Oscar Wilde’s Hair and Skin: Investigations into His PPD Sensitization and Use of Henna

Oscar Wilde, famous novelist, poet, and playwright, lived a short and scandalous life during the turn of the 20th century, from 1854 to 1900. He is believed to be one of the first famous people to have had an allergy to para-phenylenediamine (PPD) from hair dye. His personal accounts and those from his friends and biographers leave no doubt that Wilde was prematurely gray, and that he used hair dye to cover his increasingly white hair. A study of paintings and drawings done of Wilde suggest that he may have tried henna products, as well.

              Oscar Wilde is known for works such as “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “A House of Pomegranates,” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Having died at the young age of 46, he was in his lifetime no doubt prolific. He once wrote a play entirely in French, which, according to scholars, showed barely any trace of having been written by a non-native speaker. [2]

              However, during his lifetime, Wilde’s accomplishment as a writer was overshadowed by his notorious propensity for eating, drinking, and “sexual inversion” [1]. He was put to trial multiple times under the crime of homosexuality, and eventually imprisoned for two years from 1895 to 1897.

              At the time of his death, the cause was believed to be neurosyphilis, exacerbated by his gluttony and alcoholism. His reputation made such a diagnosis more than plausible. However, more recent medical professionals believed that the cause of his death was more likely to be a chronic ear infection which eventually spread to the brain. [1]

              Besides the worsening illness that eventually took his life, Wilde also suffered from a recurring rash that itched intensely and spread over his face, arms, back, and chest. This rash could not have been due to syphilis; syphilitic rashes do not itch. Wilde himself attributed it to some bad mussels he once ate. However the rash would disappear and reappear periodically for the rest of his life. The description of the rash was not consistent with an allergy to mussels. Scholars and medical professionals believe that this rash was more likely caused by a sensitization to para-phenylenediamine from the dye he used to mask his prematurely graying hair. [3] [4]

A younger Wilde, at age 28. (Keep the “favourite coat” part in mind for later.)

“Oscar Wilde in his favourite coat.” New York, 1882. Picture taken by Napoleon Sarony. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s Gray Hair: A Story in Letters, Photos, and Portraits

Photography during Wilde’s lifetime provides little help in determining the exact color of Wilde’s hair during his youth, the time when it began to gray, nor the exact shade to which he dyed it. Wilde himself was not likely to discuss his use of hair-dye, as he was exceptionally vain and was a lover of youth and beauty. For most of his life, his friends were largely unaware that he was graying, and he probably preferred it that way.

              In order to pull together some information about Wilde’s hair, one can turn to written documents from Wilde’s close friends, and to the portraits painted of him.

              In a letter written by Wilde’s friend, Robert Ross, to friend and biographer Frank Harris, Ross writes of Wilde’s hair during the month preceding his death.

               Ross wrote, “I noticed for the first time that his hair was slightly tinged with grey. I had always remarked that his hair had never altered its colour while he was in Reading; it retained its soft brown tone. You must remember the jests he used to make about it, he always amused the warders by saying that his hair was perfectly white.”

              Frank Harris responded, “I noticed at Reading that his hair was getting grey in front and at the sides; but when we met later, the grey had disappeared.” [4]

              During the decline of his health, Wilde likely had trouble keeping up with dyeing his hair. This would have led to Ross’ remark. Reading Gaol (pronounced “Redding Jail”) was the prison in which he served most of his time. From the friends’ accounts, one could deduce that Wilde had some access to hair dye while in Reading, but maybe not as regularly, allowing Harris to witness Wilde’s gray from root growth or perhaps fading dye.

              Information about Oscar Wilde’s changing hair color can also be gleaned from comparisons between paintings of Wilde in his early years and those of him from just prior to the time of his death. In the portrait below, done of Wilde when he was 27 years old, he has deep brown hair. In the photos, his hair also appears to be rather dark, perhaps a medium to dark brown.

“Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington, “Portrait of Oscar Wilde.” 1881.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/dec/13/oscar-wilde-portrait-to-have-first-uk-exhibition-robert-goodloe-harper-pennington

The photograph below, taken in 1882, would have shown Wilde at age 28. Again, it seems his hair is rather dark, and that Wilde was rather vain. It cannot be precisely determined when Wilde began to gray, and when he began to dye his hair, but there is a clear difference between the brunette tones seen in his early life and the bright, orange and blonde tones seen later.

“Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony, with hat and cape, 1882” Source: https://www.cmgww.com/historic/wilde/photos/

While Ross described Wilde’s hair as “soft brown” during his time in Reading Gaol, the following paintings show his hair to be a blonde to light copper color. It must be taken into account that artists are afforded their creative freedom in choosing color; however, it is interesting to note that both the portrait of Oscar Wilde by Toulous Lautrec and the works by Ricard Opisso show him with light hair.

              The painting below is Lautrec’s portrait of Wilde, done in 1895 during the time of Wilde’s trial prior to his imprisonment. It is reported that Lautrec wanted Wilde to sit for the painting, but that this was done from memory.

Henri de Toulous-Lautrec, “Portrait of Oscar Wilde.” 1895

Source: https://www.wikiart.org/en/henri-de-toulouse-lautrec/portrait-of-oscar-wilde-1895

              Variations of this painting exist. It is possible that Lautrec himself painted or printed multiple versions, or that the color of the image was altered in other ways. Here is another version of the same portrait, and a section from the painting’s original sketch. Notice that even in the sketch, Wilde’s hair is not shaded in, but left light.

Sources: (left) http://flavorwire.com/414089/7-rediscovered-paintings-by-famous-artists/8

(right) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wilde-1896-Toulouse-Lautrec.jpg

              Ricard Opisso, Catalan artist and cartoonist, also drew and painted Oscar Wilde around the same time, often showing him with Lautrec in the cafes and dance halls where they spent much of their time.

Ricard Opisso, “Oscar Wilde” 1880.

Source: https://www.invaluable.com/artist/opisso-sala-ricardo-hwcdvmmmp0

Oscar Wilde sits next to painter Toulouse Lautrec at a cafe. His hair in this painting is a deep yellow.

“Interior de cafè amb Toulouse Lautrec i Oscar Wilde” by Ricard Opisso. Not dated.

Source: Pinterest, saved from http://www.francescmestreart-shopping.com/en/?portfolio-item=ricard-opisso

Here, The viewer sees Wilde to the left of Lautrec. His hair is an orange tone.

Ricard Opisso, title and date unknown. Source: http://www.artneutre.net/2006/12/airs-de-paris-reus.html

              The two latter images above are not dated, but it can be assumed that Opisso created them around the same time as the first. They take place in Paris, where Wilde spent most of his time from 1880 to the end of his life, save for his stint in prison. Opisso himself was from Spain, and was only documented to have visited Paris, not to have spent any length of his time living there. Note that all of Oppiso’s images of Wilde show him with light copper or blond hair.

Did Oscar Wilde Use Henna, and If So, Why?

              While there is no doubt that Oscar Wilde was prematurely gray and that he used hair dye to mask the fact, only guesses can be made about the kinds of hair dyes he used. A brunette during his younger life, he no doubt wished to maintain a similar hair color when he first began to gray.

              Hair dyes available during the late 19th century had very little regulation. PPD was initially introduced as a fur dye in 1883, patented by a man from Paris, named P. Monnet et Cie. By the 1890s, it was adopted by hair stylists across the western world. The first commercially available PPD hair dye was produced in 1910, a decade after Wilde’s death. This means that if he had dyed his hair with a product containing PPD, it was either at a salon or with a dye labeled for use on fur. The latter is not a ridiculous thought, as products have always been used for purposes outside of their labels. Many early hair dyes were marketed for both hair and for fur. Wilde owned many articles of clothing made of fur. He would have purchased such products to maintain them, and could have used the rest on his own hair.

This is an advertisement for a hair and fur dye from 1885. A “sealskin sacque” was a popular style of jacket with a fur collar. Wilde has been photographed and painted in such a coat.

              Regulation of products containing PPD did not begin until 1938, in the United States. Oscar Wilde lived in the UK and France several decades before that. The products Wilde used most likely contained a high level of PPD, and possibly metallic salts and other additives. The location of his rash would make sense as a reaction to PPD; dye can easily get on the face, chest, back, and arms if a person is applying it at home.

              Henna for hair was available in western countries at this time as well. Proper techniques for mixing and applying henna were not yet known to those in western countries. The quality of the products would have been low, as well. Henna was advertised as an exotic product from far-off lands, which was greatly appealing to the people of that era. Women with red hair were seen as alluring. Most of the dancers and sex workers in Paris hennaed their hair to make themselves more beautiful and noticeable.

              Lautrec himself was fascinated with women with hennaed hair. He painted them frequently. These women appear in his paintings with red, tangerine, and yellow hair similar to the colors of Wilde’s hair in Lautrec’s and Oppiso’s depictions of him. Lautrec spent much of his time with prostitutes and dancers who hennaed their hair. As Wilde and Lautrec were close friends, Wilde would have known them as well.

 Notice that all of the women’s hair are shades of red. 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “In the Salon of Rue des Moulins.”1894.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_012.jpg

              A woman named Jane Avril was a friend and muse to Lautrec, and a can-can dancer at the Moulin Rouge. There is no doubt that Jane Avril used henna. Lautrec painted her often for both portraits and posters. Her hair appears in shades from yellow to red, as well. Comparing Lautrec’s color choices for Avril’s hair, which was definitely hennaed, and Wilde’s, one can see that it is very likely that Wilde also used henna.

In this poster of Jane Avril, her hair is golden.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “Jane Avril.” 1899. Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lautrec_jane_avril_(poster)_1899.jpg

Lautrec paints himself sitting among his friends. At the center, Jane Avril’s bright orange hair grabs the viewer’s attention.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “At the  Moulin Rouge” 1892/95.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_-_At_the_Moulin_Rouge_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

              Henna for hair products were not much better than conventional dyes at the time. The products that were sold to the western world contained low quality henna and a myriad of additives. Techniques for henna mixing and application were also lacking. Henna mixed with boiling water produced a light, brassy result which faded. This could be a possible explanation for both Avril’s and Wilde’s variations in hair color.

              If Wilde had a PPD sensitization, there is no indication that he made the connection between his rashes and his hair dye. Very little research had been done on PPD sensitization and the dangers of hair dye at the time. The early research and warnings came about in the early 1900s, after Wilde’s death. Wilde would not have thought, “It must be the PPD in the hair dye. I should try something else.” Nor would a doctor have recommended him to do so. It is unlikely that he chose henna as a safer alternative. Henna at the time contained metallic salts and possibly PPD.

Examples of early henna for hair products. These would have been from the early half of the 1900s They often contained low quality, stale, chunky henna, other ingredients.

              At any rate, Wilde thought little of doctors and their attempts to convince him to eat and drink less, and to exercise more. Wilde’s love of food and drink came before his concern for his personal health. Wilde equally loved youth and beauty. Because accounts show that his rash continued on and off until his death, it is more likely that Wilde continued to dye his hair, perhaps switching between conventional dyes and henna-based ones.

              Additionally, there is no record of Wilde stating that he felt the rashes may have been from hair dye. Instead, he continued to think that the initial rash came from consuming bad mussels, and then popped up every so often after he indulged too much. “I’m alright, Frank,” He told his friend, “but the rash continually comes back, a ghostly visitant. It generally returns after a good dinner, a sort of aftermath of champagne.” [1]

              This sort of reaction is not consistent with an allergy to mussels or seafood, unless the “good dinner” that preceded the rash always contained mussels. He did not say “It generally returns every time I eat more mussels.”

