Maintaining graying brown hair with henna and indigo

Close up of henna, indigo, and cassia powder.

My first-time using henna for hair color was due to a sensitivity reaction I started having with chemical hair dye.  I wanted to go back to my natural medium brown after many years of blonde highlights.  Fortunately, I had a friend who was using all-natural Ancient Sunrise henna and indigo to achieve beautiful brown hair.  I learned when indigo is mixed with henna you can achieve shades of auburn, browns and even black!  I wanted a medium brown so I used a color mix of 40% Sudina indigo and 60% Ancient Sunrise® Twilight henna to achieve this over my graying, chemically lightened hair.  The result was a beautiful, shiny, medium brown with highlights of different shades of auburn.  The highlights showed where my hair had been lightened and where I had started graying.  I was about 40% gray at this point.

After I used this mix for about two years my hair was all dyed using henna and indigo and I was 50% gray. I was a medium brown with highlights where I was gray, and the highlights blended FABULOUSLY after each root touch up.  My highlights were now a rosier auburn and showed fiery, copper tones in the sun.

henna paste in green bowl

As my grays increased to over 60%, my hair was leaning towards reddish tones with highlights.  My grays were showing as red more than auburn.  I talked to an Ancient Sunrise customer service rep about wanting my results to be less red. The rep suggested adding table salt to my indigo. Salt opens the hair shafts to slightly ruffle them and allow the hair to process the indigo-henna mix better. I also was advised I could do an indigo gloss over my entire head to tone down the red. After only one indigo gloss I was able to achieve the browns and auburns I loved. My hair is very healthy and shiny due to the use of henna. 

My brown hair has since grayed to about 70%. I changed my mix to 50% indigo and 50% henna to maintain the results I have grown to love.  I have only done root touch ups for many years.  My color has stayed consistent with a few tweaks here and there. I love all the beautiful highlights that cover my grays.  You must embrace getting older and see the gray hair changes as a natural gift that creates amazing highlights.  My hair is very healthy, full and shiny with great natural dimension.

Henna, cassia, and indigo paste on hair.

While using this 50/50 mix for several years, my brown hair color was consistent. My hair became wavy from the 70% gray. I enjoyed the change in texture and felt more fashionable since beachy waves have become such a trend.   While using the new Ancient Sunrise® salon for a photo shoot, I had my whole head hennaed BUT the colorist used two different mixes: 50/50 on the roots and then used a mix of 50% of cassia, 25% indigo, and 25% henna over all my previously henna and indigo dyed hair. 

Cassia powder with Malluma Kristalovino

Cassia is a natural colorless plant powder that diluted the mix to prevent my previously dyed hair from darkening. Cassia is also a conditioning treatment that lifted my hair to have more volume and more consistent waves.  If I use heat to enhance the waves in my hair, the waves hold for three days from the cassia treatment. 

After photo of henna and indigo on gray hair.

I have been more than pleased with my hair since starting my henna and indigo journey. It is also environmentally friendly and contains no chemicals at all.  I encourage you to start on your henna journey with nothing but natural Ancient Sunrise products.
Ancient Sunrise’s live customer service team will help you with all your questions about the color you want to achieve.

Michele • Ancient Sunrise® Inventory and SEO specialist

5 Tips to Avoid a Henna Mishap

Hennaing your hair for the first time is exciting, but may also feel overwhelming because there is so much conflicting information on the internet. If you’re using Ancient Sunrise® henna, then you can follow this short guide to be more successful at coloring your hair. Here are 5 tips to avoid a henna mishap.

1. Don’t skip the dye release.

Henna leaves contain a dye molecule called lawsone. When the leaves are dried and crushed, they can be mixed with an acidic liquid (or acidic powder and distilled water) to allow this dye to be released (hence the name “dye release”). While using a hot liquid can do this, the benefit of dye releasing with an acid is what helps bind the henna to keratin in the hair, thus making it permanent whereas hot water leaves a brassy color that fades.
In short: skipping dye release can also prevent you from reaching your hair goals.

2. Avoid spring, tap, or filtered water.

If you are using a fruit acid powder, such as citric acid or Amla, you’re going to need water. Distilled is best because it is free of minerals. Minerals can cause the dye molecules to shift to undesirable shades or be inconsistent. RO or reverse osmosis water may work in a pinch, but can still contain minerals especially if the proper upkeep is being neglected. If pipes have rust or other buildup in them, this can impact the water, too.
Distilled water helps with consistency.

3. Leave out the oils.

No oil
Oil is not meant for henna for hair.

Oils can have a pleasant smell. They are wonderful in lotions, hair perfumes, and more, but do they have any benefit to henna? Nope. While oils high in monoterpene alcohol can help a henna stain be darker on the skin, it can do the opposite on the hair. Too many additives in general can prevent a good uptake, but oil is a major culprit. If you want something to mask the smell, ginger root powder or cardamom seed powder works great in henna.
Basically, adding oils to your mix will cause you to waste your time and money.

4. Apply to clean hair

Shampooing hair
Clean hair allows the henna to stick a lot better.

Not only do you want to leave out oils and minerals out of your henna mix, you also want to remove them from your hair before your application. Using a clarifying shampoo or Rainwash treatment will help remove build up. While clarifying shampoo will remove oils (as long as it’s not “hydrating” or “moisturizing”), Rainwash will not. You can use Dawn dish soap to remove excess oils after Rainwashing.
For best results, get rid of all speed bumps that slow you down from getting your desired color.

5. Avoid caffeine in your henna.

skip the cofee
Skip the coffee..

Skip the coffee and caffeinated teas in your paste. There is no added benefit from these ingredients and the caffeine can give you a headache. This is because the caffeine is able to get into the bloodstream through the scalp. Plus, the smell of henna and coffee is kind of gross.
Caffeine in your henna is a great way to get some extra jitters, but nothing else.

We here at Mehandi want you to get the most out of your henna. These 5 tips to avoid a henna mishap are a great way to help you get a long lasting color. For more detailed assistance, our customer service team will be happy to help!

Maria • Ancient Sunrise® Specialist • Licensed Cosmetologist

Eyebrow Henna

“Okay Google…search ‘eyebrow henna.'”
A robotic voice replies, “Here are the results from the search.”

My thumb swipes upwards in a circular motion as I scroll through hundreds of results and several services offering “henna” for eyebrows. The biggest disappointment is that none of the results show pure henna. This poses a problem because what is being advertised to the world are adulterated cosmetics. What makes eyebrow and lash tint adulterated are ingredients such as paraphenylenediamine (PPD) and other coal tar derivatives. Furthermore, the FDA has not approved any products that color or tint the eyebrows and/or eyelashes “permanently”.

To learn more about what adulterated cosmetics are, visit:

Pure Henna on Eyebrow Hair and the Skin Underneath

Pure henna can stain light eyebrow hair, but it tends to take on a weak orange color that is gone within a few weeks to a month. When pure henna is applied to darker eyebrow hair, there is not a noticeable difference. A lot of the products that are being marketed for eyebrows aren’t meant to be used for the eyebrow hair itself, but are for staining the skin under the hair. With pure henna, the skin will not stain dark because the eyebrow area has thin skin. It should also be noted that henna doesn’t stain thin skin for long. The products that we see marketed to stain the skin under the eyebrows tend to be a darker color in which henna itself is not able to achieve in this particular area. Henna does not dye skin black.

Note: The FDA does not recognize the use of henna on any part of the body except for hair on the head, unless it is for cultural purposes.

To learn more about pure henna and the skin, visit:

You probably have seen articles about black henna and PPD. You may have seen photos of people on vacation with scars after being exposed to a black “henna” tattoo. These reactions that we see to PPD are the same reactions we see to “eyebrow henna” and eyelash tints. Why are companies still allowed to offer products that are incredibly toxic? How are they getting away with overlooking these horrible reactions?

Reactions to Eyebrow and Eyelash Tints

“Okay Google…search ‘eyebrow henna reaction.'”

The images are not for those who are easily squeamish. Photos of people with swollen foreheads, crusty, seeping eyebrows, and pus filled eyes all fill my screen. Reactions are identical to reactions from hair color that contain PPD.

I came across a blog that was discussing allergic reactions to eyebrow and eyelash tints. It suggested a product to use for those who have allergies. I clicked on the link of the product advertised, scrolled down to the ingredients list, and the first thing that was listed was “Paraphenylenediamine.” The last ingredient listed was “henna,” but it does not make sense from a scientific standpoint. Henna has specific instructions to allow it to stain, and even then, it does not have a shelf life once made, unless it is frozen after dye release. I have come across enough products in my career to know that “henna” in an ingredients list does not always mean lawsonia inermis.

The the author could have used their platform to promote real education on allergies to products, but instead they suggested a product that can cause complications because the first ingredient, PPD, causes strong allergic reactions. Unfortunately, the blog was not the only piece of material available to the public that was offering misinformation.

Reporting Reactions

If you have had a reaction to a tint for the eyebrows or eyelashes, visit your doctor immediately. Go to the ER if reactions are severe. Please report any adverse reactions here: Reporting severe reactions can help others who may have a similar or worse reaction to the same or similar product. Document your situation and help spread awareness of the dangers of PPD in cosmetics.

Salons and Brow Tinting Places

The FDA states that eyebrow and eyelash tinting is not allowed if the products contain coal tar derivatives or are considered “permanent”. Regardless of what the FDA does allow, your state laws may not allow eyebrow or eyelash tinting. State Boards of Cosmetology are required to follow both federal and state regulations. Ohio’s State Board of Cosmetology did not have much comment on this issue except that salons and parlors must follow the FDA regulations, as mentioned above. Shops containing illegal tinting services should be reported to prevent serious injuries. To make a report, visit your local State Board of Cosmetology website. (Your state’s board of cosmetology can be found by a quick Google search.)

Microblading and Cosmetic Tattoos

Microblading and cosmetic tattoos, while are considered cosmetics, do not fall under eyebrow or eyelash tinting. For more information on this, visit:

Alternative to Eyebrow Dye and Tints

If you are feeling down about your eyebrows, try a product that contains fibers. Most fibers are all natural, keratin fibers. These tend to fill out the eyebrow making them appear fuller, naturally. There are also many eyebrow pencils, liners, and pens available that might work better for you, too. Another benefit to using makeup to shaping and filling in your eyebrows is you can wash it off right away if there are any mistakes. Stay safe and practice safe beauty techniques!

Maria • Ancient Sunrise Specialist • Licensed Cosmetologist

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

Analysis of Products Marketed as Henna for Hair: Part Two

Table of Contents


This article is the second in a series comparing products sold as henna for hair. The purpose of this series is to describe and compare henna for hair products commonly found online on sites such as Amazon or eBay as well as in ethnic grocery stores, health food stores, and import stores in the USA.

Part One introduced objectives and methodology. It compared products that are marketed as either “pure henna,” or which are described as henna blended with other natural herbs for a red hair color result. To read part one, click here.

This article, Part Two, will continue using the same format as Part One. Part Two examines “henna for hair” products claiming to color hair brown or brunette. First, product labels are analyzed. Second, the plant powder is described in terms of texture (sift), color, and odor. After mixing, the qualities of the resulting pastes are also described. Finally, each past sample is tested using paper chromatography to determine the presence of added dyes. The products are compared to Ancient Sunrise pure henna and indigo powders.

