How Long To Keep Henna On The Hair & The Right Way To Apply

Learn how to apply this natural dye and the time needed for it to color your hair.

Reviewed by Ghanima Abdullah, Cosmetologist Ghanima Abdullah Ghanima AbdullahCosmetologist facebook_icontwitter_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA Medha Deb Integrated MA linkedin_icon Experience: 5 years
Last Updated on

If you are planning to color your hair without the risk of chemicals, henna is your best bet. In this article, we teach you how to color your hair with henna. It is an all-natural dye derived from a tree. You can use it alone or with other herbs to color the hair (1).

Henna gives your hair a reddish-brown tinge. If applied properly, it can do miracles for your hair without any risk of side effects. Scroll down to know more!

protip_icon Fun Fact
The oldest evidence of henna usage was found on the mummy of Egyptian queen Ahmose-Henuttamehu, around 6000 years ago.

How Henna Colors Your Hair

A bowl of henna with a hair brush
Image: Shutterstock

The dyeing benefits of henna is due to the presence of laws one, a colorant (2). This naturally-occurring chemical reacts with your hair’s keratin protein to leave a strong stain that tends to last until the skin or hair is shed.

But how strong is this staining? Let’s understand if this dye is permanent in the section below.

Is Henna Dye Permanent?

Henna dye is not permanent. Unlike chemical dyes, this is a natural hair dye derived from the henna plant that stains the hair shaft without penetrating the cortex. Henna gradually fades over time due to washing and exposure to elements, typically lasting several weeks to a few months. However, henna is semi-permanent and can become more resistant to fading with multiple applications. It also gradually fades without leaving noticeable roots, offering a more natural transition. To maintain the color, individuals often reapply henna periodically, allowing them to adjust shades or explore different colors without a long-term commitment.

Let’s now find out the ideal timing to keep henna on your hair in the next section.

How Long Should You Leave Henna On Your Hair?

Woman working with shower cap to retain henna effect
Image: Shutterstock

The ideal time for keeping henna on your hair depends on the final result you are aiming for. For highlights, you may leave the henna on your hair for 1-3 hours, depending on the intensity of the color you want. If you are looking for a deep, rich color or want to cover gray hair, keep the henna on your hair for 3-4 hours.

The time is taken for henna takes to stain your hair also depends on the mixture’s strength and how you prepare it. For best results, mix henna with lukewarm water and let the thick paste sit, covered, for a few hours before using it.

Note: Do not keep henna on your hair beyond 5 hours to prevent dryness and scalp sensitization.

protip_icon Trivia
Anecdotal evidence suggests that adding a paste of indigo and amla powders to henna can help achieve darker hair shades.

Are there any other effects of leaving henna on your hair for a long time? Find out below.

What Happens If You Leave Henna On Your Hair For Longer?

Woman scratching scalp due to excess exposure to henna
Image: Shutterstock

The longer you leave the henna paste on your hair, the more the lawsone molecules migrate into keratin to produce rich and saturated color. Generally, 5 hours are considered sufficient for maximum absorption of henna.

However, herbal hair dyes tend to rehydrate themselves by absorbing moisture from the hair. Thus, if you keep the henna mix on your hair for an unnecessarily long period, it may dry out your scalp and hair, leading to irritation.

Note: Test the henna paste on a small patch of your hair to find how it responds to the dye.

Wondering how long your henna hair color can last before your next application? Check out our answer in the following section.

How Often Should You Reapply Henna?

Woman holding hair strand for the right time to use henna
Image: Shutterstock

You can reapply henna every 3-4 weeks for full coverage. Typically, henna stains last until your strands fall off or your hair grows out. Therefore, the frequency of application depends on how fast your hair grows, especially if you are using henna to cover gray hair. You may also reapply henna on the same day after your first application as it is devoid of chemicals.