              More likely is that Wilde experienced a delayed hypersensitivity reaction to PPD. Reactions to PPD do not always occur immediately after exposure. Medical professionals stress the importance of doing a delayed read of patch tests at 96 hours for this reason [3]. If Wilde expected to go out to enjoy a dinner or part with company, he might have dyed his hair the day before to ensure that his friends would not see any gray roots. By the day or two after the dinner, his rash would be present.

How Far Did the Allergy Go?

While his death is now believed to be the result of a chronic ear infection, some hypothesize that this could have been an extension of his allergy to PPD.  While in prison, Wilde one day felt ill and fainted, and his ear bled. He reported that his ear continued to bleed and discharge afterwards. The condition worsened, causing partial deafness.  He eventually had an operation performed by a doctor in his hotel room in Paris shortly before his death. Details are not known about the exact nature of this operation.

              PPD can cause severe blistering and weeping sores on the skin. It is not impossible to think that if Wilde had managed to get hair dye into his ear earlier on, that is could have caused a reaction that continued to worsen, growing into an infection and collection of pus in the inner ear. The inside of the ear is a difficult place to clean, and as it is warm and damp, is an ideal place for infection to grow. Having blisters and weeping sores would have made the skin inside the ear particularly vulnerable to bacteria.

Final Notes

Because of the lack of medical records, Wilde’s unlikeliness to discuss personal health and grooming, and the inadequacy of medical knowledge during this time, it is impossible to determine for sure the cause of Wilde’s skin condition. However, there is enough evidence to believe that it was contact dermatitis caused by sensitivity to para-phenylenediamine in hair dye.

              While it would have been wonderful to say, “Oscar Wilde knew the dangers of conventional hair dye and chose henna as a safe alternative,” there is simply no evidence behind this statement, and it would not fit into the facts of PPD knowledge and available henna products of the time. If he did use henna, it was simply because it was there. Henna for hair products at the end of the 19th century were not much safer, nor was the knowledge of proper mixing and application available in the west.

              All that can be done is to piece together information from photography, art, letters, and accounts written by Wilde’s close associates. Having done this, the conclusion to be drawn is the following: Oscar Wilde definitely had premature gray hair; he definitely dyed his hair; he very likely had a PPD allergy; and he probably used henna, although not to replace PPD-based dyes.

              Wilde, now loved for his writing and known for his flamboyant and rule-breaking ways, can be considered one of the first celebrities to become sensitized to para-phenylenediamine, and can tentatively hold a place in the hall of “hennaed divas.”


[1] Cawthorne, Terence. “The last illness of Oscar Wilde.” (1959): 123-127.

[2] Critchley, Macdonald. “OSCAR WILDE A MEDICAL APPRECIATION.” Medical history 1, no. 3 (1957): 199.

[3] Jacob, Sharon E., and Alina Goldenberg. “Allergic.”

[4] Nater, J. P. “Oscar Wilde’s skin disease: allergic contact dermatitis?.” Contact dermatitis 27, no. 1 (1992): 47-49.

Henna on Fingertips, Feet and Nails: Cosmetic and Practical Applications (Part One)

If you are familiar with using Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair, you will already know about the wonderful benefits of using henna. Hennaed hair is stronger, smoother, shinier, and has lasting color. Because of its many beneficial properties, henna (lawsonia inermis) has been used not only on the hair but on many parts of the body for various purposes since possibly as early as 1700 BCE.

            Lawsonia inermis grows naturally in hot, semi-arid climates. Regions include Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Indian Subcontinent. Wherever it grew, the people of those regions found a use for it. It was likely discovered when livestock grazed on henna plants and herders noticed the red coloring around the animals’ mouths. If the herders inspected the animals’ mouths for wounds, thinking the dye was blood, they would have noticed that their hands had become stained as well.

            Henna has been used for both cosmetic purposes as well as practical applications. Its ability to stain keratin and condition the hair led to its use in grooming and beautifying practices for both women and men. Its additional health benefits made it useful for combating a number of skin conditions, as well as being visually appealing.

Cosmetic Applications

Henna is now more commonly known for its use in body art, such as the elaborate designs that cover the hands and feet of brides. Henna stands are popular at fairs, festivals, and in areas of tourism. Traditionally, henna is used to decorate the skin with patterns for religious and cultural celebrations, and simply for adornment. Apart from its use to create delicate, intricate designs, henna was also applied as a solid, even color on areas such as fingertips and feet for both beauty and practicality.

            Dancers and musicians hennaed their fingertips to bring more attention to the movement of their hands. A henna “slipper” on the feet was common in many cultures. Using henna for cosmetic applications was once as commonplace as using makeup or nail polish. In many cases, not applying henna would be something akin to not brushing one’s teeth; failing to do so would make a person seem dirty and neglectful of their personal hygiene.

Physical and Spiritual Cleanliness

Henna stains darkest on hands, feet, and hair.

Because henna was applied after washing, it indicated cleanliness, and therefore purity. This is especially the case with women. If a person’s hands, feet, and/or hair was freshly hennaed, one could assume that they had recently been to the public bath.

            It was assumed that illness was linked to the Evil Eye, and that henna repelled it. A freshly washed and hennaed body was both physically and spiritually clean. It was believed that the Evil Eye was particularly attracted to the bodily fluids of women. A woman was considered dirty and susceptible to the Evil Eye while during her period, after intercourse, and during childbirth; afterward, she washed and hennaed herself. Fresh henna stains showed that she was again clean and pure. In the case of a household with multiple wives, fresh henna marked the women with whom it was safe for the husband to interact.

A mother feeds her newborn. Her hands and feet are adorned with henna patterns. Her wet-nurse has brightly hennaed hands, feet, and hair.

“The Amah Feeds the Newborn” Detail from Life in The Country: The Nomad Encampment of Layla’s Tribe, Tabriz, 1539 – 43, Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museum 1958.75

Practical Applications

Remedies which included henna as an ingredient have been discovered in historical texts such as the Ebers Papyrus that date back to thousands of years ago.

            The Ebers Papyrus is a text from Ancient Egypt containing hundreds of detailed descriptions of remedies, pharmacopoeia, and formulas gathered and cataloged from numerous sources. It dates back to around 1550 BCE. Many of these remedies included henna as an ingredient. Of those, most common  were topical applications for hair and skin ailments.

            Modern day scientific studies have found that using henna as a remedy is more than an old wives’ tale.  Studies have shown the effectiveness of henna, and/or solutions derived from henna and its compounds, to be effective in anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-cancer uses.  It has been found to expedite wound healing, and also to act as an analgesic against pain. Lawsone also provides natural UV protection to hair and skin. This protection lasts even after the stain has faded from the skin. This bodes well for future pharmaceutical innovations. Allergy to henna is extremely rare, and the spread of knowledge about practical applications for henna would keep henna agriculture sustainable.

            In addition to the above properties, the simple binding of the lawsone molecule strengthens keratin, reinforcing and conditioning the area to which it is applied.  This makes it extremely useful for protecting and conditioning hands, feet, and hair.

When henna paste is applied, the dye migrates into the surface layers of the stratum corneum. As it oxidizes, the stain darkens. The surface layers of skin are shed over time, and the lower layers grow to replace them.

Strengthening Skin and Lessening Pain

Henna’s dye molecule, lawsone, binds firmly to keratin, allowing it to stain skin, nails, and hair. When it does so, it adds reinforcement.

            When henna is applied to skin, the treated areas feel thicker, stronger, and less susceptible to pain. While it strengthened and protected skin, henna also helped to soften and shed excess rough skin and callus, keeping the skin smooth and attractive. Dancers hennaed their feet to make them more attractive and to keep their feet from blistering, cracking, and hurting after long hours of performing. Musicians did so as well, to protect their fingers as they played. Women who worked with their hands hennaed their fingertips for the same reason.

            It is likely that the pain receptors under the skin become somewhat dulled by the addition of lawsone. One study found that people with hennaed fingertips rated the pain of a needle prick lower in comparison to those without hennaed fingertips. This is helpful knowledge for those who prick their fingers to perform regular blood sugar testing.

Henna protects a musician’s fingertips.

A Lady Playing the Tanpura, Rajasthan, Kishangarh, ca. 1735, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1996 (1996,100.1) Indian Court Painting, 16th – 19th C

Anti-Fungal and Anti-Microbial Properties

Besides its capacity to bind to and stain keratin, henna was and still is used for its anti-fungal and antimicrobial qualities. Historically, it has been used to treat ailments such as athlete’s foot, diaper rash, and wounds. (Note: Do not apply henna to young children unless you are absolutely certain that they do not have a hereditary G6PD deficiency).

            Ringworm, athlete’s foot, and related skin fungus conditions seem to be eradicated with one or two good applications of henna. Dandruff, often caused by fungus, is lessened after a person uses henna on the hair. Henna is safe to use on animals to treat fungal infections.

1. Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) blistering began at the yellow dot and spread as far as the orange dots.

2. Henna is thickly applied to the affected area and left for two hours. Itching ceased almost immediately upon application.

3. As the stain darkened, the infected area peeled away.

4. After several days and an additional application, the infected area had shed and new healthy skin grew in its place.

Wound Healing Properties

Henna speeds wound healing and decreases inflammation. Wounds appear to heal more quickly when henna is applied; however, if an open wound is stained with henna, the stain may become permanent when new skin grows over top. A weaker henna paste mixed with oil could be used on open wounds for minimal staining.

             In Saudi Arabia, henna is a recommended remedy for diabetic foot ailments, as it lessened pain and inflammation from diabetic neuropathy, and helped lesions heal quickly while deterring infection.

 It is rare to see art depicting men with hennaed feet. This man may have had diabetic neuropathy, or just tired feet.

Detail: “Nighttime in a Palace” (1539 – 43, Iran), folio from a manuscript, attributed to Mir Sayyid ‘Ali (Persian, 16th century), Arthur M. Sackler

Henna on the Fingertips and Nails

Henna can protect weak nails against chipping, breaking, and flaking. While skin regularly sheds its outer layers, causing a henna stain to fade after a couple of weeks, henna fades very little on nails. It remains there until the stained part has grown and is clipped away. If the nails have a fungus infection, henna would eradicate it.

Henna on nails and henna on fingertips. A fully oxidized stain on skin is a deep maroon brown.

            Using henna to stain fingernails dates back to ancient times, and has been practiced in many regions and cultures. In Ancient Egypt, henna was commonly used to stain fingernails, and it was even considered impolite to have unhennaed nails. Mummies have been discovered with bright orange hair and nails, likely due to the used of henna in preparing the body for burial.

The sarcophagus of the chantress Asru has darkened nails.  Circa 750 BCE.

            In Islamic and Orthodox Jewish cultures, it is important to keep clean for prayer. Use of conventional nail polish is not allowed because the coating prevents water from touching the surface of the nail. Hennaed nails are acceptable because henna stains the nail without coating it.

            A lower concentration of lawsone is also found in the leaves and flowers of garden balsam, a species of impatiens. In Korea, young girls crush the plant into a paste and apply it to their fingertips for a light orange stain.

From the St. Pancras Pattern Book by Catherine Cartwright-Jones

Henna on Feet

Henna keeps feet clean, protected, and conditioned. It is used to rid one of athlete’s foot and similar fungal ailments that affect the feet. Henna aids in the softening and shedding of calloused skin, leaving feet smooth and soft.