Many products labeled and sold as henna contain additional ingredients, either plant-based or synthetic. Products whose labels claim to be “100% natural” or who use similar terms often fail to disclose all ingredients. Many products are imported from countries whose regulations are less stringent or loosely enforced. Additionally, products vary in quality. Poor sift results in powders containing larger pieces of plant particulates as well as sand. Products with poor packaging will become stale more quickly, causing the dye to be less effective. In many cases, products marketed as natural and safe in all actuality contain added dyes such as azo-dyes, metallic salts, and parapheneylene-diamine (PPD). To learn more about the difference between BAQ henna, compound henna, and other products claiming to be henna, read this article.

The FDA has a standard for henna and products entering the United States labeled as a “henna” hair coloring product. These guidelines do not appear to be regularly enforced as are regulations for products labeled as henna for use on skin. The result is that many products labeled as “henna for hair” which do not meet the guidelines make their way into the United States with relative ease.

The FDA forbids the sale of and is empowered to confiscate of any henna product labeled for skin use, or products showing images of henna used on the skin. Customs and border protection is empowered to search the importing company’s website to determine if henna is intended for use on skin, and may seize and destroy henna that appears to be imported for use on skin.

“Black henna,” or products labeled as henna containing PPD, have been known to cause skin reactions and sensitization. For more information about black henna, read the articles “Henna is Not Black,” “What You Need to Know About PPD,” and Chapter One of the Ancient Sunrise E-book.

The purpose of these studies is to determine the quality of those products in comparison to Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair products and to test for the existence of dye additives. This series investigates the following categories:

  • Part One: “Pure” henna, herbal henna mixes, and red result henna for hair products
  • Part Two (this article): Brunette result henna for hair products
  • Part Three: Black result henna for hair products

Premixed “Henna for Hair” Products

All of the products analyzed in this section claim to contain a blend of multiple plant dye powders and in some cases additional synthetic ingredients. All claim to contain henna. Most claim to contain indigo. Because henna and indigo require separate mixing and dye release processes, Ancient Sunrise packages plant powders separately. The most effective method for mixing henna and indigo involves mixing henna first with an acidic component and allowing time for dye release, normally 8-12 hours at room temperature. Indigo does not require an acidic component nor dye-release time because the dye releases and demises rapidly. It is mixed with only water and then combined with dye released henna just before applying to the hair. To learn more about the proper way to mix henna and indigo for brunette results, read this article.

Premixed “henna for hair” products may provide a simpler mixing process but in turn sacrifice full coverage and color permanence. Most of the products in this article recommend mixing the powder with water to form a paste and applying immediately. This is most likely due to indigo dye’s rapid demise. Without proper dye-release, the lawsone and indigo dye molecules will not bind to the hair as effectively. The result may be lighter than desired and will fade over time.

Finally, many of the following products report a number of “ayurvedic herbs” in their ingredients in addition to plant dye powders. Most of these herbs do not affect the color result but claim to condition the hair and scalp and/or promote hair growth. Please note that this article is not meant to support or deny the effectiveness of these claims. Descriptions of the herbs should not be interpreted as recommendations.

Sample Selection and Label Analysis

Eight “henna for hair” products were selected for this study based on the following criteria:

  • 1: The product is marketed as a “henna for hair” product or a plant-based product containing henna which is meant for coloring hair.
  • 2. The product claims to color hair a shade of brown or brunette.

The traditional method for achieving a brunette result using plant dye powders involves a combination of henna and indigo. Many of the products selected for this article include both henna and indigo in their ingredients disclosures. These products will be compared with Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Twilight Henna and Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo plant dye powders.

Below are the images of the labels for the selected samples. In the future, each sample will be referred to by its assigned number.


This product is made in the United States and is widely available at health stores and online. The labeling and packaging are thorough in comparison to many “henna for hair” products and are reminiscent of the labeling and packaging of box hair dye. The color on the label is “chestnut.”

The ingredients listed are “henna, indigo, centaurea, rhubarb, and beetroot.” Centaurea, also known as cornflower, can be used as a natural blue dye for fabric. Whether or not it is an effective dye for hair is unknown. Most natural fabric dyeing processes involve boiling and the use of a mordant. Similarly, rhubarb and beetroot have been used to dye fabrics yellow and red respectively. To learn more about what ingredients do or do not effectively color hair, read “Does it Dye Hair?” Rhubarb is acidic and may aid in dye-release, but the instructions do not include a dye-release period.

The internal pamphlet offers detailed instructions and information regarding application, patch testing, and a warning against use near the eyes. The instructions are to mix the powder with water, apply, and leave for one hour.


This product is made in India. It claims to be for dark hair and gives hair a “rich brown color and shine.” The ingredients listed are as follows: “Mehndi (Lawsonia alba), Aam Beej (Mangifera indica), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Gambhari (Gmelina arborea), Daruhaldi (Berberis aristata), Kikkar gaund (Acacia arabica).” While henna is listed as the first ingredient, indigo is not mentioned at all.

The product is described as “ayurvedic,” which is a term relating to an alternative system of medicine often involving a number of herbs native to South Asia. Aam beej is mango seed. This is not a dye but is meant to condition hair. Ancient Sunrise supplies mango seed butter here. Neem is another popular ayurvedic herb used for hair conditioning in either a powder or oil form. Neem does not dye hair. Arjun is an ayurvedic herb. It appears to have potential dyeing properties on fabric but needs a mordant. Its ability to dye hair is unknown. Gambhari, also known as English Beechwood, is used in ayurvedic medicine and claims to condition hair and stimulate growth. It does not dye hair. Daruhaldi is also known as Indian Barberry. The plant is used to dye fabrics and tan leather due to its high level of tannins. Its effectiveness in coloring hair is unknown. Kikkar gaund, also known as Gum Arabic, is both eaten and used in topicals. Because it contains a high amount of mucilage, it can act as a thickener or binder when mixed with water. It is a common ingredient in both cosmetics and food. It does not have dye properties.

Like sample #1, this product’s instructions recommend mixing the powder with water. It recommends leaving the paste in the hair for half an hour for conditioning, and one hour or longer for “maximum color highlights.” In one Amazon review, a customer said that the product made her hair “really red.” It is likely that the absence of indigo and the ineffectiveness of the other herbs meant for coloring caused the result to be red rather than brunette.



This product is from India. The color result advertised on the label is “dark brown.” The ingredients are as follows: “Indigofera tinctoria, Lawsonia Inermis, Embelica officianalis, Eclipta alba, Azadiracta indica, Bacopa monnieri, Vetiveria zizaniodes. The first three ingredients are indigo, henna, and amla powder respectively. A dark brunette mix should have a higher proportion of indigo to henna. Amla powder functions as an acid and aids henna/indigo mixes in binding to the hair effectively for a darker result. Eclipta alba, also known as bhringraj, is an ayurvedic herb known for its potential hair growth properties. Azadiracta indica, as mentioned before in sample #2, is also known as neem. Bacopa monnieri, also known as brahmi, is an ayurvedic herb that claims to promote hair growth. Finally, vetiveria zizaniodes is also called vetiver, which is another ayurvedic herb meant to condition hair and stimulate growth. Vetiver has a pleasant scent. Ancient Sunrise carries a soap bar which contains cardamom and vetiver. Except for the initial three ingredients, the remaining reported ingredients are ayurvedic herbs without dyeing properties.

The package includes gloves, a plastic cap, and an instructional pamphlet. It includes warnings about sensitivity and instructions for patch testing. The product warns about potential headaches and itching. This is most likely in reference to the reaction to indigo powder, which causes some people to have discomfort. To learn more about plant dye powder allergies, read “Plant Dye Powders and Seasonal Allergies.”

The product recommends using coconut oils or other oils to relieve itching or headaches. Itching after using plant dye powders is often due to acidity or failure to fully rinse out all residue. Because this product contains ingredients other than henna and indigo, it is difficult to determine if something else may cause such a reaction. To learn more about dryness and itching after using plant dyes, read “Why Hair Feels Dry After Henna and How to Fix It.”

The instructions recommend mixing the powder with warm water and a teaspoon of salt. Ancient Sunrise recommends adding salt to indigo paste to help the dye bind more effectively to the hair. Because this product is a premixed powder, it is not possible to mix salt with indigo paste separately before adding it to the henna paste. This product recommends leaving the paste in the hair for 2-3 hours. It also recommends using a hairdryer after rinsing. Heat can help deepen the resulting color. However, as with the other samples, this product does not recommend a dye-release period.


This product is from India. The ingredients are listed as follows: “Mehindi, Harred, Berhera, Amla, Shikakai, Coffee, and other Herbal…”

Mehindi is another word for henna powder. Harred, also known a harad or haritaki, is an ayurvedic herb with a variety of reported health benefits. Its scientific name is Terminalia chebula. It does not dye hair. Berhera (Terminalia bellerica) goes by many names including behara and belleric. It appears that the combination of haritaki, belleric, and amla powders is often known as “triphala,” a popular ayurvedic herbal remedy. Amla has been mentioned before and is an effective dye-release agent as well as a popular ayurvedic herb. Shikakai is an herb used for cleansing and conditioning hair. The addition of coffee is most likely for the purpose of color, but coffee is not an effective hair dye. Katha (Acacia catechu), also known as catechu, is an herb used both in medicines and in food as a spice. It is used as a dye for wool, silk, and cotton. Its effectiveness as a hair dye is unknown.

The ingredients list does not include indigo powder. Overall, the product appears to be henna along with a number of ayurvedic herbs, with coffee and katha potentially affecting the color result.

This product recommends mixing the liquid with “light hot water” (warm water?) in an iron bowl and letting it sit for 2-3 hours. The use of an iron bowl when mixing henna is an old tradition and is meant to affect the dye-release in a way that causes a darker result. It is now known that using iron is not necessary. There are no additional instructions regarding preparing the hair, applying, processing and rinsing. There is no inner pamphlet, standard warnings or patch test instructions.

The product claims to contain no chemicals or dyes and claims to cause zero side effects. Most likely it means no synthetic dyes. Caffeine is transdermal. The addition of coffee in this product may cause jitters and headaches.


This product labeled as henna with herbal conditioner for a dark brown result. The country of origin is India.

The ingredients are listed as follows: “Henna, Amla, Kali Harar, Tulsi, Bahera, Lodh, Jamun, Chandan, Kattha, Shikakai, Bhringraj.” Amla, shikakai, bahera, and bhringraj have been described previously in this article.

“Kali Harar” seems to be a misprint of “Kali Harad,” also known as harad , harade, or harred. This is the same herb as haritaki, which has been previously described. Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is also known as holy basil. It is an ayurvedic herb used for many purposes. Lodh (Symplocos racemosa) is a tree used for ayurvedic medicine and whose bark is used for yellow dye. Its effectiveness as a hair dye is unknown. A brief account of the plant being used for dyeing hair yellow can be found here. Jamun (Eugenia jambolana) is also known as black plum. The bark and fruit are used in avurveda. While jamun does not appear to have dyeing properties, it does contain anthocyanins which may aid in cooling or neutralizing the brighter tones from henna. Ancient Sunrise Nightfall Rose fruit acid powder is made from the purple aronia fruit also contains a high amount of anthocyanins. Ancient Sunrise Nightfall Rose Powder can be found here. Chandan is also known as sandalwood. It can be used to dye wool or fabrics red or brown but requires boiling and a mordant. Its effectiveness as a hair dye is known. Kattha is another name for katha, or catechu, which is mentioned in sample # 4.

