≡ Menu

Henna and other natural plant hair dyes

Carrie’s curious: First, I must say your site is amazing. I’ve been looking for years for an evidence- and research-based beauty site. Brilliant. I’d like to know more about henna. You mention it very briefly in the

article about “organic” hair dyes but you don’t go much further than that. Can one of “The Brains” do a feature on henna, and any other plant-derived dyes (if there are any) out there?

The Right Brain’s response:

Ask, Carrie, and you shall receive. We found a great resource for henna information, and it’s heavily annotated with references. We’ll paraphrase some of the key information here to answer your question, but we recommend checking out the site for more details.

What is henna

Henna is a shrub (Lawsonia Inermis ) whose leaves contain a tannin dye molecule known as Lawsone. Lawsone is released when the leaves are pulverized, acidified and made into a paste. This paste can be applied to hair or skin to give it a deep, reddish brown stain.

What colors does henna come in?

Despite what you might have heard there is no such thing as black or blonde henna. True henna ONLY comes in reddish brown. Any black or blonde hair dyes that claim to be henna are mixing henna with other materials that could be either other plant dyes or synthetic chemicals.

Can I use henna instead of permanent hair colors?

Using real henna creates a dark stain will provide long lasting color. However, as noted above, you’re limited to a single color pallet. Also, it won’t bleach color out of your hair.

Is henna bad for my hair?

No, real henna is not damaging, since it only stains the keratin protein in your hair. But some of the compounded hair dyes use oxidative and metallic compounds which can be damaging to your hair.

Are there other natural hair dyes that give different colors?

There are other natural dyes that can stain hair but remember these won’t lift color. (Again, they won’t bleach your hair lighter.) Here are the colors of ten natural plant hair dyes listed by hair color. Click the reference links at the bottom for a full description of each.

1. Red/Brown

  • Henna: Lawsonia Inermis
  • Walnut: Juglans regia
  • Catechu: Acacia catechu

2. Blondes/Yellows

  • Cassia obovata: also called “neutral henna”
  • Catechu: Ourouparia gambir
  • Saffron: Crocus sativus L.
  • Chamomile: Anthemis nobilis
  • Rhubarb Root: Rheum rhapoticum

3. Blacks

  • Vashma: partially fermented indigo
  • Karchak: castor bean

4. Blues

  • Indigo: Indigofera tinctoria
  • Woad: Isatis tinctoria

The Beauty Brains bottom line

It’s cool how many natural hair dyes there are, even though they don’t work as well as the oxidative colors.











Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ivy Vella October 17, 2017, 7:35 pm

    Hi ad iam getting older iam having to dye my hair every 3 weeks as iam going grey and do not like grey hair, chemical dyes are drying out my hair and I know it is also damaging my hair, so I need to find something with no chemicals, I have heard about Henna and iam very interested in trying it, where would I purchas it, I live I Liverpool Sydney, can you please send me some information thank you.

  • Becki March 2, 2018, 8:41 pm

    Is natural plant henna powder hair color dye chalk good for ur hair will it make ur hair fall out or is it safe to use . Please n thank u

  • Toby November 19, 2019, 7:49 am

    I didn’t have any expectations concerning that
    title, but then the longer I was amazed. The author did a fantastic job.

  • Amos Leaver November 21, 2019, 9:09 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!