            Variations of the henna slipper can be seen in artwork and photographs from various cultures across time. This was done across the whole sole of the foot and toes, or just from the ball of the foot to the toes. A solid slipper was common for most; additional elaborate designs decorated the feet of brides, new mothers, and the upper class.

An illustration of Persian women’s fashion shows hennaed feet. From a book printed in Paris, France, late 19th century.

From the Spain Pattern Book by Alex Morgan, and the St. Pancras Pattern Book By Catherine Cartwright-Jones

This article is the first part of a two-part series. This section discusses the history and science behind the use of henna on various areas of the body. Part Two demonstrates how these techniques are done.


Bakhotmah, Balkees A., and Hasan A. Alzahrani. “Self-reported use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) products in topical treatment of diabetic foot disorders by diabetic patients in Jeddah, Western Saudi Arabia.” BMC research notes 3.1 (2010): 254.

David, A. R., and V. Garner. “Asru, an ancient Egyptian temple chantress: modern spectrometric studies as part of the Manchester Egyptian Mummy Research Project.” Molecular and Structural Archaeology: Cosmetic and Therapeutic Chemicals (2003): 153-162.

Pradhan, Rohan, Prasad Dandawate, Alok Vyas, Subhash Padhye, Bernhard Biersack, Rainer Schobert, Aamir Ahmad, and Fazlul H Sarkar. “From body art to anticancer activities: perspectives on medicinal properties of henna.” Current drug targets 13, no. 14 (2012): 1777-1798.

Semwal, Ruchi Badoni, Deepak Kumar Semwal, Sandra Combrinck, Catherine Cartwright-Jones, and Alvaro Viljoen. “Lawsonia inermis L.(henna): ethnobotanical, phytochemical and pharmacological aspects.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 155, no. 1 (2014): 80-103.

Full Coverage: How to Transition from Hennaed Hair Back to Natural Roots

While we’d love for you to stay with us forever, there are many reasons a person may choose to stop using henna, or to return to their natural hair color. You may simply miss your natural color, or expect to have less time or money for hair coloring in your future. Some women have decided to let their natural gray hair grow out. Silver locks are in fashion as of late. Because henna is permanent, it is common to see a noticeable line of demarcation as the hair grows, especially if your treated hair is different from your natural hair color. A frequently asked question regarding transitioning is how to do so without getting a stark contrast between colored hair and roots as your hair grows out.

            There are a few different ways to achieve a gradual shift. Because Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair products only add to the existing hair color, it is most likely that you will be going from a darker color to a lighter one. The exception to this rule is those who lighten their hair before applying henna. This article will cover techniques for both dark-to-light and light-to-dark transitions.

This hair has been lightened and then hennaed. The roots are black.

Transitioning to Lighter or Gray Roots

Henna as Lowlights

Rather than applying your mix to all of your roots, applying only in thin sections while leaving the remainder of your roots natural will create a highlight/lowlight effect with your natural color. You can ask a stylist to apply your mixture in foils, or you can do it yourself at home with a highlighting cap.

            A highlighting cap has holes through which to pull thin sections of hair while keeping the rest of the hair protected underneath. Pull through your desired sections, apply henna to those sections, and process as normal.  As your hair grows, gradually decrease your number of lowlights.

This person’s roots are mostly gray. Adding applying henna as lowlights would break up the root line.

Adding Cassia

Another option when transitioning is to adjust the mix itself so it becomes lighter. Cassia works to dilute and lighten the resulting shade of a henna or henna/indigo mixture.

            For example, if your regular mix is equal parts henna and indigo for a medium brunette result, you can create a mix of equal parts henna, indigo, and cassia for a lighter brunette. The next time, increase your amount of cassia again. Keep your original mix ratio the same, only increasing the amount of cassia you add to your mix.

            Below is an example of how a person might adjust with cassia over time. Keep in mind that everyone’s mix and hair color varies; this is only one example.  Don’t hesitate to contact customer service for help with a custom transition plan. Be sure to ask about measurements to avoid mixing too much, too little, or in the wrong ratios.

            Cassia should be dye-released with henna. Mix henna and cassia together and stir with an acidic liquid to create a paste, just as you would with henna. Cover your mixture and let it sit as normal. Mix and add your indigo paste just before applying.

            Feel free to experiment with test strands. When in doubt, always start lighter. If your root results are too light, you can always adjust afterward. For more helpful information about cassia mixes, be sure to read How to Dye Hair Blonde.

            In some cases, mixing with cassia leads to brighter or more golden-toned results. If you prefer a neutral shade my article on Cool and Neutral Mixes will help you keep your desired tone as you transition.


As long as you have only used Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair products, it is safe to use a chemical hair lightener. Ancient Sunrise® plant dye powders have been tested for purity, and do not contain any metallic salts or additives that may be unsafe to lighten.

            You may choose to lighten the full length of the hair, or to have highlights put in as your roots grow, to blend away the line of demarcation. Be sure to conduct a strand test first to determine the resulting color and whether your hair can withstand lightening.

Gather hair from your brush to test with lightener. Having a professional lighten your hair is always recommended.

            If you have been using a mix containing indigo, it is particularly important to conduct a strand test first. Indigo does not always lift completely from the hair. Hair that has been dyed with mixes of 50% indigo or more may see a blue or green cast remaining after lightening. The degree to which this happens varies from head to head, and also depends on how many shades you plan to lighten. Sometimes this is subtle and can be toned away. If you have been doing a two-step process for jet black hair and wish to lighten to platinum blonde, more likely than not you’ll find it won’t be possible.

Hair that has been dyed jet black with a two-step process may turn blue or green when lightened.

            For more information about lightening over henna, read the Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair free e-book chapter on lightening.

Transitioning to Darker Roots

If you have chemically lightened your hair before applying henna, your root color may be darker than the length of your hair. The most straight-forward solution is to dye all of your hair with a mixture that will match your roots. This will result in a uniform color that blends seamlessly with your natural color.

            However, there may be reasons to perform a gradual transition. Perhaps you desire an ombré effect, or wish to be able to lighten your hair in the future.  For example, I currently have fiery red hennaed hair, and my natural hair color is virtually black. I like to play around with colors quite a bit, including fun, demi-permanent colors. If I were to use a two-step process to dye all of my hair back to black, I would have less flexibility if I chose to lighten in the future. I might not be able to achieve bright or pastel tones.

Henna as Highlights

This technique is similar to the one described above, only backward. Instead of applying a henna mixture to create lowlights, have a stylist create highlights in your hennaed hair to break up the root line.  As your hair grows, decrease the amount of highlights. If you wish, you may continue applying henna between highlighting. This will create a range of “fire-lights,” giving your hair beautiful dimension. The Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair chapter on lightening covers this process in detail. 

            As mentioned above, be sure to conduct a strand test, especially if you have been using a mix containing indigo.

“Firelights” create depth and dimension while blurring the root line.

Condition and Strengthen Without Color

Even if you choose not to color your hair anymore, you can still use products from Ancient Sunrise® to keep your hair beautiful, shiny, and strong.


Cassia has similar conditioning properties as henna, with little to no color change on darker hair. To use cassia as a conditioner, simply mix it with distilled water only (no juice or fruit acid) and apply immediately. When it has not released its dye, cassia will condition the hair without affecting color. If your hair is naturally dark brunette or black, you can dye-release cassia for extra conditioning benefits without seeing a change in your hair color. To learn more about using Ancient Sunrise® Cassia for conditioning, click here.


For those with very light hair, even cassia that has not been dye-released may impart a subtle golden tone. Zizyphus spina christi is another great option for keeping hair strong and healthy without changing its color. Zizyphus is a natural 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner that both washes and fortifies the hair. Because it leaves a thin layer of plant wax on the hair, it is particularly good for hair that is subject to water, wind, and other harsh environmental factors. Zizyphus balances the hair’s moisture and gives it great shine. Read more about Zizyphus here and purchase here.

Rinse after a few minutes for strong, shiny hair.

As always, if you ever need advice or help, don’t hesitate to contact Ancient Sunrise® Customer Service.

Highlights: A Quick Trick for Freezing and Storing Leftover Henna Paste

A customer messaged me about a trick she learned from using piping bags and frosting, and sent me instructions on how she did it. This is really cool! It makes storing and thawing portions a breeze, and clean-up is so simple. You can even re-use the same carrot bag over and over, because the inside of the carrot bag stays clean. Thanks, Jeannine!

Note: Before freezing, be sure to dye release your henna.

Here’s how.

Separating and Freezing

1. Lay a rectangular piece of plastic wrap flat on your work surface.

2. Spoon your henna directly into the center of the plastic.

3. Fold the top and bottom edges of the plastic over the paste so each edge overlaps the paste completely.

4. Pinch the open sides together and twist. You can hold the sides and twirl your paste lump until both sides are tightly twisted. Don’t worry, henna will not go flying.

5. Repeat until all your paste is wrapped, and store in the freezer. (Note: sometimes the dye from the paste can leech through thin plastic. I put a piece of wax paper down in my freezer where I stored the portions.)

Thawing and Filling

1. When you need to use your paste, pull out a portion and allow it to thaw. Cut the tip of a carrot bag.

2. Once the paste is thawed, cut the tip of a carrot bag and drop the portion in so that one twisted end can be pulled out of the tip. (I’ve learned that it might help to tape the twisted end to help it thread through more easily, like licking the end of a thread.) Pull gently until the portion forms to the bag.

3. Close the open end of the carrot bag with a rubber band or clip, and cut the plastic wrap twist where it sticks out.

4. If you do not use all of the paste, simply tape the end and store.

5. When the carrot bag is empty, simply pull out the plastic wrap, rinse the carrot bag if needed, and put it away for next time!

If you have cool tricks and tips you’d like to share and see posted in the blog, feel free to email us at info@mehandi.com with “tips and tricks blog suggestion” in the subject line.

Author: Rebecca Chou September 2017
Edited: Maria Moore August 2017

How to Dye Beards and Facial Hair with Henna

Henna has been used to dye and condition beards and facial hair for just as long as it has been used for hair on the head. Henna was used to dye hair in Persia as early as 1000 BCE. Persian men used henna alone or in combination with indigo to cover grays and to keep beards conditioned and healthy.

              The use of henna for hair and beards was common throughout South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Middle East, and eventually spread to western regions, then throughout the world. At public baths, men relaxed and socialized while keeping up their washing and grooming habits, which included dyeing their beards. Henna made beards smoother, shinier, and stronger. 

A man receives a Turkish massage at a public bath. Ottoman Empire, early 20th century.

              In ancient times, Roman travelers noted that Persian men appeared to have woven gold wire through their beards. This was most likely a misinterpretation of their gray hairs which took on a copper shine after being hennaed. It was also common to dye the beard with indigo after it was hennaed, to achieve a jet black result. This is known as the two-step process.

A section from “Body Marking in Southwestern Asia” by Henry Field. The observer describes the beard grooming rituals of Persian men.

              In some cultures and regions, hennaed beards are seen as a sign of piety for Muslim men. Some interpretations of Islamic texts forbid men from dyeing their beards with anything but henna. Others see a hennaed beard as the mark of a hajji, or a person who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Photographer GBM Akash did a photo essay on the bright, hennaed beards of older Bangladeshi men, which you can see here.

              Of course, the use of henna and other plant dyes is not exclusive to the Islamic faith. Henna is simply a product and technique which has been used in the contexts and regions where it naturally grows. As trade and travel grew, henna spread into western use.

              Beards dyed with henna do not have to be bright orange. Just like it is used with the hair, combinations of henna and indigo (or henna, indigo, and cassia) can dye the beard to any natural color. A two-step process of dyeing the beard first with henna and then with indigo will result in jet black. Not only will using henna and other plant dye powders give you a more lustrous, thick, shiny beard; it has many benefits, including being safer for your health.