The instructions for this product recommend mixing the powder with water and letting it sit overnight. This product does not appear to contain indigo. Because amla and other fruit powders are included with henna, the powder may be acidic enough to be able to dye release overnight when mixed with water. Like other samples, the product recommends using an iron container, which is not necessary. The instructions recommend leaving the paste in the hair for ½ an hour to 1 hour or longer.



This product is assembled and sold by an American company. The origins of the plant dye powders is not listed. This brand is commonly found in health stores in the US. The outer packaging reports that the ingredients are certified organic and contain no ammonia, peroxide, metallic salts, or PPD.

The ingredients are as follows: “Indigofera tinctoria (indigo) leaf powder, Cassia auriculata (senna) powder, Lawsonia inermis (henna) powder, Phyllanthus emblica (amla) fruit powder.” All reported ingredients save for amla powder are plant dye powders. Amla functions as an acidic component for dye-release and also assists in neutralizing warmer tones from henna and cassia.

The labeling and insert include warnings and patch testing instructions required from the FDA. Unlike some previous products in this article, this product recommends against using any metallic container or mixing implements. Metal such as stainless steel is fine to use when mixing henna. It does not cause any issues.

The instructions recommend mixing the pre-mixed powder with boiling water and applying it to the hair once it is cool enough. It claims that its “finer mesh botanicals do not need to cure.” That implies that only coarser sifts require dye-release time, which is untrue. The process of dye release involves the lawsone precursor molecules migrating from the dry powdered plant leaves into an acidic liquid environment where the molecules remain stable until the user is ready to apply. The boiling-water method will force henna to dye-release rapidly but the resulting paste will contain fewer stable aglycones and will therefore be weaker. It will often result in lighter, brassier, impermanent results.

Additional recommendations involve replacing some of the boiling water with egg or yogurt (“for extra conditioning,”), lemon juice or chamomile tea (“to bring out golden highlights”), hibiscus tea (to “intensify reds”) and coffee (“to enhance brown tones”). We know that these ingredients have little to no effect on the hair color result. Lemon juice can in fact cause the resulting hair color to oxidize much darker over time. Egg and yogurt will coat the hair and inhibit dye uptake. Coffee will not permanently color hair brown and will cause jitters and headaches. To learn more about what not to add to henna, read “Don’t Put Food on Your Head” and “Does It Dye Hair?”




This product is from India. It is labeled as “brown henna.” A single box contains six thin, flat packets. Each packet further contains a small foil pouch containing 10 grams of product and an instructional paper. Each pouch is meant to be enough for one application.

The instructions recommend mixing a packet of powder with 30-40 ml of water (roughly two to three tablespoons). The paste is then to be applied and left in the hair for 30-40 minutes.

There is no ingredient disclosure in any part of the packaging. The small amount of product per application in combination with the short processing time suggests the presence of PPD or other synthetic dyes.


This final product is made in India. I can be bought online as well as in ethnic stores. “Marron” is another word for brown. The ingredients are as follows: “Natural Henna, Aritha, Amla, Shikakai, 2 Nitro, PPD & Other Natural Herbs.” While henna is the first ingredient listed, we can see at the end of the list, “2 Nitro, PPO, & Other Natural Herbs.” It is impossible to know what the other “natural herbs” are.

PPD is clearly listed. 2 Nitro is also known as 2-Nitro-P-phenylenediamine. It is a derivative of PPD. Aritha is also known as soapnut, which is used for cleaning. It contains natural saponins. It does not dye hair. Whether or not it is ideal to use a saponin in a henna mix is unknown. The natural soap may or may not affect dye uptake.

It is likely that the majority of the color effect in this product comes from PPD and its derivative. Indigo is not listed as an ingredient, yet the product claims to color hair brown. The instructions recommend mixing the powder with water and letting it sit for 30 minutes before applying, then leaving it in the hair for 2-3 hours. This is a very long time for a product containing PPD. Most box hair colors that contain PPD recommend processing for no more than half an hour.

Powder and Paste Qualities

5 grams of each product was measured into respective containers. Color, scent, and texture was noted for each sample. Each sample was mixed with 15 ml of room temperature distilled water. Prior to stirring, one can often see larger plant particulates which rise the surface of the water. Color, scent, and texture of the resulting pastes were noted.

While plant dye powders can vary in color, it is not always indicative of quality or freshness. A common misconception is that fresh henna powder has a bright green color. In some cases, green dye is added to the powder to make the appearance more appealing. Pure henna powder can be pale brownish green to bright green in color. Indigo powder tends to be very bright green. When mixed with water, indigo will turn a deep green-blue. Additional herbal plant powders may affect the color of the powder and paste. What is not ordinary is for powders and pastes to be vivid orange or red, or very dark brown or black.


The powder is a light olive green color. It has an earthy, plant scent without any strong synthetic, floral, or herbal scents. The sift appeared average to the naked eye. When water was added, the liquid turned a dark green color almost instantly. Some larger plant particulates (pieces of leaf, vein, or petiole) floated to the surface of the liquid. After stirring, the resulting paste was dark green, slightly gritty, and had a faint herbal scent.


The color of this powder was a light, yellow-olive color. The scent was plant-like and neutral. The powder included some soft lumps that broke with a light touch. When mixed with water, the resulting paste was a medium green. Some larger plant particulates were visible floating on the surface of the liquid prior to stirring, but not as many as in sample #1.


The powder was chalky sage green. The sift appeared normal to the naked eye. No strong scent was noted, but the classic “frozen peas” scent of indigo could be detected. Upon adding water, the paste turned a medium to deep green color. A fair amount of particulates were floating on the surface of the water. The paste had a stretchy, mucous texture which is common with hennas from certain regions.


This powder was a dusty, light brown color. The scent of amla and other herbs was predominant. A considerable amount of larger plant particulates could be seen both in the powder and floating on the surface of the added water. The paste was a gray-brown color with a lumpy, gritty, and mucous texture.


The powder was a dusty, light brown color, somewhat lighter than that of sample #4. No chunks or large plant particulates were visible. The powder had a notable “herbal henna blend” scent. When mixed with water, the paste frothed. The paste had a faint metallic and chlorine scent along with the herbal scent.


The powder was a bright, light green color. There were not large plant particulates visible in the powder. The classic indigo scent was present. There was no noticeable herbal or synthetic fragrance scent. When water was added, the powder turned a bright green color. After mixing, the paste was thick and dense like wet clay. The paste was a similar color to cooked spinach.


The powder was a green-gray color with some soft lumps that broke apart under light pressure. No discernible scent was noted. The paste frothed when mixed with water. The color of the paste was a chalky sage green.


Immediately upon opening the package, this product had a strange, strong scent that was difficult to describe or identify. The color of the powder was terracotta orange. When water was added, some plant particulates could be seen floating on the surface. The paste was a bright orange-brown and had a thick consistency like icing.

Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Twilight Henna (ASRT)

This powder had a pale, yellow-green color and scent like dried grass or straw. After adding water, there were very few plant particulates noticeable on the surface. The paste had a mucous-like and lumpy consistency similar to cottage cheese upon first stirring. The paste became smoother and stringy after stirring. The color of the paste was a muddy greenish brown.

Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo (ASZI)

This powder is fine and fluffy with a bright green color like matcha tea powder. It has a distinct scent that is slightly metallic and reminiscent of frozen peas. When mixed with water, the paste is dense and smooth like wet clay. The paste turns a deep, blue-green.

2:1 Ratio of ASZI and ASRT

For the purposes of this article, a mixture of two parts indigo and one part henna was created to mimic a premixed product intended to color hair dark brunette. Normally, henna and indigo pastes are mixed separately before being combined. This resultant powder naturally showed characteristics of both ASRT and ASZI. The color was a lighter green than indigo powder alone, and mixed to a dense and slightly slippery paste.


Paper chromatography is a simple method used to separate dyes and/or to determine the existence of dyes in a substance. A small sample of the substance is placed on a strip of paper which is lowered into a glass chamber where the end of the paper strip wicks a liquid solvent. As the solvent moves up the strip and through the sample, the dye or dyes are pulled up along the paper at varying rates. By comparing chromatography results of different “henna for hair” product samples, one can see speculate on the dyes contained in each sample. Part One of this series discusses the chromatography method in further detail.

Here is a time-lapse video of a paper chromatography test from Part One.


This group of samples was tested under the same conditions as the set from Part One. Samples were tested in

1) A solvent of 99% isopropyl alcohol for 20 minutes,

2) A solvent of equal parts distilled water and 99% alcohol for 15 minutes, and

3) A solvent of equal parts distilled water and 100% acetone for 15 minutes.

It was necessary to test samples under multiple conditions because the target dyes were unknown. As will be seen in the results, some dyes will react differently to each solvent. Unlike the samples in Part One, which were mixed with a leon juice dilution and allowed time for dye release, these samples were mixed with distilled water only. The resulting pastes were applied to the paper strips and tested immediately. This is because a number of the samples in this group contain indigo which releases rapidly and requires a neutral or alkaline environment. In addition, most of the products’ instructions recommended mixing with water only. In order to maintain consistency across samples, room temperature distilled water was used with each sample rather than following individual product mixing instructions.


99% Isopropyl Alcohol for 20 Minutes

Each sample was tested on five individual paper chromatography strips. Most results were consistent; occasional inconsistent results were disregarded and attributed to variation in paper strip composition or other unforeseeable factors.

Below is a comparison of all samples including Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Twilight Henna (ASRT), Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo (ASZI), and a 2:1 ratio of ASZI and ASRT. One strip of each sample was selected to create this image. Note that the solvent front (the highest point reached by the solvent) is consistently lower in samples 1-5. This is due to inconsistency in the paper strip manufacturing rather than a difference in the product samples. However, it cannot be ruled out that the change in paper density may have affected the way we visually interpret the results.

Additionally, this image was taken after all samples had been tested and the paper strips had fully dried for several hours. Some samples lost color while others deepened in color. This will be discussed in the Limitations and Considerations section. Following images will show samples immediately following testing.

99% isopropyl alcohol is a virtually anhydrous solution. In other words, there is very little water. While a very small amount of water exists in the sample paste and in the solvent, it may not be enough to cause oxidation. Therefore, this condition should not reveal much lawsone or indigo dye. We see significant differences in the colors of samples 7, 8, and 2:1.


The result had a very pale, yellow-green tone. While the stain appears mostly even from the point of application to the highest point reached by the solvent (also known as the solvent front), the deeper part of the stain appears to end about two thirds of the way up. This sample reported henna, indigo, centaurea, and beetroot as its ingredients.


Sample #2 had results which were paler in color. This was an herbal blend which contained henna along with many other herbs which may or may not have dyes. While Sample #1 contained some amount of indigo, this sample does not.

The result also showed some very slight green-blue vertical stripes which may suggest that dye was added to affect the color of the powder. This was seen in a sample in Part One of this series. Because it has been believed that a green henna powder indicates freshness, some manufacturers add dye to change the powder’s appearance. It is possible that this is what happened here. Part One discusses the practice in more detail.

Sample #3

The result was a yellow-green tone similar to the result for sample #1. Like #1, this sample also reported indigo in its ingredient list. The dyes involved in this sample did not move with the solvent as much as the previous two; much of the coloration remained lower near the point of application rather than rising all the way to the solvent front.

Sample #4

This sample’s results was closer to that of Sample #2. Sample#4 and #2 are both herbal blends which do not list indigo in the ingredients. Thus, the result is very pale because whatever henna may be included in the mix is diluted with herbal ingredients which contain no dye. However, this sample shows some dark red-brown banding that appears just above the point of application and does not move further up the strip. This is inconsistent with henna’s lawsone dye. It is unclear what may cause such results.

