Is henna bad for hair?

Is henna bad for hair? So many people ask this question, but here it will be answered in a few different parts, because pure henna, is great for the hair, but adulterated henna is bad all around.

What is henna?

Henna is a desert plant in which the leaves are dried and powdered to be used for the hair and body. The petiole (center vain in a leaf) is where most of the lawsone from a henna leaf comes from. Lawsone is the name for the natural orange-red dye molecule from henna. The red-orange dye molecule is what stains the stain and what colors the hair.

Using a mildly acidic liquid or powder-distilled water combo, lawsone can be “released” from the henna powder.

What is compound henna?


Compound henna doesn’t always include henna. It contains adulterants and metallic salts that caused the “henna” to bind much faster and creates different colors such as brown or black. Compound henna is very common and can be dangerous because the ingredients lists are often doctored to reflect a more appealing “natural” list.

You can read more about both compound and pure henna here:

Is there a difference between henna for body art and henna for hair?

No; pure henna is henna. You may see “henna” offered for body art that is black. This is adulterated henna and is not safe because it contains either PPD (paraphenylinediamine) or a component very similar. You can read more about the science of henna and the skin here:

You can read more about the dangers of “black henna” here: Henna is Not Black: Stopping the Illegal Use of Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) on Skin

Is henna bad for hair?

Pure henna is actually great for the hair! You can find the benefits of using henna here. Henna not only colors hair, but it can protect the hair from UV rays, chlorine, and more because of the tannins naturally found in the lawsone.

How can I get other colors besides red?

Henna gives a red color on hair, but you can use other natural plant dyes such as cassia and indigo. If you’re not sure where to start, you can contact Mehandi’s customer support team:, 1-855-MEHANDI, or chat at

Maria • Ancient Sunrise® Specialist Licensed Cosmetologist

Henna and Bleach Trials (Stylists Edition)

Many people ask if they should bleach their hair before they henna. I decided to set up henna and bleach trials to see what differences I might get for different situations.

As we all know, lightening your hair is not always the ideal option, as this is a chemical hair process, but it can help achieve lighter colors that you may not be able to get by only hennaing. You can find more information in chapter 10 lightening your hennaed hair in our e-book.

Hair and Mix Prep

My test began with harvested hair from my brush.  My natural hair color is black with no gray. When I use henna, my hair has a red shine in the sun with great conditioning benefits.

Each of the hair samples have different variables, however, they all were washed with Dawn dish soap before each henna application. I mixed Rarity henna with lemon juice and dye released at room temperature for 9 hours.  All the samples had the same processing time of 4 hours, as well as controlled lightening times. I used equal parts 20 volume developer with lightening powder.


Test 1: This particular sample hair was hennaed two times, then bleached for 30 minutes. I redid this test because I left the bleach on the first sample longer than intended. The bleach was meant to sit for 30 minutes and I left it on for an hour.

Test 2: The hair sample in this test was hennaed, bleached for 30 minutes, and hennaed again.

Test 3: This sample was colored, bleached for 30 minutes twice, hennaed, and hennaed again.

Test 4: Hair sample number 4 was bleached to damage by bleaching three times at 30 minutes, hennaed, then hennaed again.

Test 5: This hair sample was bleached for 30 minutes, hennaed, and hennaed again.

These tests mimic what we see often in customer service and potential clients. We understand that everyone who is new to henna likely has hair that has been chemically treated previously.

Henna and Bleach Trials in Photos

1 hour before application
I prepared my hair for the first henna application. Here we have the hair at different levels of lightening to see how the results may vary. Number 3 and 5 are very similar in color.

8 hour after application
Number 3 and 5 continue to be very similar.

1 week oxidized
The samples have darkened after oxidation. Number 2 is ready to get lightened.

1 day after bleach (after henna application)
Number 2 is very light compared to the others. It appears brighter than the hair when it is lightened before henna.

2 weeks oxidized/1 week after henna
Number 4 is still lighter than number 3 and 5, as they stay very similar.