Switching from Commercial Dyes to Plant Dyes

Hair dyes marketed to men differ very little in their composition from hair dyes marketed to women. Most of them contain para-phenylenediamine. Contact dermatitis reactions to PPD will cause blistering, swelling, and difficulty breathing.  When using such a product so close to the nose and mouth, these symptoms maybe particularly dangerous. Symptoms may worsen with each exposure, and can lead to hospitalization.

These products all contain para-phenylenediamine.

              While it is true that fewer men than women use dyes, men are also less likely to discuss their hair dye use or to seek help when they experience adverse reactions. If men are unaware of the cause of their symptoms, they may continue to use products containing PPD and experience worsening reactions that may become life-threatening.

              A series of class action suits is being pursued against Just For Men hair and beard dye for PPD-related injuries and the company’s potential failure to properly advise a skin patch test. One suit argues that the recommended patch test on the inner arm does not adequately predict and protect against reactions on the face, which can be more sensitive. Click here, here, and here for a few examples of current suits. If you have been affected by a PPD reaction from using a product by this company, consider searching for a class action suit in your area. A successful suit may contribute to better responsibility and regulation on the part of companies which manufacture and sell dyes containing PPD.

              If you are interested in switching to Ancient Sunrise® products, our customer service team is more than happy to help you through the process. Ancient Sunrise® products can be used directly over previously processed hair without a waiting period, and will not react adversely to any products previously applied on the hair.

How to Dye Beards

The Mix

If you are familiar with how to mix henna, indigo, and cassia to achieve your desired color result, the mix for facial hair is exactly the same, but in smaller quantities. The average beard will probably need about 30-50 grams total of dry powder to create enough paste to cover. For a short, trim beard, you will need less. If you are Gandalf, you may need 100-200 grams or more. If you need help determining how much product to use, feel free to contact Customer Service.

              You may want to keep the paste a little thicker to prevent dripping. This is especially recommended if you are dyeing a mustache, as it may be quite uncomfortable to have paste dripping onto the mouth. If you are new to using plant dye powders, be sure to check out Bare Essentials, Choosing Your Mix, and the Ancient Sunrise® free Henna for hair E-Book to get started.

              Remember that you will be keeping the paste on your face for about three hours. If you are sensitive to the smell of henna, add a few pinches of ginger powder or cardamom powder to neutralize the smell. If you dislike the smell of indigo, add a few pinches of vanilla pudding powder.

This dashing dude would need about 50-75 grams of powder to create enough paste for his beard and ‘stache.

Cleansing and Preparing

Facial hair can be dye-resistant, as it is thicker and grows quickly. Unlike hair on the head, it does not have the opportunity to be worn down by the elements (unless you have an impressively long beard). New hair is less porous than hair that has been subject to washing, brushing, and other forms of friction. Facial hair, like hair on the head, is kept moisturized and hydrophobic with a layer of sebum produced by the skin. It is important to make sure that your facial hair is extremely clean in order to achieve the best dye uptake.

              It may be a good idea to exfoliate the skin with a good facial scrub or a stiff beard brush. The skin under facial hair can be dry and flaky. While henna does not stain skin on the face and head very well, scrubbing will further prevent staining, as henna binds to dry, thick skin. The last thing you’ll want is to have orange flaky bits hanging out in your luscious beard. A bonus to henna is that is has anti-fungal properties. If you experience dandruff around your facial hair, henna will take care of that. Scrubbing will also help lift the cuticles of the hair to better accept dye.

              If you live in an area with hard water, clarifying with Ancient Sunrise® Rainwash Mineral Treatment is recommended. This will take care of any mineral buildup that can prevent adequate dye up-take, and ensure a better color result.

              Wash your beard with a clarifying shampoo or a bit of dish detergent just prior to application. Once your face is scrubbed, clarified, and clean, you are ready to apply your paste.


Make sure your paste has been prepared and dye-released at this point. If you wish, apply Vaseline or lip balm along the edges of your facial hair to prevent any staining that might occur. If you are applying to a mustache, you may want to put on lip balm as well. Be sure not to get any oil-based product on the hair itself. As mentioned previously, henna does not tend to leave a dark or lasting stain on the face, but it is always good to avoid looking like an oompa-loompa for a day.

              Use gloved hands to apply the paste little by little, ensuring that the paste is worked down all the way to the skin, and the hair is thickly covered. Apply paste to the roots and pull it through to the ends. Press the hair down, or in the case of very long beards, twist it into rolls and press the rolls firmly into place.

Thick, long beards will need to be hennaed in section to ensure even coverage.


Use a damp cotton swab to clean up the edges of your facial hair; your neck, lips, nostrils, ears, and so forth. Cover your facial hair with plastic wrap. One way to do this is to create a wide strip with holes on each end. Press the plastic along your chin and jaw, and loop the holes around your ears like a medical mask. For mustaches, cut a thinner piece and press it along your upper lip. Make sure you can breathe comfortably.

              If desired seal the edges of the plastic with medical tape under the jaw to keep the plastic on place and prevent dripping. Finally, wrap the face with a scarf or bandanna, or put on a ski mask.


Just like on the head, henna mixes need about three hours or more to process for best results. Unfortunately, this means you’re stuck with paste on your face for a while. You can use heat to speed up the process. Men used to henna their beards as part of their regular bathing routine, and relax in the steamy public bath or sauna. Hang out in a steamy bathroom or steam your face for a few minutes at a time. You could also apply a heating pad to your face periodically. Be sure to avoid long exposure to high heat, as this can be damaging to the delicate skin on the face.


Wash out the paste with warm water. You can do this over the sink, or submerge your face in a warm bath and swish it around. Apply conditioner and pull it through to help any residual paste rinse away. Finally, finish with shampoo or face cleanser. Remember to moisturize your beard and face after all that it’s been through.

Here is Mark’s beard before and after an application of henna and indigo.


Facial hair grows quickly. How frequently you re-apply your henna mix will be dependent on your facial hair style and personal preference. If you keep your beard clipped short, you may need to touch it up more frequently, as you shave away the areas that are dyed.

              It will be helpful to have henna on hand that is pre-mixed, separated into portions, and frozen. If you are using only henna and/or cassia, simply thaw a portion and apply. If you are using a mix containing indigo, thaw your henna paste, mix fresh indigo, and stir them together.

Freeze henna paste into cubes for easy storage and future use.

              Once you have dyed all of your facial hair once, it is not necessary to do all of it again. You can use a tool such as a small tinting brush or an old toothbrush to help you apply paste just at the roots. This will keep reapplications clean, easy, and affordable.

              Reapplications will require the same preparation and processing methods as your first dye. Remember to thoroughly clean the facial hair and face beforehand, and leave the paste in for three hours, or less if applying gentle heat.

              If you are using a henna/indigo mix to dye graying hair to a brunette shade, and notice your facial hair becoming lighter or redder over time, you can easily darken it up again with a quick application of indigo paste. Simply mix about a tablespoon of indigo with distilled water, apply through your facial hair, and rinse after 10-15 minutes. This technique can be repeated until you achieve your desired results, and used as often as necessary. Note: Unless you would like to have a blue beard, do not apply indigo alone to gray hair.

For more information, read http://www.hennaforhair.com/beards. To speak to a customer service representative and/or to place an order, visit www.mehandi.com.

What You Need to Know about Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD)

This article serves as the introduction to a series on Para-phenylenediamine (PPD): its health risks, history, and politics. In the coming weeks, articles will be published which explore each section in greater detail.

              Para-phenylenediamine, or a chemically related -diamine is an ingredient used in virtually all oxidative hair dyes, both store-bought and used in salons. The oxidative dye process is formulated to quickly penetrate and stain the hair strand any color, including lightening hair by removing the pigment from the core of the hair and dyeing over it.  Brunette and black hair dyes contain higher concentrations of PPD, though all colors can contain PPD.

              Para-phenylenediamine can present a multitude of health risks if it is inhaled or if it comes in contact with skin. Despite a well-documented history of allergic reaction, sensitization, increased risk of cancer, and other serious health risks, it continues to be allowed in hair dyes at a maximum of 6% concentration in the United States.  

              The rate of PPD sensitization is increasing, but many doctors, hairstylists, and consumers remain unaware or apathetic. A lack of knowledge about PPD leads to continuation of serious reactions for people who use products containing PPD and related ingredients. It also allows companies which manufacture and sell products containing PPD to do so with relatively no regulation nor legal repercussion.

              Educating consumers about the dangers of PPD and safer alternatives is becoming an increasingly important mission at Ancient Sunrise®.

The molecular structure of Para-Phenylinediamine.

1. PPD is highly sensitizing, and studies link it to lupus, non-Hopkins lymphoma and asthma.  Allergic reactions can cause severe injuries, and can be fatal.

The hazards of para-phenylenediamine have been known since its introduction for use as an industrial fur dye, and in personal hair dyes. Academic articles from as early as 1915 warn against it. Symptoms of allergic reactions to para-phenylenediamine may include itching, swelling, hives, blistering, depigmentation, and permanent scarring; the reaction is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, often occurring 3 to 30 days after application, so they are frequently misdiagnosed.

 There have been an increasing number of fatal anaphylaxis reactions to PPD hair dye in recent years, particularly when people have previously had a PPD ‘black henna’ temporary tattoo. The allergic reactions often require emergency treatment to keep airways open, and further treatment in an ICU or burn ward.  A person may additionally experience difficulty breathing and swelling of body parts near the site of exposure. In the case of hair dye use, this means swelling of the face, eyes, and throat. Reactions near the eyes can cause damage and loss of sight.

This woman experienced a severe reaction to a hair dye claiming to be henna, but which contained PPD. Article here.

In countries where products with high PPD levels are easily accessible, ingesting hair dye is a known method of suicide and murder; women can generally purchase hair dye without arousing suspicion. Ingestion of PPD can lead to respiratory distress, rhabdomyolysis (muscle death), and renal failure.

PPD exposure has been linked to increased chances of certain cancers as well as asthma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Despite all this, PPD is legal for use on hair within the United States at up to a 6% concentration. Cosmetics companies continue to tout PPD as a safe ingredient despite decades of research, case studies, and hospitalizations.

2. There is no requirement to disclose the concentration percentage of PPD in products manufactured in the US.

Regulation of PPD varies greatly by country. The United States limits PPD to up to a 6% concentration in hair dye. The FDA differentiates between products used for hair coloring, and products applied directly on the skin because hair dyes are supposed to be used off the scalp and washed away after a period of time. In reality, those who apply hair dye at home will apply the product to the scalp, and will not always follow processing time instructions.

 Even when these products are applied correctly, there is no guarantee that the customer will not develop a sensitization or a reaction. The dye may drip onto the scalp, face, neck or ears during processing time. For some, this brief contact with a low concentration may be all that it takes.

Other countries have a higher limit or no limit at all on concentration levels. These products are easy enough to purchase over the internet. They can also be found at international grocery stores. When hair dye is sold in powder form, concentration is directly dependent on the amount of water mixed with the powder. One study found that packages of black hair dye manufactured in India and China (often sold as black henna) contained 12.5% to over 30% PPD, far in excess of legally allowed levels. Other samples have been found to have as high as 60% PPD.

3. “Black Henna” body art is not henna. It is illegal, but laws are not well enforced.