Sample #5

This was another henna/avurvedic herbal blend which did not include indigo in the ingredients list. Similar to Sample #4, the result was mostly pale with some darker red-brown banding just above the point of application.

Sample #6

It should be noted that while the solvent front for this sample is much higher than the previous five samples, this is most likely due to a change in the manufacturing of the paper strip rather than a factor of the sample itself. This sample showed a gray-green color which was darkest about halfway between the point of application and the solvent front. One can see some banding about a centimeter above the point of application. This sample reported indigo as its first ingredient, followed by henna, cassia, and amla. The result is visually similar to the results of samples #1 and #3.

Sample #7

This sample differed from previous samples. There was a light red-brown band just above the point of application as well as some green vertical striping, most noticeable in the paper strip second from the right. As the sample dried and oxidized, the overall color deepened further and the green tone was overtaken. This effect was unlike that of most other samples which darkened very little. This product did not include a list of ingredients. The green coloration is very likely due to the same kind cause as in sample #2: an added synthetic dye rather than indigo.

Sample #8

This sample showed results unlike any of the previous seven samples. The overall stain was deep orange with a very noticeable red-brown band above the point of application. While the product reported two forms of PPD in addition to henna and some ayurvedic herbs, this does not explain the vivid orange color. There is very likely another dye or number of other dyes which were not listed.


The Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Twilight henna sample showed a pale stain that was similar to samples #1-6 but had a warmer orange tone. This would make sense as this is a pure henna whereas the other samples in this collection are blends of henna and other plant powders.


This sample was pure Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo. The result was a deep olive green color with some hints of banding about halfway between then application point and the solvent front. As the sample dried, the color oxidized to a pale, gray blue.


This sample was a blend of two parts Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo and one part Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Twilight henna. This mix is what is recommended for dark brunette results. The color was much like the results for pure indigo powder, but with a slightly warmer tone due to the addition of henna. When the paper strips dried, the color oxidized to a cooler brown tone.

Of the eight samples, sample #6 came closest in appearance to the 2:1 indigo/henna mix. Sample #6 reports indigo as its first ingredient, followed by cassia auriculata, henna, and amla.

Sample #3 also reports indigo as its first ingredient, then followed by henna, amla, and a number of herbs that do not dye. The results from sample #3 also have a similar, gray-green tone, but much lighter. It is likely that the strength of the plant dyes was diluted with the addition of other plan powders.

1:1 Dilutions for 15 Minutes

The results from an anhydrous solvent such as isopropyl alcohol will differ from that of a solvent containing water. In prior tests, using pure acetone as a solvent yielded results that were not useful; therefore, pure acetone was not used as a solvent condition in this series at all. In the case of the lawsone and indigo dye molecules, they require at least some water in order to oxidize. While the samples in the 99% isopropyl alcohol condition above were mixed with a few milliliters of water, it was not quite enough to allow the colors of the dye molecules to show.

This section reports results of the using A) a 1:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and distilled water and B) a 1:1 mixture of acetone and distilled water. Overall, the stains on the samples were much more visible. Results from both conditions were relatively similar to one another. Samples #7 and #8 were especially unique.

Below are results for both conditions. The top image shows the results for the 1:1 alcohol/water solvent condition. The bottom image shows results for the 1:1 acetone/water solvent condition.

Sample #1

Results from this sample were a pale orange tone which was darkest below the halfway point between the point of application and the solvent front, suggesting a wide dye band. As the paper strip dried, the color appeared lighter. The acetone/water solvent condition yielded a darker result and seemed to show a muted, red-brown section from the point of application to roughly halfway up, and a lighter orange tone closer to the solvent front.

Sample #2

Sample #2 appeared very similar to sample #1 but lighter in color. In the 1:1 alcohol/water solvent condition, the stain more even from the point of application to the solvent front. In the 1:1 acetone/water condition, a similar red-brown tone is visible from the point of application to about 2/3rds of the way up. While there was a light green streak in the results for the 99% isopropyl alcohol condition, a green tinge can be seen in the 1:1 alcohol/water condition. The green dye moved all the way up to the solvent front, where it created a thin line. The green tone was no longer visible under the 1:1 acetone/water condition. This suggests that whatever caused the green color is a dye that interacts differently with acetone and alcohol.

A faint green line is perceptible at the very edge of the solvent front in sample #2.

Sample #3

Sample #3 was, like in the first condition, very similar to samples #1 and 2. No distinct banding is noticeable, but the stain gradually fades as it approaches the solvent front. In the 1:1 acetone/water condition, the solvent moved much further up the paper strip. This is most likely due to a variation in the paper itself. As the samples from the 1:1 acetone/water solvent condition dried, the color oxidized moderately and showed a soft brown tone.

Sample #4

Sample #4 was similar to the previous three samples. There is no distinct banding and the color appears relatively even from the point of application to the solvent front, but fades somewhat as it approaches the solvent front. There is a muted red-brown tone from the point of application to about halfway up to the solvent front. Above the halfway point, the color is lighter and brighter. The color of the results deepened slightly after the paper strip dried.

Sample #5

The paper strip in the center of the 1:1 alcohol/water solvent should be disregarded as an inconsistent result most likely caused by a variation in the paper strip. In the 1:1 acetone/water solvent condition, the height of the solvent fronts matched. Sample #5 showed an even, light orange stain and no distinct banding.

Sample #6

This sample was very similar to samples #1-3. The result was pale and even with no distinct banding. On some strips in the 1:1 alcohol/water condition, the color appears darker neat the point of application and gradually fades toward the solvent front. In the 1:1 acetone/water condition, the color appears to be more concentrated near the solvent front in a brighter orange band.

Sample #7

The darker color is much more prominent in this condition in comparison to the result from using 99% isopropyl alcohol solvent. As the paper strip dried, the color oxidized further. This sample did not include an ingredients list in its packaging. The deep, almost purple-gray tone suggests that this sample may contain PPD. A previous test of black hair dye containing PPD yielded results which had a similar color, but much darker.

Sample #8

The bright orange color detected in the first condition is even more prominent in this second condition. While pure henna can color hair and skin a deep orange color similar to this, it is clear that this vivid orange tone is cause by some other type of dye. The lawsone dye molecule requires a slow and steady dye release period in an acidic environment. Given the right conditions, a good lawsone stain will oxidize to a deep orange to reddish-brown on light hair. This product, on the other hand, was tested immediately after being mixed with distilled water. It yielded a vivid orange result immediately.


Both conditions resulted in a light, orange tone which slightly after the paper strips dried. In comparison to the 99% isopropyl alcohol condition, the dye is more visible. This is likely because the lawsone dye molecule was unable to release and oxidize as well in an anyhydrous condition; in other words, some amount of water is necessary for lawsone to create a visible stain.


While the initial result of the 1:1 alcohol/water solvent condition was paler, some potential banding can be seen in the 1:1 acetone/water condition. The result shows some muted blue-green tone upon removal. After the paper strips dried and oxidized, the color of the results in both conditions deepened to a blue-violet tone. This is in line with the normal oxidation process of the indigo molecule.


In both conditions, the results of the 2:1 mixture of ASZI and ASRT appeared initially pale orange in tone. This is likely because the lawsone dye from the henna was more visually prominent at first. However, as the paper strips dried and the dyes oxidized, more of the cool tones from the indigo molecule emerged, turning the overall color a muted brown tone. Based on this result, one would expect that other samples which include more indigo than henna should show a similar result. However, with the exception of samples #7 and 8, the products tested in this article all yielded pale orange brown results that look more similar to the ASRT sample than the 2:1 mixture.


Samples # 1, 3, and 6 reported indigo in their ingredients disclosures. One would expect for the chromatography results to appear similar to that of the 2:1 mixture of Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo and Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Twilight henna, and different from the sample of Ancient Sunrise Rajasthani Henna alone.

In the 1:1 solvent/water dilution conditions, the sample of Ancient Sunrise Zekhara Indigo alone yielded results which were green at first, and which oxidized to a pale violet tone. This tone deepened the result of the 2:1 mixture. This is especially noticeable in the 1:1 alcohol/water condition. After drying, the result was a light, cool brown. One would expect to see a similar tone in samples #1, 3, and 6. Samples #1 and 3 show some slightly cooler tones in comparison to the ARST sample and other samples which did not include indigo. Sample #6 did produce a greenish color in the 99% isopropyl alcohol condition. After the paper strip dried, that color oxidized to a cooler brown tone that was more prominent that the previous five samples of the same condition. In the 1:1 acetone/water condition, the result of sample #6 was much lighter, with a golden band appearing just below the solvent front.

Assuming that the product tested did include henna and (in the case of #1, 3, and 6) indigo, it is likely that the addition of other plant powders diluted the appearance of the lawsone and indigo dyes. The quality of the plant dye powders could have also affected the results.

The most salient results came from samples #7 and 8. Sample #7 did not include any ingredients disclosure on its packaging whatsoever. Nor was any information about ingredients available online. The fact that Sample #7 provided extremely small packets of powder, each of which is meant as one application, suggests a high likelihood of the product containing oxidative dyes. The product is reminiscent of many small, concentrated powdered hair dyes which contain PPD which are sometimes used to create “black henna.” These powders have little to no scent. A true henna product requires at least 100 grams of powder to color collar-length hair of average thickness. It is meant to be made into a thick paste, rather than a thin, paint-like liquid.

This is an example of a powdered PPD-based hair dye. Very little powder is necessary for a complete application because the dye is concentrated. 

Sample #8 reported PPD and 2 Nitro, a derivative of PPD, on its ingredients list. However, the results of the chromatography tests yielded deep orange results. PPD alone results in a deep, violet-black stain depending on the concentration. This product appears to have a lower concentration of PPD (this does not mean it is safe!) and another dye which is not reported. The ingredients list includes the phrase “other natural herbs.” It is possible that one of the “other natural herbs” is responsible for the orange color. However, it is more likely that the product includes a synthetic dye, possibly an azo dye or a concentrate food coloring, to bring about this result.

Sample #2 showed some faint, green-blue vertical streaks in the 99% alcohol condition. In the 1:1 alcohol/water condition, the same color can be seen at the solvent front. This result different from the blue-green tones of indigo. Unlike indigo, it did not oxidize to a deeper blue-violet tone over time. Additionally, the dye appeared in streaks rather than as a consistent stain. Sample #2 did not report indigo in its ingredients list. It is likely that this sample included a synthetic dye meant to alter the color of the powder itself. A similar effect appeared in Part One of this series.

In all, samples #1-6 showed visually similar results with some variation. They were visually comparable to the ASRT sample and 2:1 ARZI/ASRT samples. Sample #2 showed some blue-green streaks which suggest an added synthetic dye. Sample #7 yielded a very dark brown result which suggests the presence of PPD. Sample #8 yielded a vivid orange result which is very likely due to an added synthetic dye.

Limitations and Considerations

The purpose of this article was to compare a number of products labeled and sold as “henna for hair” products which claim to color hair brunette or brown. It is important to note that the results of the paper chromatography tests are in no way meant to indicate the color result of using any of these products on hair. Paper and hair do not dye the same way, nor was the purpose of this article to demonstrate hair color results.