A blogger recalls her personal experience of dying her hair naturally with henna. She provides a detailed walkthrough of what henna is, where to get it from, and how to use it. She shares an extended take on the procedure of preparing henna for hair dye, and the ingredients required, and provides a step-by-step tutorial. She adds, “From what I have read, the more you use henna, the more red your hair will become over time. It seems that you can use henna as often as you like without having to worry about hair damage (i).”

However, you need to apply henna on your hair correctly to get the best results. Read on to find the instructions to apply henna the right way.

How To Apply Henna On Your Hair The Right Way

Woman applying henna on hair in a right manner
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Shampoo and dry your hair before the henna application process. Do not condition your hair as the conditioner coats the hair and can block the henna from entering the hair shaft.
  2. If you want highlights, apply the mixture directly to the areas that you wish to highlight.
  3. For greater coverage, section your hair in layers and apply the henna paste.
  4. Tie your hair into a tight bun after covering all the layers.
  5. Wear a shower cap to avoid spillage. This will also keep the mixture warm and activate the dye faster.
  6. Wait for a few hours, depending on the results you want.
  7. Wash your hair with room temperature water or use a conditioner to rinse the dried paste.
  8. Reapply henna whenever the roots need a touch-up.


: Henna stains your skin. Always apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly on your skin around the hairline to avoid staining.

Infographic: Things To Keep In Mind While Applying Henna To Your Hair

Henna is a natural dye with numerous advantages, including dandruff reduction, scalp nourishment, and hair conditioning. However, you should be mindful of certain things if you want to get the most out of it. Check out the infographic below for some excellent tips on applying henna to your hair.

things to keep in mind while applying henna to your hair (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Henna is the best way to color your hair naturally without using products with harmful chemicals. However, you need to let the henna mixture sit for a few hours before applying it for effective results. The duration you leave the henna on your hair also impacts the result. For example, leaving it on for 1-3 hours is good for getting highlights and 3-4 hours for getting rich color. However, henna exposure for more than 5 hours may dry out your hair and scalp and weaken the strands. You can color your hair with henna every 3-4 weeks. If you are applying it for the first time, do a patch test first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you leave the henna on your hair overnight?

No, it is not a good idea to leave the henna on your hair overnight, as it can dry out your hair and scalp.

Can I shampoo my hair after applying henna?

No. Do not use a shampoo within 48 hours after applying henna. However, you can opt for color-safe shampoos if it gets hard to rinse the dried paste.

Is henna healthier than hair dye?

Yes. According to anecdotal evidence, henna is healthier than regular hair dye since it contains no chemicals and may be replete with nourishing compounds.

Does adding coffee to henna make it darker?

Possibly not. According to anecdotal evidence, coffee does not impart any color but may merely add a strong aroma to your henna dye.

Does henna cause hair thinning?

There is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting that the use of henna may lead to hair thinning.

Does applying henna cause gray hair?

There is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting that the use of henna may lead to graying of hair.

Can I mix henna with coconut oil?

Yes. Adding a few spoonfuls of coconut oil to your henna can help moisturize your dry hair. Coconut oil will not hinder dye uptake.

Key Takeaways

  • The lawsone molecules in henna react with hair’s keratin protein and leave a strong stain that lasts until the skin or hair is shed.
  • The longer you leave the henna paste on your hair, the more the molecules migrate into keratin to produce rich and saturated color.
  • The frequency of henna application depends on how fast your hair grows, especially if you are using henna to cover gray hair.
how long to leave henna on hair

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Transform your hair with henna. Watch this video to know how to apply henna for vibrant and healthy locks. Don’t miss out, start your henna journey today.

Personal Experience: Source


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. Study of colouring effect of herbal hair formulations on graying hair
  2. Dyeing studies with henna and madder: A research on effect of tin (II) chloride mordant
Ghanima Abdullah
Ghanima AbdullahCosmetologist
A cosmetologist from Chicago, IL, Ghanima lives in the Caribbean. As a beauty consultant and stylist with 40 years of experience, she has been in the beauty industry for a few decades, doing makeup and hair. Being a formulator, she has her eye on new ingredients in the market and their uses.

Read full bio of Ghanima Abdullah