“Black henna” appeared in the United States and flourished seemingly overnight in the 90’s, spurred by Madonna’s “Frozen” music video released in 1998. in the video, her hands are decorated with black henna patterns.  These were done with Bigen black hair dye at the Ziba salon in Los Angeles. Based on first injury reports, it can be estimated that henna artists from South Asia have been using high PPD black hair dye since the 1980’s as “black henna.” Pop-up stalls in tourist locations offered temporary body art that stained the skin black very quickly, and lasted for two to four weeks. “Black henna” created the illusion of a real tattoo without the permanence or pain (unless one experiences a reaction). Black henna body artists were transient and often unaware of the dangers of their own materials.

This person experienced a reaction and now has permanent scarring from a “black henna” tattoo gotten while on vacation.

Within the United States and most countries, PPD is illegal for direct use on skin unless it is for cultural purposes. While imported shipments of “black henna” body art products are regularly seized by customs, it is easy enough to purchase hair dyes containing PPD, which are not subject to seizure, and to use them on the skin.  Dyes from countries with more lenient laws may report only “color powder” as an ingredient. Some international brands of popularly used for “black henna” body art contain as high as 30% PPD concentration, more than enough to sensitize an unsuspecting client in one exposure. A solid form of pure PPD is sold as “henna stone” from the banks of the Nile River, which creates instant black results for body art. This leads uninformed buyers to believe that a) the product is natural and safe; and b) that natural henna produces a black stain.

“Henna stone” is not natural. It is a solid piece of industrial grade PPD, at up to 90% concentration.

The use of high concentrations of PPD for henna-like body art gained popularity first in East Africa in the 1970’s. The product was less expensive and required an easier preparation than natural henna. It provided instant, black results which mimic the look of a permanent tattoo, and are more visible on darker skin tones. This practice then moved into Western countries, especially in high tourism areas.

Darker areas show where “black henna” is used as part of tourism; gray areas show where vacationers return home.

Enforcing laws against the use of PPD on skin would require law enforcement officials to patrol  high tourism areas such as beach fronts and piers where stalls are often set up. These stalls are transient, closing and opening in new locations. A solo artist could set up and work out of a toolbox, moving throughout the day. As mentioned earlier, many products containing high concentrations of PPD are not properly labeled, making it even more difficult to enforce bans.

In many cases, by the time a customer experiences a reaction to their “black henna” body art, the artist has long moved on to a new location, making it near impossible for health professionals to acquire a sample of what was used on the customer’s skin.

  Www.mehandi.com sells Temptu professional-grade skin paint, which does not stain the skin and does not contain PPD, but which is water-resistant and can mimic the look of a black tattoo for up to seven days.

This design was done with Temptu paint. You can find it here and learn how here.

For more information about “black henna” tattoos and their dangers, visit http://www.hennapage.com/henna/ppd/index.html.

4. PPD sensitization can happen to anyone.

Research has shown that with enough exposures to high enough concentrations of PPD, anyone will develop a sensitization to PPD. In a well known study, 100% of subjects exposed to 10% concentrations of PPD developed a reaction within five patch tests. Rate of sensitization varies greatly among individuals. For some, it may take only one exposure to a lower concentration. Though the oxidative hair dye industry claims that fewer than 3% of people are allergic to hair dye, many studies have shown that number to be higher, and coroner Geoff Fell estimates that 14% of people are allergic to oxidative hair dye.

“Black henna” artists use a mixture that is 15% PPD or more. The chances of becoming sensitized to PPD after getting a “black henna” tattoo is about 50% Once sensitized, a person will experience a reaction the next time they come in contact with PPD.  Of the people who are sensitized to PPD from a “black henna” tattoo, about 40% will experience a severe reaction upon their next exposure. This might be another “black henna” tattoo, or it could be years later, when that person decides to dye their hair. Even if the first exposure did not cause any reaction, the body can still have become sensitized. The next time this person comes in contact with PPD, they may experience a severe reaction without any understanding of the cause.

People who work in professions that require frequent contact with PPD can quickly develop sensitivities. Hair stylists who become PPD sensitive can no longer work at a traditional salon without experiencing reactions. PPD was once also used in fur-dyeing, leading to high rates of sensitization in fur industry workers.

5. Those who develop sensitivities to PPD may experience worsening symptoms with each exposure.

Reactions are not always immediate and severe. Oftentimes, reaction symptoms start out mild and worsen each time a person makes contact with the compound. A person who has dyed their hair using an oxidative dye for several years may at first experience no reaction, then one day notice some itching or burning, or have puffy eyes after applying hair dye. The next application might cause more painful symptoms. Before long, that person could require emergency hospital care for a reaction that has caused intense swelling to the entire face and head, and difficulty breathing.

Actor Pauley Perette had a typical progression of reaction: she had dyed her blonde hair black for twenty years, and the allergic reactions presented progressively until it was life-threatening. Follow the link here for additional news articles about PPD reactions.

Image source: IMDb and NYDailyNews

In 2012, a woman in the UK died after experiencing a reaction to an over-the-counter hair dye. Further investigation discovered she had previously gotten a “black henna” tattoo, which likely had sensitized her to future encounters with PPD. While this is an extreme case, it is not at all uncommon for people to become sensitized via exposure to a high concentration of PPD from a “black henna” tattoo, and go on to later use a dye containing PPD. People can become sensitized without experiencing an initial reaction. Those who do experience a reaction from “black henna” tattoos are usually unaware that commercial hair dyes contain the same ingredient.

One study discovered that even after participants were determined by way of patch test to have a PPD sensitivity, more than half continued to use hair dyes anyway. These participants were ones who experienced more mild reactions; those with severe reactions reported stopping hair dye. This shows that the average patient does not take their sensitization seriously, and is willing to endure a mild reaction for the sake of maintaining their desired hair color.

6. PPD sensitization can lead to cross-sensitization to related compounds.

Para-phenylinediamine is an aromatic amine in the benzodiamine family. Studies have shown that those with PPD sensitizations may also be sensitive to other benzodiamines, toluenediamines, analgesics such as benzocaine and lidocaine, azo-dyes, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid). The FDA lists examples of cross-sensitization here.

              Hair dyes that are labeled “PPD free” may contain para-toluenediamine, a compound similar enough to elicit reactions for those who have PPD sensitivities, causing “PPD free” hair dyes to be just as problematic.

 Unless tested in a clinical setting, it is unlikely that the average person who is sensitized to PPD will be aware of cross-sensitizations. This leaves them vulnerable to reactions from other sources, such as fabric dyes, cosmetics, black rubber (like that used to create car tires) pain relieving and numbing agents both administered in a hospital and bought over-the-counter, and even sunblock lotion.

Those who experience reactions from cross-sensitization may be frustrated and confused as to what is causing their allergies, and what products to avoid. A doctor may recognize a PPD sensitization and recommend their patient to stop using hair dyes containing PPD; however, if a patient has an unknown cross-sensitization, they may continue to present with similar symptoms without realizing the link.

7. The rate of PPD sensitization is growing.

The combination of an increased use in hair dye among younger people, and the explosion of the “black henna” industry in tourists areas has allowed for a jump in the rate of PPD sensitization. The most common source of sensitization for children and young adults is “black henna” tattoos. As mentioned above, the concentration of PPD in products used for “black henna” is extremely high, leading to a higher likelihood of sensitization in comparison to exposure to lower concentrations. This creates a population of youth who have already become sensitized prior to their first use of oxidative hair dye.

Studies have shown that people are using hair dye at younger ages and at higher frequencies. While hair dye was once more commonly used to mask gray hairs that came with age, it is now a common cosmetic tool to change hair color on a whim, regardless of age.

It is projected that by 2030, about 16% of middle class people in the UK, US, Australia, Korea, Japan, and Europe will be sensitized to PPD. The majority of this sensitization will have been caused by “black henna” tattoos gotten while on vacation. Rates will be higher in the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Muslim populations in Africa, and South Asia, where black henna has been used in weddings and for Eid. As the younger, “black henna” sensitized population reaches the age for graying hair, there will be a dramatic increase of PPD-related injury from hair dyes.

Dark areas indicate where black henna is used to decorate the skin for events such as weddings, Eids, religious and cultural celebrations. Gray areas indicate where the practice has spread.

8. International “henna” for hair, and “natural” hair dye products are loosely regulated, and can contain PPD regardless of labeling.

Standards for ingredient disclosure vary depending on the country of origin. In countries like India, manufacturers are not required to disclose their full list of ingredients on products such as hair dye. Henna for hair products can be labeled as “pure” and “all natural” but in reality include PPD, metallic salts, and other chemical adulterants. Some products labeled “henna” can include little to no henna at all. “Henna” becomes a vague, catch-all term for supposedly natural hair products, regardless of the existence of lawsonia inermis plant powder contained therein. These compound hennas are then mistaken for safe BAQ henna.

              It is an incorrect assumption that a product originating from South Asia, the Middle East, or other regions in which henna grows is automatically safe and natural. It is often the case that these products are the most adulterated.

These brands of hair dye contain high concentrations of PPD. Note that some are called “henna.”

9. Cosmetics companies that use PPD have little legal responsibility for PPD-related injuries.

US-based and international cosmetic giants which manufacture oxidative hair dyes containing PPD are relatively safe from litigation. They are required by the FDA to advise customers to conduct a patch test before using their products, and to avoid use if one has an allergy to “black henna.” This warning, along with the sheer size and strength of these companies, prevents successful legal action against them in the case of PPD-related injury. The lobbying power of these companies prevent the government from passing more stringent legislation on PPD. Current law does not require that injuries caused by hair dye reported to the manufacturer be made public, as this is regarded as financially sensitive information.

Dupont, the patent holder, explicitly absolves itself from harm done by any use that involves contact with skin.

“DuPont does not recommend and will not knowingly offer or sell p-phenylenediamine (PPD) for uses involving prolonged skin contact. Such uses may involve, but are not limited to, products formulated with henna for tattoo applications or other skin coloration effects. This use of PPD in prolonged skin contact application has the potential to induce allergic skin reactions in sensitive individuals.

Persons proposing to use PPD in any formulation involving any more than incidental skin contact must rely on their own medical and legal judgment without any representation on our part. They must accept full responsibility for the safety and effectiveness of their formulations.”

10. 100% pure henna is a safe, effective, and permanent alternative to oxidative hair dyes.

More and more people are seeking safer, natural cosmetic alternatives regardless of whether or not they have a sensitivity to ingredients in commercial products. Consumers are concerned about the environment and their own bodies. Using henna and related plant dye powders to dye hair is a process that requires more patience and knowledge than picking up a box of oxidative dye at the local store, but will yield permanent results without damage to the hair or body. It is essential that consumers insist on only henna products of the highest quality and purity. This means products that have been tested for PPD, metallic salts, and other harmful adulterants.

Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair products are made of 100% pure plant powder.
They can be used on all types of hair, and produce virtually any natural shade.

              The practice of using plant powders to color the hair is centuries old. The knowledge of their use was once as commonplace as knowing how to drive a car is now. This can become the case again. It requires the availability of quality product, accurate information, and the dissemination of that information within and across communities through direct relationships and social networking. A common reason for being hesitant about using henna is that it seems complicated and time-consuming, but a great number of henna-users report that it becomes second nature, that they enjoy the process, and that the results are superior to boxed dyes.

Learn how to mix your own safe and natural hair dye and never worry about PPD again!

              Ancient Sunrise® provides quality products, information based in research, and a team of customer service representatives that are available through several avenues of communication. We have thousands of customers all over the world. We look forward to helping you on your journey to beautiful hair and healthier practices.