The hope was that the results of the paper chromatography tests would show distinct color bands which could be compared to Ancient Sunrise henna and indigo results to determine the presence of lawsone and indigo dyes. However, very few results showed distinct dye bands. Future tests should consider new solvent conditions which may show clearer results. Tests using more advanced chromatography methods would be able to separate and identify dyes more successfully.

As noted earlier, the paper strips used for the chromatography tests varied in density. This caused the solvent to move more quickly and higher up the strip in some tests, and more slowly in others. This was an unforeseen factor caused by inconsistent manufacturing. Future tests should make sure to use high quality paper strips which are reliably consistent.

The results of the chromatography tests changed in color as the paper strips dried and as the dyes oxidized. Some dyes oxidized more than others while some colors faded rather than darkened. Because there was no way to test all samples at the exact same time, each paper strip was at a different stage of oxidation when all samples were completed. While photos of each sample was taken just after removal from the processing tank, variation in lighting and camera settings made it difficult to visually compare results. Future studies should take into consideration camera and lighting control.

The final step in this exploration of premixed “henna for hair” products would be to investigate a number of products marketed for coloring hair black. No doubt many products labeled as henna in this category will contain PPD. In some cases, “black henna” sold for both hair and skin is simply a highly concentrated PPD product with little to no henna content. Future investigations should follow the same or similar procedures as Part One and Two of this series to investigate such “black henna” products.

Analysis of Products Marketed as Henna for Hair: Part One

Table of Contents


There is a wide variety of products available for coloring hair which claim to be pure henna, or which claim to contain pure henna powder along with additional natural plant ingredients. There is no international standard for what can be marketed as henna, and it is often difficult to tell which products are what they claim to be. Many henna for hair products lack an ingredient declaration. A package may show only some ingredients or have no ingredients list at all.

Additionally, products which claim to contain all-natural ingredients vary in quality as there are no internationally agreed upon standards for “all natural”. Powders may be poorly sifted, containing sand or larger plant particles which make for difficult application and removal. Stale or low dye-content henna products may contain additives such as additional dyes or metallic salts to compensate for poor quality of materials. Green dye may be added to henna powder to make it look fresher.

The FDA has a standard for henna and products entering the United States labeled as a “henna” hair coloring product. These guidelines are do not appear to be regularly enforced as are regulations for products labeled as henna for use on skin.

The FDA forbids the sale of and is empowered to confiscate of any henna product labeled for skin use, or products showing images of henna used on skin. Customs and border protection is empowered to search the importing company’s website to determine if henna is intended for use on skin, and may seize and destroy henna that appears to be imported for use on skin.

“Black henna,” or products labeled as henna containing PPD, have been known to cause skin reactions and sensitization. For more information about black henna, read the articles “Henna is not Black,” “What You Need to Know About PPD,” and Chapter One of the Ancient Sunrise E-book.

This article is the first of a series that will test and compare various “henna for hair” products which have been found online on sites such as Amazon and Ebay, in import stores in the USA, and in ‘health food stores’. The purpose of these studies will be to determine the quality of those products in comparison to Ancient Sunrise® Henna for Hair products, and to test for the existence of dye additives. This series will feature articles investigating products within the following categories:

  • 1.“Pure” henna, herbal henna mixes, and red result henna for hair products
  • 2. Brunette result henna for hair products
  • 3. Black result henna for hair products

This article will cover the first category by investigating nine samples of retail henna hair dye products which are labeled and/or advertised as 100% pure henna, a 100% natural mix of henna and additional “herbs”, or as henna-based hair products which claim to color the hair red. Subsequent articles will report on henna for hair products claiming to color hair brunette and black.

The first part of this article will report on product labeling, visual and textural qualities of the products as dry powders, and visual and textural qualities of products when mixed with liquid to form a paste. The second part of this article will report the results of paper chromatography tests designed to determine the existence of dyes, lawsone or otherwise, in each sample.

Sample Selection and Label Analysis

Nine “henna” hair dye products were selected based on the following criteria:

1) The product claims to contain only 100% natural henna.


2) The product claims to be 100% natural, containing henna along with additional “herbs.”


3) The product either claims a red result or does NOT claim to dye the hair brunette or black.*

*Products that claim to contain henna and other plant powders for brunette and black hair results will be tested and reported in future articles.

Not all products that are marketed as 100% pure henna state explicitly state a hair color result, as some are marketed for both hair and skin, as well as for mixing with other plant dye powders such as indigo. Henna has been used for hair, skin, and home remedies for centuries. It can be assumed that if a product claims to be 100% henna, it should provide a reddish result on lighter hair..

These products are a random collection of henna products purchased in shops and online, easily accessible to the retail consumer. In fact, very few brands, if any, submit their plant dye powders to the same testing standards as Ancient Sunrise®. Ancient Sunrise® products are sent to an independent laboratory for multiple tests prior to sale to ensure they do not contain adulterants, accidental or deliberate.

Below are images of the labels for the nine samples. Beyond this section, each sample will be referred to as its corresponding number. They will be tested alongside Ancient Sunrise® Rajasthani Twilight henna powder, which will be referred to as “AS”.

Sample #1

The product claims to be 100% natural. The ingredients are reported as “100% Natural Henna Powder.” The product also claims to be organic.

This product fits into criterion 1. There is no information suggesting there are other ingredients other than henna. The label would lead the everyday consumer to assume that the contents of the packaging are pure, natural henna powder.

However, descriptions on sites selling this product claim a “Beautiful golden brown color” which is inconsistent with results expected from pure henna. This would suggest either 1) The product is not what it claims to be or 2) Poor quality product and/or poor instructions lead to a lighter result.

Instructions are included on the back of the packaging. On the side of the box, it states that this is a product of India.

Sample #2

This product fits both criteria 1 and 3, as it claims to be 100% natural henna powder, and also reports a red result in addition to showing multiple images of red hair on the packaging.

No instructions were provided. The label includes an address of an import company. The website listed does not exist. Some additional searching found that the company has a contract with a manufacturing and export company in Pakistan, and that this is one type of product they export, along with clothing and gift items.

Sample #3

While the front of this package claims it is 100% natural henna, and states that the shade is copper, the back is unclear. It says “Copper: for dark blond, light brown hair,” which most likely means that dark blonde or light brown hair may be colored to a copper color. It also mentions “neutral henna” which suggests that it contains cassia obovata. However, on the website, the only ingredient listed for this product is “Lawsonia inermis (henna) leaf extract.” Based on the reported ingredients, this product fits criterion 1 as a product that claims to be pure henna.

A pamphlet included in the box provides instructions which recommend mixing the paste with hot water and applying once the mixture has cooled.

While the packaging says that the product is made in France, there is no indication of the origin of the henna powder. If it does contain henna, it is most likely mixed and/or assembled in France with ingredients imported from elsewhere.

Sample #4

This product claims to contain henna under the insert’s first section, “Composition.” It claims to provide a deep red result. However, the description is confusing, as it states that lawsone and “mannitte” are responsible for coloring. If mannite is to be understood as the sugar alcohol, mannitol, it would not affect color.

The product claims to be “Henna with natural herbs,” but these additional ingredients are not reported anywhere. In the chromatography section, it will become clear that this product clearly contains more than just henna powder.

This product includes instructions on the insert, and is a product of Egypt.

Sample #5

This product’s label includes something close to an ingredients list, as it reports henna powder along with additional herbs which are meant to affect the color result as well as to condition the hair.

This product fits criterion 2. There is no indication of color result, other than stating that the blend of herbs and henna “give the dark color”. In fact, the label states “It does not contain any colour or dye.” This may be intended to mean that the product does not contain any synthetic dyes. If the product does contain henna, it would color light hair a red tone. None of the additional herbs listed are ones which produce a dye, but some plant powders can affect the tone of hennaed hair. This is most likely what the packaging means to suggest.

The instructions recommend mixing the product with water in an “iron vessel”* and letting it sit for to hours. If the product does contain amla powder, it may be enough to create an acidic mix.

The product was manufactured in India.

*An iron dye pot can be effective at decreasing the vibrancy of dye colors in a boiling pot to dye yarn or cloth, but will not change the result of henna on hair. The iron pot may cause the dye released paste surface to look browner, but there is no significant effect on the hair.

Sample #6

This product, like #5, is labeled as a henna and herbal mix for conditioning hair, but does not explicitly state a color result. On the product’s site, it is described as providing a “rich burgundy shade.”

The front of the packaging includes the words “100% natural” and “Mehendi,” another term for henna. It is unclear whether this should be read as two phrases or one, as the from also clearly states that there are nine additional herbs. The back of the package describes supposed benefits of the added herbs. The phrase “Rajasthani Mehendi” means that the henna in this product is from the Rajasthan region of India, which is where much of the world’s henna, including Ancient Sunrise® henna, is grown.

The ingredients list states that henna powder is the first ingredient, followed by powder forms of the following: aloe, neem, brahmi, bhringraj, amla, hibiscus flower, shikakai, jatamansi, and methi. All of these ingredients are commonly known and sold in South Asian stores as health and beauty herbs.

This product has instructions on the back of the packaging. It recommends mixing the powder with water and letting it sit for 2-3 hours. Like sample #5, it is possible that some of the added herbs are acidic enough that water would be enough. It also suggests adding oil or curd for “extra softness.” Doing so would affect the dye uptake, leading to lighter results. To learn more about what not to add to henna mixes, read Henna for Hair 101: Don’t Put Food On Your Head.

It is from India, and is a very popular “henna for hair” product both in South Asia and in the States, and is widely available online and in international grocery stores.

Sample #7

This product claims to contain henna. The brand’s website describes it as a 100% natural product. The site also sells “henna neutral” (cassia powder) and “henna black/basma” (indigo powder), which would suggest that their “henna red” is their henna (lawsonia inermis) powder. Therefore, this product seems to fit criterion 1, a product is labeled/advertised as a 100% pure henna powder product, but it is not entirely clear due to a lack of ingredient declaration.

However, the table on the back seems inconsistent with true henna results, as they suggest that, one would see some variation of brunette or copper results. Like sample #1, it is possible that this is either due to the product containing additional ingredients, or ineffective mixing/application methods.

I will still include this product in within this group of samples because it is both labeled as henna, includes the word “red,” and the website claims it is a 100% natural product.

There is a US address on the back, but no indication of where the henna was grown.

Sample #8

This product fits criterion 1 as it claims to be 100% natural henna. It includes instructions on the back of the packaging. The brand’s website appears to sell additional hair care products such as shampoos, conditioners, and oils. The product has an Indian address on its packaging.

Sample #9

This product qualifies for criterion 1 as a product that claims to be pure henna powder. The information made available on this packaging is minimal. It states that it contains natural “hina” (henna) powder with no added chemicals, and that henna has been used as a dye for centuries. There are no instructions. The address listed is in London, UK, but the source of the henna is not listed. An internet search found that this brand, like sample #2, is part of an international exporting company that sells a variety of items such as health product, gifts, and books. It specializes in Islamic items.

Powder and Paste Qualities

There was a wide variation in powder sift, texture, and scent among the samples. When mixed with liquid, the resulting pastes also varied in qualities.

Ancient Sunrise® henna is grown in the Rajasthan region of India and is finely sifted. Many of the Rajasthani hennas have a slimy, stringy texture when made into a paste. This is because henna plants will have more or less natural mucilage depending on the cultivar (variety of plant). Not all hennas have this texture, and some are naturally more creamy. Pakistani henna tends to have less mucilage and a greater coefficient of expansion. The higher coeffient of expansion and lower mucilage leads to paste cracking when henna is used as body art; it does not make any difference in hair application.

