Do not apply henna if you have existing scalp conditions or blisters or wounds on your scalp.
  • If you have a cold or fever, do not apply henna. It has a cooling effect and may further aggravate your condition.
  • Ensure that your hair is tangle-free. The henna paste may cause tangles and may be difficult to wash off.
  • Always use a glass bowl to mix the paste as metal bowls may react with the ingredients.
  • Coat the hairline and skin near the nape with Vaseline or petroleum jelly to prevent staining.
  • Always wear disposable plastic gloves before applying henna to prevent staining.
  • Do not apply henna on oily hair as the oil may prevent color absorption.
  • Do not leave henna on your hair for more than 45 minutes. If it dries out completely, it can be difficult to wash it out.
  • Apply cucumber slices or cooling eye pads if you experience a burning sensation in the eyes post henna application.
Stylecraze Says
Avoid conditioning your hair after shampooing and before applying henna. The conditioner may prevent the henna from staining the hair.

Infographic: How to Use Henna To Cover Gray Hair

There is no denying that premature graying is a common hair issue. There are medical therapies that can help correct it, but if you are unsure about them the best course of action is to turn to natural remedies, and henna should be on your list of choices.

If you’ve always wanted to use henna, check out the infographic below for a quick, step-by-step tutorial on how to do it right.

how to use henna to cover gray hair [infographic]

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Using henna for gray hair is an excellent and healthy alternative to synthetic and harmful dyes. It gives the gray hair a reddish-orange shade while also improving your hair and scalp health through its antimicrobial properties. Also, you can add more ingredients to intensify the color. Although henna is considered safe for use, it may cause minor side effects, like itchiness, dryness, and red eyes. However, these are mostly associated with hennas containing synthetic ingredients. Do a patch test before using henna to avoid the risk of adverse effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does henna last on gray hair?

Once you color your gray hair with henna, the color should last about 7-9 weeks.

How often can I henna my hair?

You can color your hair with henna once every month.

Can henna be removed from hair?

Henna is a permanent color. If you want to remove it from your hair, apply a lot of warm oil to your strands (until it is dripping). Wrap your hair in a shower cap. Leave it on for a few hours or overnight. Then, wash it off with warm water and shampoo. You may need to repeat this process a few times to remove the color. You can also use a baking soda rinse to lighten henna-colored hair.

Key Takeaways

  • Henna lends an auburn color to the hair strands and covers your gray hair effectively.
  • Apply a mixture of henna, black tea, lemon juice, and water to conceal your grays.
  • Though side effects are rare, commercial black hennas may cause allergic reactions.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Antimicrobial Efficacy of Henna Extracts
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273913/
  2. Modulatory effect of henna leaf (Lawsonia inermis) on drug metabolising phase I and phase II enzymes antioxidant enzymes lipid peroxidation and chemically induced skin and forestomach papillomagenesis in mice
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12708740/
  3. Study of colouring effect of herbal hair formulations on graying hair
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471652/
  4. [Therapeutic effect of Impatiens balsamina Lawsonia inermis L. and Henna on androgenetic alopecia in mice]
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31852654/
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Jyotsana Rao is an engineering graduate from NIT, Nagpur, who discovered her love for writing during her undergraduate days. She... more

Tiffany Young

(Certified Trichology Practitioner)
Tiffany Young is the CEO and founder of ThinHairThick. She is also a recognized expert in the hair and beauty... more

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