Almeida, Pablo J., Leopoldo Borrego, and José M. Limiñana. “Age‐related sensitization to p‐phenylenediamine.” Contact dermatitis 4, no. 3 (2011): 172-174.

Al-Suwaidi, Ayesha, and Hafiz Ahmed. “Determination of para-phenylenediamine (PPD) in henna in the United Arab Emirates.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 7, no. 4 (2010): 1681-1693.

Brancaccio, Ronald R., Lance H. Brown, Young Tae Chang, Joshua P. Fogelman, Erick A. Mafong, and David E. Cohen. “Identification and quantification of para-phenylenediamine in a temporary black henna tattoo.” American Journal of Contact Dermatitis 13, no. 1 (2002): 15-18.

Cartwright-Jones, Catherine. “The effect of black temporary tattoos on the chemical cosmetic industry and a solution to the problem.”Sofw Journal 143 (2017): 24-30.

Chen, Weiyang, Thobile AN Nkosi, Sandra Combrinck, Alvaro M. Viljoen, and Catherine Cartwright-Jones. “Rapid analysis of the skin irritant p-phenylenediamine (PPD) in henna products using atmospheric solids analysis probe mass spectrometry.” Journal of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis 128 (2016): 119-125.

Fisher, Alexander A., Alfred Pelzig, and Norman B. Kanof. “The Persistence of Allergic Eczematous Sensitivity and the Cross-Sensitivity Pattern to Paraphenylenediamine** From The Department of Dermatology and Syphilology of the New York University Post Graduate Medical School (Dr. Marion B. Sulzberger, chairman) and The Skin and Cancer Unit of the New York University Hospital.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 30, no. 1 (1958): 9-12.

Hashim, M. Sir, Y. O. Hamza, B. Yahia, F. M. Khogali, and G. I. Sulieman. “Poisoning from henna dye and para-phenylenediamine mixtures in children in Khartoum.” Annals of tropical paediatrics 12, no. 1 (1992): 3-6.

Hueber-Becker, Frédérique, Gerhard J. Nohynek, Eric K. Dufour, Wim JA Meuling, Albertus Th HJ de Bie, Herve Toutain, and Hermann M. Bolt. “Occupational exposure of hairdressers to [14 C]-para-phenylenediamine-containing oxidative hair dyes: A mass balance study.” Food and chemical toxicology 45, no. 1 (2007): 160-169.

Jacob, Sharon E., and Bruce A. Brod. “Paraphenylenediamine in black henna tattoos: sensitization of toddlers indicates a clear need for legislative action.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology 4, no. 12 (2011): 46.

Jenkins, David, and Elizabeth T. Chow. “Allergic contact dermatitis to para‐phenylenediamine.” Australasian Journal of Dermatology 56, no. 1 (2015): 40-43.

Kligman, A. M. 1966. “The identification of contact allergens by human assay. 3. The maximization test: a procedure for screening and rating contact sensitizers.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, v. 47 issue 5, p. 393-409. (1966)

McFadden, John P., Ian R. White, Peter J. Frosch, Heidi Sosted, Jenne D. Johansen, and Torkil Menne. “Allergy to hair dye.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 334, no. 7587 (2007): 220.

Özkaya, Esen, Kurtulus D. Yazganoglu, Aysem Arda, Zeynep Topkarci, and Erol Erçag. “The “henna stone” myth.” (2013).

Paley, Kristina, Larisa J. Geskin, and Matthew J. Zirwas. “Cutaneous B-cell pseudolymphoma due to paraphenylenediamine.” The American journal of dermatopathology 28, no. 5 (2006): 438-441.

Seidenari, Stefania, Lucia Mantovani, Bianca Maria Manzini, and Marco Pignatti. “Cross‐sensitizations between azo dyes and para‐amino compound.” Contact dermatitis 36, no. 2 (1997): 91-96.

Wilbert, M. I. “Cosmetics as Drugs.” Pub. Health Rep. 30, no. Oct. 15 (1915): 3059.

Rapid analysis of the skin irritant p-phenylenediamine (PPD) in henna products using atmospheric solids analysis probe mass spectrometry, Weiyang Chena, Thobile. A.N. Nkosia, Sandra Combrincka, Alvaro. M. Viljoena,  Catherine Cartwright-Jones. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, Volume 128, 5 September 2016, Pages 119–125

Full Coverage: Why Hair Feels Dry After Henna and How to Fix It

            Some henna users report that their hair feels dry, coarse, brittle, or unmanageable after washing out their henna. What is happening is the hair is going through a temporary state. This temporary state has little to do with moisture or lack thereof, and more to do with the hair’s physical structure. The process of dyeing with henna can cause a temporary change on the surface of the hair strand. The hair goes back to its normal texture within a couple days. Smoothing can be expedited with conditioning or an apple cider vinegar rinse.

            This article will discuss the physical structure of hair, the sensory interpretations of “dry” and “moisturized,” and offer solutions for lessening the undesirable texture which some may experience during the first few days following a henna treatment.

Hair Structure

            A strand of hair is not one solid thing. If you were to see a cross sections of it under a microscope, you’ll notice that a hair strand is built of many tiny scales of keratin overlapping each other in layers over a central core.  The outer layers of keratin are relatively hydrophobic, or waterproof, and surround a central cortex composed of a bundle of long cells called cortical cells, which contain DNA information and melanin. The cortex is more prone to water swelling than the outer layers. This is what causes hair to stretch further when wet.

            A strand can only stretch so far and be able to spring back to its natural length. Beyond that extent, the strand will remain stretched and in a weakened state. Beyond that still, the hair will break. Excessive moisture within the cortex weakens the hair structure and leaves the hair vulnerable to stretching and breakage. The right balance of moisture is necessary to maintain healthy structure. Healthy hair does this on its own with its layer of hydrophobic keratin cuticles and the thin coating of oils produced by the scalp.

            If it helps, think about hair like a bundle of cooked spaghetti coated with layers of tiny shingles made of the same material as your fingernails. You want the spaghetti to stay al-dente. Too wet, and the spaghetti will stretch and break. Too dry, and the spaghetti will also be vulnerable to breakage. The cuticle barrier is extremely important in regulating moisture within the cortex. When damage is incurred on the surface, gaps formed by broken or missing cuticles contribute to the hair’s overall weakened state, from a weaker outer structure to a more exposed inner structure.

Broken and missing cuticles expose the long, thin, central cortical cells.

            All hair is subject to weathering over time. The cuticle structure is relatively resilient. Hair can flex, stretch, and be exposed to daily friction and tangles and still be healthy. Hair that is straight tends to have a rounder diameter, like mechanical pencil lead, while curlier hair would appear elliptical when observing a cross section. The cuticles of straight hair tend to overlap more tightly, while cuticles on curly hair have more space between them. Because of the way cuticles are arranged, those with curly hair sometimes find that their hair is more prone to breakage.

The cuticles on curly hair are not as tightly arranged as on straight hair, and the cortex is flatter.

            It is normal that the cuticle layer is tighter and thicker near the scalp, where the hair is newly grown and has not yet had time to experience damage. Nearer to the ends, the hair is older and apt to have a thinner cuticle layer that is more jagged. Split ends are the result of the complete loss of the cuticle layer, and the splitting apart of the inner cortical bundle.

            Hair that has been processed with chemicals or otherwise damaged will have cuticles that stand up more rather than cuticles that lay flat against one another. Environmental factors can temporarily alter the hair’s cuticles. On windy days, your hair is thrown around, and the friction between strands causes the cuticles to lift. The strands tangle as the lifted cuticles catch onto one another. Dirt and build-up in the hair can further exacerbate tangling.

Damaged hair will show gaps in the outer cuticle layer as well as the inner cortex.

            You may notice that on humid days, your hair is more frizzy. Moisture can cause the cuticles to be raised, and for the structure to weaken. This is why hairstylists advise against brushing wet hair, When hair is wet, it is more prone to stretching. All healthy hair will stretch a little and bounce back, like a coiled spring. Using Ancient Sunrise® Zizyphus Spina Christi to wash and condition your hair is a great way to keep it smooth and prevent excess moisture from weakening your hair.

What We Interpret as “Dry and Damaged” vs. “Smooth and Healthy”

            When the cuticles are raised, the hair feels “dry” or coarser and less manageable. We often misinterpret this texture as “dryness”, believing that the hair is lacking moisture. As mentioned above, moisture itself can sometimes cause raised cuticles, so clearly this is not the case. It is simply a temporary change in the physical shape of the hair strands as a reaction to its environment. While dry and damaged hair can also exhibit similar physical changes, the two are not synonymous.

            Similarly, just because hair is artificially smoothed with silicones and glycerols, it does not necessarily mean that the hair is in a healthier or more moisturized state than it was prior to conditioning. Think of it this way: silicones and glycerols are also used in skincare and cosmetics, to smooth the surface of the skin, filling in fine lines and softening textural imperfections. Does that mean that your skin has suddenly become less wrinkled? No; it is a temporary fix to the way the surface of the skin feels and appears from the outside. As most of us have used store-bought hair care products since youth, we have been brought up with an implicit notion that tangled, crunchy feeling hair indicated dryness, and smooth, sleek hair indicates moisture.

Damaged hair that is coated with conditioner is still damaged. Silicones and glycerols artificially smooth the surface.

What Happens to Hair During a Henna Treatment

            During a henna treatment, moisture and acidity from the paste, along with the intermediary dye molecules migrate into the outer layers of the hair strand. The dye bonds to the keratin with the help of a Michael Addition bond. This process plumps the cuticle in a way similar to how fingertips become prune-like after a long soak in the tub. If your hair is not rinsed well enough, residual paste can also cause the hair to feel gritty and tangled, just as it might if there was some dirt in your hair. As the dye molecules settle into their places and oxidize, and the residual particles of the henna paste leave the hair, the sensation of dryness decreases.

Hair plumps as it is exposed to the wet and hydrogen-rich henna paste, and as dye molecules migrate into the outer layers.

            Because henna’s dye molecule binds to keratin in a lasting way, the hair is strengthened and reinforced. The added reinforcement prevents breakage and balances moisture levels. Henna does affect the physical texture of the hair, so those with naturally curly hair may see a loosening of their curl pattern. For some, this comes as a blessing. For others who want to maintain their bounce, adding amla into the henna mix prior to dyeing can help to maintain the curl pattern.

            Despite common misunderstanding, henna does not coat the hair; the lawsone migrates into the outer layers of keratin, staining them. The difference is like pouring sprinkles over an ice cream cone, versus dipping it in chocolate shell. Hair that has been hennaed can still absorb outside moisture, and it can be treated with oxidative dyes, lighteners, and relaxers, as long as only Ancient Sunrise© products have been used. Henna products that have not been lab tested for purity may contain metallic salts and other chemical adulterants that will react badly to other chemical treatments.

How to Fix Crunchy Hair after Henna

            Now that you know the truth about how your hair’s texture changes, here are some ways to help your hair feel smoother, softer, and more manageable sooner after dyeing your hair with henna.

            If you have a bathtub, the easiest way to ensure that the henna paste is fully rinsed out is to fill the tub with warm water and lie back, allowing your hair to submerge fully. Swish your hair around and move your fingers through your hair until all of it is moving freely in the water. This method is often referred to as the “mermaid rinse” or as our owner, Catherine Cartwright-Jones like to call it, the “swamp queen rinse.”