It could be assumed that hennas manufactured in a country were also grown there, unless the address is outside of where henna is naturally grown, such as those products with company addresses in Europe or the United States. In the case of the latter, it not possible to determine the origin of the henna. More information on this textural quality of henna pastes can be found on page 23 and 24 of Chapter Four: Henna Science and Microscopy from the Ancient Sunrise free E-book.

Quality henna powder should not be gritty, chunky, or contain visible pieces of plant leaf and/or stem. Henna should not bubble or turn frothy when mixed with liquid. Some other plant powders which contain saponins, such as Zizyphus, do froth. Bubbles may also indicate some reaction between the acidic liquid and an unknown ingredient in the powder.

Pure henna has a neutral, plant-like odor similar to dried straw or hay. It does not smell floral or spicy; it smells like leaves. Pure henna powder does not have a perfumed, pine, camphor, or eucalyptus scent. Henna powders can vary in color from light green to olive green. While color can be indicative of the powder’s freshness and quality, it is not always the case. Powders can be made greener by adding dyes.

For products labeled as henna for use on hair, the FDA has the following specifications:

“It shall not contain more than 10 percent of plant material from Lawsonia alba Lam. (Lawsonia inermis L.) other than the leaf and petiole, and shall be free from admixture with material from any other species of plant.

Moisture, not more than 10 percent.

Total ash, not more than 15 percent.

Acid-insoluble ash, not more than 5 percent.

Lead (as Pb), not more than 20 parts per million.

Arsenic (as As), not more than 3 parts per million.”

In other words, a product labeled as henna needs to be made from the leaf or petiole (leaf stalk) of the plant rather than the bark, roots, or any other part. It should be a dry good. It should contain no more than 15 percent inorganic filler, or ash. This can include substances such as sand and metallic salts. “Free from admixture with material from any other species of plant” means that products containing henna mixed with other herbs or plant materials are illegal to enter the United States. Several of the products selected for this article are labeled as herb mixes. Others, while labeled as pure henna, smell like additional herbs were included but not reported on the labeling or ingredients.

Please note that even if a henna product conforms to FDA standards, this does not necessarily make it a quality product. This list is simply the minimum for what the FDA considers an acceptably safe product for sale and use within the United States. A product labeled as henna for hair could be roughly ground henna leaves with 15% sand and still be legal. It is also important to mention that this article does not aim to determine the legality or safety of any of the products tested. This article serves only to report on observable physical qualities and on the presence of dyes in each product.

Below are the observations on each sample.

#1. This product was labeled as 100% natural, organic henna powder. No other ingredients were reported. The color was not of any concern. However, there was a faint herbal scent that suggested additional plant powders were added, most likely one or more of those commonly found in henna herbal mixes, such as shikakai, neem and so forth. The sift was fine. When mixed into a paste, the consistency was acceptable; its a slimy, gel-like texture was similar to Rajasthani hennas, such as the AS sample. This makes sense, given that product was from India.

#2. This product also claimed to be pure henna. However, there was a very noticeable herbal scent. The color of the powder was much deeper than a henna powder should be, almost like the color of nutmeg powder. Larger particles in the powder suggested a low sift. When mixed into a paste, the product frothed slightly and had a gritty consistency. The paste also showed a darker color than would be normal for a henna paste that had just been mixed. Shikakai powder has a red tone and herbal scent, lathers slightly when mixed. This may explain the qualities in found with this product, but would mean that the product is definitely not pure henna.

#3 The product claimed to be pure henna. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the color or texture of this product. Some of the powder formed soft lumps which could be broken with light pressure. There was no discernible scent beyond a normal plant-like scent. The color was acceptable for henna powder. The paste consistency was thinner and runnier than the others, despite all powders being mixed with the same amount of liquid.

#4. The product was labeled as “henna with natural herbs.” There was a very strong herbal scent of something other than henna. The powder was a vivid, brick red, and did smell like the other “herbal hennas” and like samples #1 and #2. The powder had large plant particulate matter and long, thin pieces of plant fiber. When liquid was added, the liquid itself immediately turned blood red even prior to mixing. The paste, after mixing, was blood red. This suggests that the product contains a water-soluble red dye. The paste texture was much grittier than a normal henna paste should be. Shikakai would not be a sufficient explanation for the color of this powder because while it has a red color, shikakai does not produce a dye.

#5. This product was labeled as henna with added herbs. The scent matched this. The powder showed large stem and/or leaf fiber particles which were easily visible to the naked eye. The paste consistency reflected this lower level of sift. There was a slight sliminess to the paste; if better sifted, the product may have produced a paste similar to a Rajasthani henna. The light green-brown color of the powder and paste was similar to how a henna product should appear.

#6. This product, like #5, was labeled as an herbal henna. Both had similar added herbs reported on their packaging. The product was better sifted than #5, but some plant particulates were visible. The powder had an herbal scent. The paste showed more of the shiny, slimy mucilage texture than #5, but not as much as can be seen in the AS sample. This would match the packaging’s statement that the henna was from the Rajasthan region of India. The powder and paste colors were a light green-brown consistent with natural henna products.

#7. This product was the “red henna” product of three sold by the company: Red (henna), Neutral (cassia), and Black (indigo). One might assume that the products are sold for the purpose of mixing, much like Ancient Sunrise plant dye powders, but it is not clear. The powder was of a light green color with pieces of plant fiber visible. The powder had an odor consistent with henna, but the product frothed when mixed with liquid. The paste was quite gritty.

#8. This product was labeled as 100% natural henna. The color was of a light greenish straw tone, along the lines of a standard henna powder color. In color, it was the sample most similar to the AS sample. When mixed with liquid, the resulting paste was noticeable gritty, but with some mucilage. There was no herbal scent.

#9. The product was also labeled as 100% natural henna. The color of the powder was deeper than what might be accepted from a henna powder, almost a muddy green. The powder appeared fairly well sifted, with some very thin, long plant fibers visible. The paste was fairly smooth but not slimy, and a mid-brown color. There was no herbal odor.

AS. This powder is finely sifted, soft to the touch, and a pale green color. No large leaf or stem pieces or fibers as visible. There is a faint dried-hay scent. The paste was a clay-green color had a smooth, slimy texture. In fact, in comparison the other samples, this sample took more focus to apply the paste to paper chromatography strips because of its mucous-like texture.


Paper chromatography is a simple method used to separate dyes in order to determine the presence of one or more dyes. The method involves placing a small sample of a substance onto a thin strip of absorbent paper, then hanging the strip so the end of it is just below the surface of a liquid solvent.

As the solvent travels up the strip, dyes move along with it. Dyes which differ in chemical structure will move at different rates before stopping. The result is that each individual dye will create its own mark at a certain place between the point of application and the solvent front (the highest point that the solvent reaches). Multiple dyes will show as multiple marks.

Below is the result of a paper chromatography test done on store-bought food coloring. One can see that the green dye is a combination of yellow and blue dyes, which were separated through the chromatography process.

One drawback of the simpler paper chromatography method is that it alone cannot identify the dye in each sample unless the target dye is already known. Because Ancient Sunrise henna powders are tested by an independent lab, it can be assumed that the only dye present is lawsone, which will show a dye band distinct from other dyes’ banding. If a product results in one or more bands that appear different from lawsone, it can be assumed that other dyes are present.

It was necessary to test each product under multiple conditions to achieve as full a picture as possible. Because the target dyes involved were unknown, it was not possible to test for specific dyes. Instead, each sample was tested multiple times. Depending on the nature of the solvent used, different dye bands were more or less visible on the results.

Chromatography Process

Unlike chromatography tests in which the target dye is known, here we are looking for the presence of dyes, whatever they may be. While we want to see the presence of lawsone, we also want to see what else may be there. “Henna” products may contain a wide variety of unknown dyes, some of which react to some solvents but not others. While a dye may show up on one type of test, it may not at all in another. Therefore, multiple solvents and solvent strengths should be used.

Pre-trial tests were conducted to determine which solvents and solvent strengths yielded the most useful results. Solvent type and strength also affected how long the sample strips were left in the tank before being removed. Leaving samples in the tank too long can risk dyes being “bleached out” by the solvents so that results became unclear. Pre-trial tests helped to determine the best processing times.

The most conclusive results came from sampling the pastes with the following solvents, strengths, and times:

  • 1. 99% isopropyl alcohol for 20 minutes
  • 2. 1:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and distilled water for 15 minutes
  • 3. 1:1 mixture of acetone and distilled water for 15 minutes

It was found that 100% acetone moved so quickly up the paper strips that no useful results were obtained. Therefore, samples on 100% acetone will not be reported in this article.

First, each product was made into a paste following classic henna dye-release methods, which will be described in more detail below. In addition, to account for the possibility of time and acidity breaking down any non-lawsone dyes, each product was tested again by mixing each powder with only distilled water and testing immediately.

Below are the methods and results of each set.

Set 1: Dye Released Paste Samples

The Lawsone Molecule in Henna

The molecule responsible for the orange/red color achieved by henna is called lawsone. In the henna plant, lawsone precursors exist. When the plant powder is mixed with a mildly acidic mix, the precursors are released as intermediary aglycone molecules in the process that is commonly known as dye release. Aglycones can release in a water-only mixture as well but will oxidize to their final stable state very quickly. The additional hydrogen atoms present in acidic liquid allow the aglycones to stay in their intermediate state longer so that the dye can release more fully before it is applied to the hair. Lawsone in its final state is oxidized and unable to bond to keratin.

The process of oxidation is what gives henna its final color. This is why hair is often lighter and brighter initially after rinsing henna. The color deepens over the course of subsequent days. When the dye molecules in henna paste oxidize before bonding to keratin, this is called demise. This is why pure lawsone on its own is useless as a hair dye.

In a mildly acidic liquid, the lawsone precursor (center) is maintained so that it can attach to keratin, after which it oxidizes to its final state (right).

Mixing and Dye Release

Each powder sample was mixed with a prepared solution of distilled water and lemon juice. Lemon juice was added to distilled water until the solution showed a pH of roughly 5.5, as indicated on a litmus strip. The resulting solution was 10 parts distilled water to 1 part lemon juice, or 100ml distilled water and 10ml lemon juice.

Five grams of each powder sample was mixed with the acidic solution to form a paste. The acidic solution was added first to the AS sample to determine an appropriate ratio for creating a paste similar to one that would be used for coloring hair. Thus, the result was 15ml acidic solution for each 5g powder sample*. All prepared pastes were kept in air-tight dark glass jars to prevent excess exposure to oxygen and light. Starting from the moment the final paste was mixed and sealed, all samples were left at 65 degrees Fahrenheit for 12.5 hours for dye release.

*Due to each powder sample varying in particle sift, some pastes were thinner or thicker than others. The variation in paste viscosity may have been a slight factor in test results, but not in any way that could lead to false results.

Set 1 Process

After dye release, a small amount of each sample was applied to paper chromatography strips 0.5 inches from the base of each strip. When not being used, all samples were kept refrigerated at approximately 37-40 degrees Fahrenheit. All samples were tested within 48 hours of dye release. Strips were hung in a glass chromatography tank containing a selected solvent so that the bottom edge of the strips sat just under the surface of the solvent. A glass plate was placed over the top of the tank to reduce airflow. After the determined time, the strips were removed and analyzed.

Below is a short time-lapse video showing how the sample traveled with the solvent. This particular set shows one paper strip for each sample and five strips at a time. One minute of real time is translated to one second of time in the video.