After application 2
Henna application has helped to darken all samples.

1 week oxidized after bleach
The samples are darker with oxidation and we prepare to lighten number 1

Right after damage
Slight fail as I let the sample sit too long

2 & 4
Number 2 and 4 are similar in color. Number 2 does appear to be lighter.

3 & 5
Number 3 and 5 are still very similar.

New 1
I recreated number 1 to get a more accurate result.

All samples
Here are all samples done to see the difference.

All natural light
Here are the samples in natural light to see the difference from the concentrated indoor lighting.

In conclusion, the results were a little surprising to me. I knew that number 3 would come out darker because it was colored first. Numbers 1 and 2 are lighter than expected, as they both started with henna. Numbers 4 and 5 are exactly how I thought they would come out. Overall all of the samples are a lovely color.

To read about how henna can help damaged hair, check out this blog:

Damaris • Licensed Cosmetologist • Ancient Sunrise Specialist

Toning Henna – Part 2 (Stylists Editions)

In Toning Henna – Part 1 (Stylists Edition), five recipes were tested on hennaed hair, post oxidation, while one recipe was testing on hennaed hair prior to oxidation. I noticed that the hair was different between each recipe, but I didn’t expect to see such a difference between the hair that was toned before and after oxidation, even with similar recipes.

Welcome to Toning Henna – Part 2, where we explore the same mixes, same time frames but all of the hair had the toning mixes applied before the henna had time to oxidize.

Hair Prep

All of the mohair used was prepped by using a clarifying shampoo and the Twilight henna paste sat on the hair for 24 hours due to lack of body heat. Body heat allows us to keep the paste on for less time to get optimal results, so when testing on samples using henna, 24 hours is a good time frame).

Toning Mixes

All mixes are based on weight

A 90% cassia; 10% indigo (30 minutes ,60 minutes)
B 75% cassia; 25% indigo (30 minutes, 60 minutes)
C 50% cassia; 50% indigo (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes)
D 25% cassia; 75% indigo (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes)
E 10% cassia; 90% indigo (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes)

Mixing Prep

Ancient Sunrise® Clarity Cassia and Sudina Indigo were used (Zekhara indigo can be used for toning as well). Both cassia and indigo powders were mixed together with distilled water right away. The paste should be a thick consistency, only slowly dripping off of the mixing utensil. The paste was applied right away after mixing.


Original Control
Henna Control

Toning Henna (Part 2) • Comparing Mixes

First Test vs Second Test

After observing the samples over a weeks time, I noticed that these samples looked much different than the first series of tests I ran. It’s important to note that the only difference between the first and second tests was that the first test was done after the hennaed hair had settled into it’s final color, while the second test took place before the hennaed hair had settled into its final color.

Hair from the first test is on top in each photo; hair from the second test is on the bottom in each photo.

Every hair swatch of the second batch of samples appear to be lighter and cooler. Warmer tones show lighter to the human eye because of how we see color, therefore if they were the same level of hair color, all of the bottom swatches would be darker.

It’s probably safe to assume that if one were to do a mix that didn’t come out as warm as straight henna, that toning, either immediately or after a week of letting the hair sit, the results would be cooler in general. It will be important to conduct these tests over different swatches of hair and different mixes. For now, an accurate assessment would be that if you want your hair darker and not as red, then doing a toning mix with cassia and indigo would be good.

Final Notes

If you have a client who is panicking because their hair is brighter than what they’re comfortable with immediately after washing their paste out, keep in mind what results their looking for in the end. Always test any toning mix before applying all over as to prevent further complications. Sometimes just doing a toning shampoo can help calm the hair down during the oxidation if you don’t think that doing a toning mix is right for your client.

Always test to find out what mix and time will work best for you and your hair. Contact our customer service team for assistance: or call 1-855-MEHANDI or 330-673-0600. Visit and for more information.

Maria • Ancient Sunrise® Specialist • Licensed Cosmetologist