            Afterward, drain the tub and work a large handful of conditioner through your rinsed hair. This will help any remaining paste to slip out more easily. Rinse with fresh water and repeat if necessary, until the hair feels smooth, then wash and dry your hair as you normally would. There is nothing wrong with washing and shampooing hair immediately after dyeing it with henna. Lawsone binds to the hair permanently while the paste is in contact with the hair, and washing will not cause anything to loosen except for residual paste matter and dye that did not attach during the processing time.

            If you prefer not to use conditioner, diluted apple cider vinegar will help to smooth the hair and close the cuticle. Rinsing with cool water also helps the cuticle to tighten and close.

The cuticles will return to their normal state within a few days after henna.

Final Notes

            Because the texture of the hair after henna is so frequently mistaken as dryness, some people choose to add ingredients such as coconut milk or oil, egg, milk, yogurt, and other plant oils to their henna mix to prevent this feeling of dryness. Now that you know the truth, you’ll understand why adding food to your henna is unnecessary. These ingredients will inhibit proper dye uptake.

            Highly acidic mixes can dry the hair and scalp, and irritate those with sensitive skin. This is especially common with mixtures using lemon juice. If you experience a sensation of itching along with dryness, consider switching to a milder acid such as Ancient Sunrise© Kristalovino and Malluma Kristalovino acid powders. These acids are derived from grapes, and much gentler on the hair and scalp.

            All Ancient Sunrise© Henna for Hair powders are Body Art Quality, which means they are finely sifted and free of twigs, leaves, sand, and other particulates that can get caught in the hair. The process of applying and rinsing the paste can cause some level of friction, so those who have delicate and damaged hair may choose to use the following products, which have the absolute finest sift for the smoothest paste:

Ancient Sunrise© Rarity Henna

Ancient Sunrise© Zekhara Indigo

Ancient Sunrise© Zekhara Cassia

            The above products are also perfect for those with thick, curly hair because they will rinse out cleanly and easily, with no residue. So if your hair feels dry, just give it some time. As always, feel free to contact Customer Service at www.mehandi.com if you have any questions or concerns, and read the Ancient Sunrise© Free Henna for Hair E-Book to learn more about dyeing hair with henna.

Author: Rebecca Chou September 2017
Edited: Maria Moore August 2022

Highlights: Money-Saving Tips for Ordering from Ancient Sunrise®

Henna keeps your hair healthy and strong, but it is also great for your wallet. While having your hair dyed in a salon can cost up to a hundred dollars or more, and a box of dye from the store can be around ten dollars, each application of henna can cost as little as $3.00 if you know the best ways to order. Here are the not-so-secret secrets that the staff at Ancient Sunrise® would love for you to know for money-saving tips.

1. Order Samples First

If you are new to henna or Ancient Sunrise®, we highly recommend ordering samples to try out before buying a full-sized product. Your patience will be well worth it. Ancient Sunrise® sells samples of all plant dye powders and Henna for Hair kits in portions just large enough to test on some hair harvested from your hair brush or a recent haircut, or to try on an inch-wide section on your head. Prices range from $1.50 to $4.49, and shipping for samples is always free.

            Call, chat, or email with the customer service staff to determine which samples would be best for you to try. Once you have done your strand tests, you will be ready to order a full-sized kit, or your plant powders of choice. If your test strands didn’t come out the way you wanted, the customer service staff will work with you to find the mix that works best for your needs.

            Ordering samples saves you from spending money on a product that ends up producing results you may not like. Switching to henna is exciting and you may be tempted to jump right in, but you’ll be happy that you took the time to test.

Kit samples contain pre-measured amounts of plant dye powders packaged separately to ensure that your test will be an accurate reflection of full kit results.

2. Order in Bulk

Most customers who start with a kit eventually switch to ordering their plant dye powders in bulk quantities once they are familiar and comfortable with the process. All of the products on the kits are available for individual purchase. The Ancient Sunrise® Henna for hair kits are convenient in that they provide all of the necessary ingredients in the correct proportions, as well as a detailed instruction sheet, gloves, and an applicator bag. The trade-off is that they are a few dollars more expensive. When you order in bulk, you’re shipping may increase a little, but it will be more economical than paying to ship every month.

                The plant dye powders will last for years if kept sealed, dry, and at a moderate temperature. Henna and cassia powders may be kept in the freezer (Indigo should never be frozen). Once you have decided on your perfect mix, you can stock up on your ingredients. Not only will you save money by ordering in bulk, but you’ll only have to pay for shipping once. Also, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing you never have to place a last-minute order after running out of your supplies.

Freeze henna paste for easy future use. Just thaw what you need and apply.

            It is especially important to stock up on indigo powder before the winter months. Indigo will become unusable if subjected to freezing temperatures. We do our best to insulate indigo shipments during the winter (you can also request extra insulation for a fee). We cannot control what may happen to the packages while they are on their way to you. It is always best to stock up in the fall before freezing temperatures set in.

3. Stick to Root-only Applications

One of the best benefits of henna for hair is that it does not fade. In fact, over-application may cause your color to darken. After your first full-head application, it is only necessary to dye your roots as your hair grows.

            Most customers use anywhere between 30g to 100g for a root touch-up, depending on the thickness of their hair and the accuracy of their application. This means that the cost of a root touch-up can cost as little as $3.00 (or less, if you ordered your powders in bulk) and one 100g packet of henna can last for three applications. If a person is using only henna and touches up their roots once a month, the cost for a whole year’s worth of henna comes to less than $50.

Apply your mix only to the first couple of inches nearest to your scalp. Accurate application means less waste and more money saved.

            Those who are using only henna or henna/cassia mixes can take advantage of the fact the henna and cassia paste can be frozen. Mix a large amount of paste all at once, dye-release it, and separate it into smaller portions. The paste can be kept in the freezer for upwards of six months.  Just thaw and apply!

            When using a mix of henna and indigo (and/or cassia), contact the customer service office for customized measurements for root applications. This ensures that you are using the same ratios in a smaller amount, and prevents excess waste.

Pro Tip: learn how to measure your powders: https://www.ancientsunrise.blog/how-to-measure/

4. Keep a Backup Supply

If you are not ready to place a bulk order yet, it is highly recommended that you order at least enough for one regular application, plus enough for touch-ups. In the case that you use all of your order to dye your hair only to find that you missed a spot, or the color came out too light, the last thing you’ll want to do is place a second order and wait several days to receive more product.

            For those who use both henna and indigo, it is great to have an extra packet of indigo on hand. If your roots did not take enough color, or if you wish to darken your results, having extra indigo makes  solving these problems quick and painless.

If you missed a spot or your results came out too light, simply reapply just to those areas.

            As mentioned above, it is always great to have extra henna on hand because henna paste can be frozen for long periods of time.

            Fruit acid powder is great to have handy also. It prevents unnecessary runs to the store for fruit juice and ensures consistent color results.

            Finally, I personally always have a pouch of Ancient Sunrise® Rainwash Mineral treatment in the house for regular clarifying and pre-henna cleansing. One pouch of Rainwash is enough for about ten treatments and is much more cost-effective than ordering individual single-use packets. It is great for keeping my results bright and my hair soft.

5. Contact Customer Service Directly

It is always a good idea to order your product directly from a customer service agent via phone, email, or online chat. Not only are they very knowledgeable and fun to talk to, but they can make sure to apply any discounts that might be available, and check for your cheapest shipping option.

            Www.mehandi.com is a wonderful and fast way to place your order but may charge more for shipping depending on where you live. If you live near Ohio, customer service agents may be able to decrease your shipping fee. If you are placing a small order, such as three 100g packets or fewer, CS will be able to adjust the shipping option to a flat-rate envelope. If you are ordering a larger supply and are on the west coast, larger flat-rate boxes are available, which may cost less than shipping to your location by weight.

            One reason they are able to do this is that they can manually adjust an order to be packed more efficiently. On the website, bulk order options are calculated by weight and location, and there is a $2 handling fee. Customer service can place an order for as many individual packets as you’d like, and more than likely can save you a little bit.

Hooray for flat rate boxes!

Ancient Sunrise® customer service staff is available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9 am – 5 pm Eastern Time through phone, email, or online chat. Phones are answered before chats, so if you need to place an order quickly, feel free to call. If you reach the voicemail, please leave a message with your name, number, and the nature of your call. This is still a small company, and on busy days, they will do their best to return your call as soon as possible.

            You may also like to send an email with your order, your phone number, and the time you’d like to be called. This can often expedite your ordering process because the representative can have your order set up before calling you, and you will simply need to complete your payment with your credit card information.

Call us to place your order and we’ll check for the best shipping option available for you.

6. Options for International Orders

If you are ordering from outside of the United States and don’t mind waiting longer for your shipment, you can choose to have it sent via First Class shipping rather than Priority. Priority packages ship within 6-10 business days to most places, but will be more expensive. First Class shipping is slower but more affordable. In some countries, customers find that they still receive their package relatively quickly. You can choose this setting when you order online, or request it when you order with customer service. Keep reading to learn about adding insurance to your international package.

Note: The First Class shipping option is only available for packages that weigh four pounds or less.

7. Consider Spending a Few Extra Dollars to Protect your Package

We will do our absolute best to ensure that your order gets to you safe and sound, but there are always rare occurrences that are outside of our control. Once the package leaves our warehouse, it is at the mercy of the weather, fate, and the US Postal Service. While it doesn’t seem like this belongs in money-saving tips, it actually can save a lot when unforeseen circumstances happen.

            All domestic packages valued under $100 are insured by USPS. That means that in the case of a lost, stolen, or damaged package, we can help you file a claim to be paid back the value of your package. If your order is valued at $100 or more, we offer the option of insuring the full value or your order with USPS for just a few extra dollars. No one wants to place a large order and lose over a hundred dollars on a lost product. Consider adding this insurance especially if you have noticed difficulty receiving packages in the past, or if you live in an area where it is common to have packages stolen from doorsteps. For international orders, you can ask for additional insurance on any Priority packages valued over $200.

            You can also request the option of requiring a signature upon delivery. This option also only costs $3.00 and will ensure that you and only you will receive your package. If you are not present at the time of delivery, USPS may leave a note on your door and return the following day to attempt delivery or may provide information on where you can retrieve your package.

            Finally, as mentioned above, some products such as indigo and Becoming Moonlight® Gilding Paste are sensitive to cold temperatures. During the colder months, we insulate such packages. You may request extra insulation for a fee if you live in a particularly cold area, or are concerned about your package staying outside until you come home. If you would like to request overnight shipping, you can call customer service with your order and request USPS Express shipping.

Indigo powder will lose its ability to dye if exposed to freezing temperatures.

8. Follow the Facebook Pages

            We offer weekly discount days as well as occasional sales on special products. The best way to keep up with our promotions is to “like” our Facebook page and join our public group. All discount days and special promotions will be posted on these pages. New product releases will be announced here, as well as new blog articles.

            The Ancient Sunrise Henna group is a great community of customers and staff members. We enjoy seeing photos of henna for hair results, and sharing techniques and mixes. This group is also a good way to ask questions and get answers outside of customer service hours. We sometimes use this group to ask for customer input through polls and surveys as well. If you have money-saving tips, perhaps share it with your friends in the group.

            In the rare case that we close early or have technical malfunctions, we will make announcements on our Facebook pages. These pages are truly one of the best ways to keep in the loop with everything that may be happening at Ancient Sunrise®.

Our Ancient Sunrise Henna Facebook group is a great community full of henna novices and long-time users.

9. Take Advantage of Discount Days

            We have special offers for call-in orders nearly every weekday. Our most popular discount day is Thrifty Monday. Every Monday, all products (except multipack prices, sale, and clearance) are 10% off. Orders must be placed directly with customer service through phone, email, or chat to receive a discount.