These images show results comparing all paste samples across solvents and times. Samples are all tested numerous times, but for the sake of visual reporting, one or two paper strips of each sample for each test were chosen based on which were the most representative of the group. Outliers were those whose results appeared least like the others, most likely due to an odd variation in the paper strip causing inconsistent solvent wicking. These were disregarded. The remainders showed consistent results with little variation.

99% Isopropyl Alcohol for 20 Minutes

One can see that all of these strips show mostly pale dyes that range from green to orange to light brown, and that few show clear dye bands below the solvent front. In the world of chromatography, most of these would not be usable results. However, for our purposes, they are interesting. This is because we know that lawsone does not show much color in its intermediate aglycone state. The presence of water can cause oxidation of the aglycone to its stable final form. So, when using an anhydrous solvent, it would be expected that the dye does not turn up bright orange. If it does, it might suggest that final-state (oxidized) lawsone was present in the product, or that an orange dye other than lawsone was added to the product.

If you are familiar with the process of coloring your hair with henna, you will know that the final color result takes a few days to mature. The lawsone molecule exists in a precursor state called an aglycone when it is mixed in an acidic paste and allowed to dye release. As long as the paste is not exposed to oxygen, and if it is not left to demise, most of these molecules remain aglycones. It is through the process of bonding to the keratin in your hair, and to the oxygen molecules in the air that they become stable lawsone molecules, and you see the deeper color. This is also why henna paste applied to the skin is left for several hours, and the design deepens over the following days.

BUT, if a lower quality henna powder is “fixed” with added lawsone, that lawsone would be the stable-molecule type. This is sometimes done by henna sellers to make the product appear to have a higher lawsone content, or as an attempt to make the product more effective. Manufacturers and distributors who do not have a solid understanding of the chemistry of henna do not realize that adding lawsone will do nothing to the efficacy of the product. Stable lawsone will not bind to the hair because it has lost the hydrogens necessary to create a bond. Only the aglycone lawsone molecules released from henna powder by an acidic liquid have the ability to bind to keratin.

One can see that out of all of the other samples, AS (shown above) is one of the palest, nearly a yellow-green color, and almost seems to form a band below the solvent front. Virtually no dye remains near the application point. This indicates two things: first, that there was little to no oxidized lawsone in the paste sample. Second, the fact that the block of space between the paste application line and the solvent front is so “clean” suggests that there is only one type of dye at one point of chemical state. We know that this dye is lawsone in an aglycone state. The more dyes involved, the muddier the strip may appear, as it will show evidence of several observable dyes, or dyes in several molecular states. In fact, even a product that contains a nothing else but a blend of several different hennas would most likely show variation due to those dyes being just slightly different from each other.

Samples such as #2, 6, and 8 are more orange, and also show darker bands right above the sample application sites. The muddy brown band is very prominent in #6. In fact, all samples except for AS showed some level of banding that hugged the paste sample when tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol. This happens when there is a dye present which does not move well with the selected solvent and which prefers to stay low with the sample. Lack of dye movement in itself is not necessarily bad, and is simply indicative of the relationship between the dye and the solvent; however, because we can see that this did not happen with the AS sample, we can guess that those other powders contained something that AS did not.

Closeups of samples #2, #6, and #8.

Both #2 and #6 are particularly orange, which again suggests the presence of either added lawsone or another dye that comes up orange under these conditions. If we revisit the image of those powders prior to mixing, sample #2 especially is of a darker color. #6 and #8 are lighter, but still border on what would be a normal color for henna powder. It is possible that these three products have added lawsone or another orange dye.

#4 is very interesting, and will continue to be interesting as we go along. There is very clearly the presence of a red dye that is not lawsone. It is a vivid red which appears just above the application point. If you revisit the earlier sections of this article which show the powders and pastes, #4 is a vivid red color as both powder and paste.

#9 shows the presence of a green-blue dye which appears as faint streaks closer to the base of the strips. The solvent front also shows the same color near the edges. In addition, there is a deeper, brown band that stays just above the application point.

#7 also shows a faint green tint similar to #9, but there are no noticeable blue-green bands. Some green tones can be expected due to the presence of chlorophyll in the plant powders. Therefore, a green color does not guarantee the presence of an added dye. However, the blue-green streaks present in sample #9 are not consistent with chlorophyll.

1:1 Dilutions for 15 Minutes

In comparison, dye bands were more visible when pastes were tested with equal parts solvent and distilled water. This is because water causes the lawsone dye to oxidize, turning the dye a deeper orange. In fact, the dye stained the paper strip as it moved upward with the solvent.

Water alone was not an effective solvent because the dye did not travel with it quickly enough. Pure solvent, on the other hand, pulled the dye too quickly, leaving little to no banding, as was shown by the 99% isopropyl alcohol set. By combining distilled water and solvent, both dye oxidation and dye movement was achieved in a way that showed visible dye bands.

In the image above, A and B labels indicate results for 1:1 isopropyl alcohol/water and 1:1 acetone/water respectively. Both were left in the tank for 15 minutes. Results were generally similar for both solvent dilutions.

In comparison to 99% isopropyl alcohol, results from 1:1 dilutions were deeper orange with dye bands visible on most samples. While they are still faint, the banding for lawsone can be seen as stripes of deeper color just below the solvent front.

One can see that the AS sample remained relatively pale, and that the dye seemed to move more cleanly away from the application line, leaving lighter streaks where little or no dye stained the paper.

Sample #4 clearly shows the presence of a red dye along with lawsone. There is a bright red band that stays near the application line. The band moved higher in the 1:1 acetone/water sample, but both tests show separate red and orange bands.

Sample #2 shows a significantly darker dye which creates a nearly solid stain from application line to solvent front. There is a band near the top which could be lawsone. If you look closely, there is a slightly deeper orange band that stays near the application line. This suggests that there may be an additional orange dye along with lawsone. Sample #1 also shows a darker color in comparison to other samples, which may suggest the presence of additional dyes.

Another notable detail is the color of the paste samples at the application line after processing. Many are bleached out as the solvent pulls the dye from the sample. The AS application line is the palest. Samples #2 and #4, however, remained very dark. This is another reason to believe that additional dyes besides lawsone were present.

Sample #9, which show blue-green dye streaks when processed with 99% isopropyl alcohol, changed significantly when processed with 1:1 dilutions. Most likely the faint blue-green dye was overpowered by the orange stain.

Top: Sample #9 Tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol. A blue-green dye is visible. Bottom: Sample #9 tested with 1:1 isopropyl alcohol/water and 1:1 acetone and water respectively. The blue-green dye is no longer visible.

Set 2: Powder and Water Samples

It is important to note that all samples were treated as if they were 100% pure henna powder– that they contained no additional dyes or acids, and that they would require an acidic solution and dye release time. This was done to keep results consistent.

However, there was the possibility that added water-soluble dyes were present which could have been broken down by the acidic solution, or by sitting too long after mixing. Thus, the same process was repeated with paste samples made from just distilled water. These samples were tested immediately after mixing, with no wait time.

Theoretically, this set would show very little lawsone especially in the 99% isopropyl alcohol condition, as the henna would not have had much chance to release lawsone in its aglycone precursor state. The 1:1 dilutions may still provide an environment for a fast release/oxidation of lawsone, but some additional dyes may be better seen than in Set 1, if they were affected by the acidity and/or 12 hour wait.

For each sample, 1g powder was mixed with 3ml distilled water. The paste was stirred until a uniform consistency was achieved, then a small amount was immediately applied to paper chromatography strips and tested with the same solvents and times as Set 1. To repeat, the conditions were as follows:

  • 1. 99% isopropyl alcohol for 20 minutes
  • 2. 1:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and distilled water for 15 minutes
  • 3. 1:1 mixture of acetone and distilled water for 15 minutes

New paste was made for each solvent condition so that each sample was tested immediately after mixing with water.


99% Isopropyl Alcohol for 20 Minutes

Results for powder-and-water samples immediately tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol.

The image above shows results for powders mixed with distilled water only and immediately tested in 99% isopropyl alcohol. Unlike the results of dye-released pastes tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol, samples mixed with only water showed consistent bands rising to just above the application point. Less dye traveled upward with the solvent, leaving paler tones near the solvent front. Below is the image for dye-released pastes tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol for comparison.

Notable results for this set are those of samples #2, #4, and #9.

Sample #2 appears more vividly orange than all other samples. This occurs in both the dye-released set and the water-only set. There is strong evidence for an added orange colored dye, lawsone or otherwise.

Sample #4 shows the same red dye that has been apparent in all tests. Because more red dye traveled with the solvent in the water-only set in comparison to the dye-released set, this is most likely a dye which is affected by pH and/or time.

Left: Sample #2 mixed with water and tested in 99% isopropyl alcohol. Right: Sample #4 mixed with water and tested in 99% isopropyl alcohol.

The faint green-blue dye that was noticeable in previous tests of sample #9 is particularly present in this condition. It was especially noticeable during processing. In the image below, all four strips show streaks of green-blue dye traveling upward with the solvent. The clearest is the strip second from the right.

After the strips were left in the glass tank for a full twenty minutes, the dye had collected at the solvent front. Some dyes streaks can also be seen rising just a few millimeters out of the application point. Particles of the same color can also be seen within the paste. It is clear that the green-blue dye is some form of powder or crystal mixed into the product.

1:1 Dilutions for 15 Minutes

The paper chromatography results using equal parts water and acetone, and equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol appeared very similar to the results of the dye-released pastes tested with the same dilutions. Nothing additional was revealed that was already noted in the earlier tests. This may be because the distilled water present in the diluted solvents was enough to reveal water-soluble dyes.


The purpose of this article was first: to observe and report the visible qualities of each product, such as the product packaging, and the color, scent, and texture of the product both as a dry powder and after being mixed with liquid; and second: to determine the existence of dyes other than lawsone or lawsone precursor molecules through the use of paper chromatography.

None of the methods used in this article can definitively determine the safety or quality of a product. Thus, it is not our intention to rate, review, or suggest any product outside of the Ancient Sunrise brand. The fact that some products appeared similar to pure henna does not mean that they were void of additives or adulterants not shown by these tests. Paper chromatography cannot show the presence of non-dye chemicals such as pesticides. Given those disclaimers, let’s jump into what was observed.

The presence of red, orange, and green dyes in some samples indicate that those products included additional ingredients besides pure henna powder. While all of the samples tested showed the presence of some lawsone, many samples displayed results inconsistent with the AS sample which we know to be 100% pure henna powder. When dye-released pastes were tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol, all samples except AS showed dye that did not move with the solvent, staying low to the application line. Some samples were much darker in color, which is inconsistent with the pale yellow-green color that would appear with lawsone in a precursor state. It is unclear if some samples included oxidized lawsone, and whether that lawsone was added during manufacturing or if other conditions such as the age or storage of the product may have led to the presence of oxidized lawsone.

Sample #2 showed a very deep orange color in all solvent conditions. When tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol, the deeper color dye was visible just above the application site. In 1:1 dilution tests, the dye traveled further up the strip, staining the strip orange from application to just under the solvent front. This suggests that there is an added water-soluble orange dye present in sample #2.

Sample #4 as a powder, as a paste, and when tested with 1:1 solvent dilutions.

Blue-green dye was visible in sample #9 when tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol. In diluted solvent conditions, the blue-green dye was no longer visible. This type of dye was most likely added to give the powder a greener color, rather than to affect the color outcome on the hair.