            If you miss Monday, some or all of your order may be eligible for Relaxed and Natural Thursdays. The products we recommend for people with relaxed or natural textured hair will be 10%. This includes Ancient Sunrise® Rarity Henna, Ancient Sunrise® Delicate kits, Ancient Sunrise® Zekhara indigo, Ancient Sunrise® Clarity Cassia, Ancient Sunrise® Amla, Ancient Sunrise® Mango and Cocoa Seed Butters, Spellstone® hair combs and loc ties.

                     Finally, Fridays when you order directly with customer service, you won’t be charged more than $9 for domestic shipping.

10. Stylist Discount

If you are a stylist using Ancient Sunrise® products on clients, call customer service or email salons@mehandi.com to get set up with our discount program. Register with your copy of your cosmetologist license and spend $500 on qualifying Ancient Sunrise® products, then receive 25% off all future qualifying purchases.  Start by purchasing any four Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair kits and getting a fifth free! Purchases up to the $500 requirement can be made over time as your henna for hair business grows. We’ll even list your business on our recommended stylist’s page. Please note that this is only for those who use our products in a salon, spa, or similar business, and requires a valid license.

11. Use your Rewards!

They say save the best for last, and this is the BEST out of all of our money-saving tips. Each time you place on Mehandi.com or with our customer service team, you’re earning rewards. Every dollar spent on product = 1 point; every 10 points earned = $1 off your purchase. When you use your rewards on an order, that order will not gain more rewards. If you’re not sure if you have rewards, you can click on this link: https://www.mehandi.com/MyRewards.asp. The best part? There is no expiration!

12. Referral friends, families, and anyone who loves your hair!

Visit Mehandi.com, scroll down to the bottom, and sign up for our referral program. For every successful referral you make, you’ll earn 100 reward points (that’s $10!). Plus, the person you refer will get $10 off their first order. Rewards are only added for genuine referrals.

Final Notes

            We will always do our best to provide you with the best products for the best price we can give you. Please know that customer service representatives are not authorized to give out free products, to haggle on prices, or give discounts on non-promo days. Please do not harass them. Doing so will not increase your savings.  Customer service will always help to decrease your costs as much as possible within the limits of what discounts are available. Remember to say thanks, and tell them how awesome they are! They work very hard and love to hear your success stories.

Now that you know the best money-saving tips for ordering at Ancient Sunrise®, you can treat your hair to wonderful products for years to come, and save yourself from the cost and hair damage of visits to the salon. Tell your family and friends! Use the money you’re saving to buy their first Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair kit! Pitch in together to split a bulk order! We love spreading the henna love and are so happy you’re with us.

Author: Rebecca Chou
Updated Jan 2022: Maria Moore

Highlights: Zizyphus Spina Christi, An Alternative to Shampoo and Conditioner

Traditional Shampoos and Alternatives

All hair must be washed from time to time. This depends on a person’s sebum production, their lifestyle, the climate of their surroundings, and ultimately, their preference. Neglecting to wash hair, or using ineffective methods of washing hair can cause a host of problems for the scalp and for hair growth. Learn more about hair care here.

              Sebum is the oil that is naturally produced by the skin. Sebaceous glands produce sebum to protect skin from drying out by providing a waterproof layer.  A build-up of sebum will cause hair to look greasy and weighed down, and will harden into a waxy state, collecting dirt and dead skin cells. This creates a great living environment and food source for bacteria, and tiny creepy crawlers. Waxy buildup of sebum blocks sebaceous glands, causing infection.

Sebaceous glands produce sebum which moisturize and protect the skin and hair, but too much will clog pores and create an environment for bacteria.

              The skin produces a new layer of cells every day at the bottom of your stratum corneum, and exfoliates one layer every day. Sometimes the dead skin cells fall off and sometimes they stay in place and become nutrient rich biomes for fungi, such as the ones that cause dandruff and ringworm.  Unchecked, these can evolve into lesions. Washing the hair regularly serves to ensure that dead skin cells are properly removed.

              Washing hair too frequently with a strong detergent may dry the scalp and hair, leaving it unprotected. Many people experience irritation or contact dermatitis from harsh ingredients in commercial shampoos, causing them to search for other alternatives. However, some alternatives are ineffective, and may even cause more harm than good.

              Most of us turn to a store-bought shampoo, whose active detergent is often Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or a slightly milder Sodium Laureth Sulfate (both referred to as SLS). SLS is an extremely effective detergent, and does what it is meant to do: strip away sebum, oils, and dirt. However, SLS can be too harsh for some, causing dryness, irritation, and in the case of those with sensitivities to SLS, contact dermatitis. Other ingredients such as synthetic fragrances, can also cause irritation and allergic or sub-allergic reactions.

Commercial shampoos and soaps often contain sulfates, which produce a lot of bubbles. Bubbles are not required for a good clean, despite what companies might have you believe.

              There are those who look to prevent the irritation they experience from commercial shampoos, or to avoid ingredients that may be harmful to their bodies or the environment. They turn to alternative methods of washing their hair, wash less frequently, or use water only. These alternative methods are often referred to as “no-poo,” short for “no shampoo.” Baking soda and apple cider vinegar is a popular method, as is “co-washing”, a method of using a conditioner-like product that does not contain a detergent. There are also a myriad of concoctions that can be made at home with common food items. These recipes are attractive due to their ease of availability and the feeling that that edible ingredients are safer and more natural.

              Washing hair first with a baking soda solution, and then rinsing with apple cider vinegar has grown in popularity, and is perhaps the most common form of “no-poo.” While it has been hailed by some as something of a miracle treatment, there are many downsides. Baking soda is very alkaline, and vinegar is very acidic.  Alkaline substances are shown to increase friction and static, causing damage to the hair. Overly acidic substances can be harsh as well. The logic behind using one after another is that the pH will balance out in the end. It doesn’t necessarily work that way, and the intense swing from one side of the pH scale to the other can wreak havoc on your hair and scalp. The fact that baking soda is a common kitchen item and used in cooking does not automatically make it safe or effective in hair cleansing.

Friction and desiccation cause hair strands to shed their protective outer scales, exposing the central cortex, which can stretch, split, and break.

              Dry shampoos, bentonite clay, and other powder substances are used between shampoos by those who choose to wash their hair less frequently.  While it absorbs some oil, the product remains in the hair. Dry shampoos do not effectively remove sebum and cause more buildup in the long run. Overuse of dry shampoo may cause hair loss, as irritated hair follicles begin to shed their strands.

              Commercial hair product companies, looking to maintain their customer base, come out with new products that appear to be more natural, or contain new (often exotic) plant extracts or ingredients. A product which contains ingredients from a natural source is not the same thing as a product that is completely natural. Additionally, “natural” does not necessarily mean safer, healthier, or more effective.  “Natural” has become more of a marketing method rather than an actual shift to safer and more effective ingredients. At the very best, these added ingredients may serve some beneficial purpose, but at the very least, they do nothing but make the product seem more appealing.

Zizyphus and its Benefits

With such a dizzying array of options and techniques available to clean the hair, and inconsistent information about the safety and effectiveness of each, it is reasonable to feel overwhelmed. Zizyphus powder is one option that is both natural and effective, thus making it a solid choice for those who wish to avoid sulfates and other harsh ingredients, as well as those who would like to shampoo less frequently. It functions as a two-in-one cleanser/conditioner.

Zizyphus, or Sedr, powder.

              Zizyphus (or Sedr) powder has been used for centuries as a hair cleanser, well before the advent of commercial shampoos. The crop itself is a thorny desert plant whose leaves are harvested, dried, and ground into a powder. Like many plants in arid climates, it produces a plant wax to maintain moisture within its leaves.

The Zizyphus Spina Christi plant.

              When used as a shampoo/conditioner, zizyphus’ thin, wax-like coating acts to smooth and moisturize the hair, as well as protect it from environmental damage.Zizyphus contains natural saponins (soaps) that are gentler than commercial detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Studies have found zizyphus to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is an effective method for gently removing sebum and dirt without over-drying the hair and scalp. The result is clean, healthy hair with added shine and volume. Hair feels thicker after using zizyphus. Zizyphus is great for fine, limp, and damaged hair, as it adds weight and reinforcement to the hair.

              Because zizyphus is not a dye, it will not affect a person’s hair color. Those who have light, graying, or white hair can use zizyphus to condition their hair with no color change.

Zizyphus is great to use before swimming! It prevents excess water from being absorbed into the hair’s cortex.

              A zizyphus wash can be used regularly, or as an occasional conditioning and protective treatment. A zizyphus treatment would be great before a trip to the beach because it will protect the hair from salt, sun, and wind.

              Use zizyphus before and during a camping trip. It is easy to store, and you won’t have to worry about rinsing commercial chemicals into lakes, rivers, or ground water. Those who wash their hair less frequently report that using zizyphus keeps their hair cleaner for longer, allowing them to go longer between washes. Using zizyphus every day is unnecessary, and may make the hair feel waxy.

               Ancient Sunrise© Zizyphus Spina Christi is sent to an independent lab to test for purity. It contains no pesticides, heavy metals, or other chemical adulterants.

** Note: Those who have a latex allergy may be cross-sensitized to Zizyphus. Please conduct a patch test first.***

Continue reading below to learn how to use Ancient Sunrise© Zizyphus Spina Christi powder as a natural shampoo and conditioner, and as a deep-conditioning treatment.

Mix Zizyphus powder with water to create your natural shampoo.

How to Use Zizyphus as a Shampoo/Conditioner

  1. Mix a few spoonfuls of Ancient Sunrise© Zizyphus Spina Christi with warm water in a small container (a ramekin works nicely) until it is a yogurt consistency. The paste may appear “fluffy,” but will not produce bubbles and foam like a regular shampoo might.
  2. Let the paste sit for a few minutes.
  3. Take your paste with you into the shower or bath.
  4. Wet your hair, and use your hands to apply the paste near your scalp.
  5. Scrub the paste against your scalp, and pull it through the length of your hair.
  6. Leave the paste in your hair for 1-3 minutes, then rinse. Zizyphus contains some plant particulates, so those with thick or curly hair may prefer soaking their hair in the bath and rinsing with a small amount of conditioner, or with apple cider vinegar.
  7. Dry and style as usual, and enjoy your shiny, clean, conditioned hair!

              Zizyphus can be used every few days or once a week between regular washes, or as a shampoo alternative. Some find that using zizyphus allows them to need to wash their hair less frequently. Over-use may lead to build up of its natural coating properties, causing a feeling of stiffness or heaviness.

Maria applies zizyphus paste to her scalp, then pulls it through the length. After rinsing, her hair is shiny and thick.

Ancient Sunrise© also carries a Zizyphus and Juniper Shampoo bar! All of our shampoo bars are all-natural and handmade with saponified plant oils and other natural ingredients. Shampoo bars can be used every day, or as often as you wish.

Zizyphus for the Skin

Our employees also enjoy using zizyphus as a moisturizing body scrub. The plant particulates gently remove dry, rough skin while cleansing away dirt and oil. The skin is left soft and smooth, but not stripped. Zizyphus balances moisture levels and protects the skin with its thin wax barrier.  To use zizyphus on the skin, simply mix it into a paste with water, wet the skin, rub small handfuls onto the body in a circular motion, and rinse. Avoid the eyes, and use externally only.

Ancient Sunrise® sells Zizyphus Spina-Christi powder in 100g packets. A little goes a long way. Call, email, or chat to ask any additional questions you may have about Zizyphus, and to place an order.