Left: Sample #9 tested with 99% isopropyl alcohol. Blue-green dye is visible.
Right: Sample #9 tested with 1:1 dilutions. The lawsone staining overpowers blue-green dye visibility.
Comparison between sample #9 powder (left) and AS powder (right).

Because there is a marketing claim that a greener henna powder is fresher, adding green dye to henna powder is not an uncommon practice. Detailed information about henna powders “polished” with green dye can be found on page 39 of Chapter Four: Henna Science and Microscopy. Ironically enough, sample #9 was among the darker colored powders and pastes in the group, so the addition of green dye did not seem to do what it intended. Below is an image at 60x magnification of a henna powder which shows added green dye.

A sample of henna powder under a microscope. Green dye powder or dyed sand is mixed into this sample.

Limitations and Considerations

Paper chromatography is only one type of chromatography, and not as exact as methods accessible in a certified laboratory. High-performance thin-layer chromatography, for example, is capable of separating dyes into much clearer bands, and then a scientist can calculate and compare the distance of those bands between the application point and solvent front to determine more about the nature of each dye. In many cases, reactants can be applied to chromatography results to cause substances to be visible if they are not already. Access to such methods would have been beneficial. An example of high-performance thin-layer chromatography can bee seen on page 22 in Henna Science and Microscopy.

Additionally, some samples varied in age, which can affect the quality of a powder to some degree. That being said, pure henna products have a shelf life of several years as long as they are kept sealed and in a cool, dry environment. Because the products tested may have contained additional unknown ingredients, it is difficult to say whether those specific non-henna ingredients may have broken down or changed with time.

Comparing Ancient Sunrise® Sudina Indigo and Zekhara Indigo (Video)

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Mehandi Employees’ Favorite Products

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Should You Be Using Lemon Juice In Your Henna Mix?

Lemon juice is very commonly used as the acidic liquid for dye-releasing henna. It is cheap, easy to find, and definitely acidic enough for a good dye release. Many people swear by it, but just as many say that they can’t use it. This is because lemon juice can be drying and irritating for many.

In fact, whenever someone asks why their scalp is itching after a henna application, my first question automatically is, “What did you mix it with?” and 90% of the time, the answer is lemon juice. Later, the customer is thrilled to find that, after switching to another acid, they never experience that problem again.

Lemon juice is also often the culprit behind hennaed hair that became darker than desired. A lemon juice mix yields bright orange tones at first, but the stain oxidizes very dark over time.

This is not to say that lemon juice is unsuitable for henna mixes, or that it should be avoided at all costs; for many people, it is just fine. In fact, I use it most of the time in my own mixes. I am not particularly sensitive to it, and the results work for my needs. For others, however, some discomfort or unwanted results can be avoided by choosing a different acid

If you use lemon juice in your henna mix, or are considering trying it, this article will cover a few things you may want to be aware of. You can then decide whether you would rather use a different acidic liquid or powder.

Note on Lime Juice: All of the following applies the same, and more so, to limes and lime juice. Limes are much harsher, and more likely to cause irritation and photo-sensitivity than lemons. Honestly, just don’t use lime juice. If your heart is set on limes, dilute it generously.

Lemon Juice May Lead to Irritated Skin and Dry-Feeling Hair

As mentioned earlier, lemon juice is a very common cause of itchy scalps post-hennaing. Some people are initially alarmed, and misinterpret this as an allergic reaction to the henna product. While henna allergies do happen, they are extremely rare. Citrus sensitivity, on the other hand, is much more common. To learn more about allergies in relation to plant dye powders, click here.

The low pH of undiluted lemon juice can bother the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin, and especially when henna paste is left on for several hours. The result is dry, irritated skin and rough-feeling hair. The crunchy texture in the hair is temporary, as the cuticles on the hair shaft are raised after a henna treatment, and will settle down in the following days. Cold water and conditioner can help the hair become smooth more quickly.

A henna mix does not need to be extremely acidic in order to achieve dye release. A pH of 4.5 is sufficient. Lemon juice has a pH of 2.3. Consider diluting lemon juice with three or four parts distilled water. Milder juices like apple and cranberry work just as well without needing to be diluted. Ancient Sunrise® offers several fruit acid powders to suit a variety of hair types and needs. Know that each fruit juice or acid powder may yield different effects on the resulting color. Click here for more information on henna and acidic mixes.

Hair may feel rough after henna because dye molecules are settling into place. A very acidic mixture, such as one with undiluted lemon juice, may make this feeling more noticeable.

Lemon Juice Will Make Hennaed Hair Darker, Not Lighter

Lemon juice is a popular way subtly bleach the hair. For those with lighter hair colors, spritzing the hair with lemon juice prior to going out into the sun can bring out highlights. One can also find endless DIY hair treatments involving lemon juice and claiming to lighten hair.

However, using lemon juice in a henna mix has the opposite effect. Lemon juice mixes result in vivid, fiery results at first, but the color is known to oxidize to darker and darker shades over time. I’ve spoken to many people who loved their hennaed hair color at first, but found that it got much too dark over time. The most common mistakes, often used in conjunction, were a) using lemon juice; b) reapplying henna to the entire length of the hair; c) reapplying too often, and d) using heated styling tools. To learn about other causes of darkening and how to prevent it, read this article.

Highly acidic mixes will continue to oxidize after the initial couple of weeks, leading to increasingly dark results after several months or years.

As a rule of thumb, very low pH liquids will all do a similar thing with henna: Initial stains will be noticeably bright, and then the color will deepen continually over time. The more acidic the mix, the greater the difference between first rinse and final oxidation. Many people who use lemon juice may only be aware of the first part, and then later become upset that their hair no longer has that vivid brightness that it once did when they just began using henna. Additionally, the only effective way to lighten hennaed hair is to bleach it.

For a brighter, lighter result that does not oxidize, Ancient Sunrise® Copperberry fruit acid powder works really well. It is high in antioxidants that keep darkening at bay. Ancient Sunrise® Kristalovino fruit acid powder also causes brighter results, and is very gentle on sensitive skin.

Some people (including me), are fully aware that lemon juice causes darker results over time, and use it for that purpose. But to be honest, there are much faster ways to push henna to a deep red without having to wait through the bright orange period. Ancient Sunrise® Malluma Kristalovino fruit acid powder creates deep auburn results and is very gentle on the skin. Ancient Sunrise® Nightfall Rose powder is high in anthocyanins, which gives a cooler tone to henna.

Henna does not fade over time. It darkens. Highly acidic mixes will darken more over time. Mixes that are high in antioxidants can prevent darkening.

Citrus Can Cause Photo-sensitivity

Citrus oils are phototoxic. They make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. This can result in sunburns in situations when one would not normally expect to be burned. Especially in the case of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, you may inadvertently cause photo-sensitivity to your scalp by using a henna mix with lemon juice. This is definitely the case with lime juice. You may have heard of people suffering reactions after getting a bit of margarita on themselves while enjoying the sun. This does happen.

On the other hand, henna has some great natural UV protective qualities, and your hair will provide some barrier between your scalp and the sun. In any case, if you have particularly photosensitive skin, or are sensitive to citrus juices and oils, you may want to consider using a different fruit acid.

What To Use Instead

Lemon juice will always be a staple in the henna world, but it’s always good to have options. As I mentioned before, there are numerous other fruit juices and fruit acid powders which will work just as well, or better, than lemon juice.

If you’re set on using lemon, consider diluting it. Full-strength lemon juice is more acidic than what is necessary to dye-release henna. As long as the liquid tastes mildly tart, it will work. Diluting also makes your bottle of lemon juice last longer, or saves you from having to squeeze several pounds of lemons.

If you are experiencing an irritated scalp, try one of the Kristalovino fruit acids, or apple juice. Ancient Sunrise® Malluma Kristalovino is the gentlest of all of the Ancient Sunrise® fruit acid powders, and makes henna shades darker for rich auburn and brunette shades. Ancient Sunrise® Kristalovino is the second gentlest, and leaves results light and bright. Apple juice is mild, and will result in a tone that is neither too light nor dark, but can be sticky and make your mix smell boozy.

If you are looking for bright, coppery or fiery tones that stay bright over time, try Ancient Sunrise® Copperberry fruit acid powder, or pure cranberry juice. Both are high in antioxidants that prevent the henna color from darkening over time. If you opt for cranberry juice, make sure to get the real thing—many are a mixture of other juices, water, sugar, and some cranberry juice. 100% pure cranberry juice can be expensive, though.

Final Notes

Lemon juice is a great mixing liquid for some people; for others, it can cause issues. Be aware of this if you are new to mixing henna, or if you are mixing henna for someone else. If you are experiencing an itchy, irritated scalp, or if you notice that your hair color is getting too dark over time, consider using a different dye-release acid. You will very likely find that lemon juice is the culprit. Again, the same goes for lime, which is even more acidic and phototoxic than lemon. Lemon juice at full strength can be tolerated by some. Lime juice should always be diluted, and better yet, avoided.

If you have any questions about what acidic medium to use in your henna mix, feel free to comment below or contact Customer Service at

Author Rebecca Chou May 2018
Edited Maria Moore November 2022

What’s It Like Working for

Writer’s Note

Ask any employee here, and they’ll agree that there is no company quite like Mehandi. Probably because there is no boss quite like Catherine Cartwright-Jones, PhD.. I have worked for Mehandi and our branches for almost three years now, and it is truly wonderful and different. Before starting the blogs this past summer, and moving to Montreal, Quebec, I was part of the Customer Service team in the main office, worked at our brick-and-mortar store, Empire, and was a “body art specialist” for the company. Before that, I was a customer who loved the products.

              What makes this company different is its openness and flexibility. Part of it is cross-training, and part of it is that the company recognizes staff’s talents and interests, encouraging them to take on new roles. If I were to write down my job description, it would be long and strange. When people asked me what I did, I’d stop for several seconds, because “Customer service for an online store” did not capture it in the very least. I’d need an hour to give it justice, starting by describing Catherine’s research on henna for hair, the dangers of PPD, and the use of body art throughout history and around the world… and how the company came about in relation to that research… and how we didn’t just sell things but also provided information and support… and yeah I was on the phone a lot, but sometimes I was covering myself or others in glitter… and sometimes I was doing research… and sometimes I was playing with puppets.

              Now, I’m here in my office, in my apartment hundreds of miles away from Kent, Ohio, but still very much connected to the company through the magic of the internet. For this article, I drew on my own experiences and asked my co-workers to provide their own thoughts. One thing becomes very clear: It’s all about the people.

The Warehouse

              First, I’d like to take you on a descriptive journey through the little blue building we call The Warehouse. Just off the highway, on Tallmadge Road, in Kent, Ohio, down a gravel driveway, hidden behind another industrial building, there is a place where magic happens on the daily. There are hummingbird feeders attached to the windows. Jenny the cat, who has been out stalking some small thing, is rolling on the sidewalk leading up to the door.

The warehouse. Photo credit: Roy Jones

              Walk inside, and you are greeted with a swirl of scents. It has the classic odors of a warehouse and office space, with its notes of cement, dust, and cardboard. Then, you smell plant powders and spices. Shampoo and soap bars. Incense, which many employees burn in their offices. Burnt sage, if some negative energy had to be dispelled recently. If Lynnette, head of Assembly, has been packaging essential oils, that heady smell hits you square in the nose.

              You are standing in the Assembly room. Here, packets are labeled, fruit acid powders are measured and bagged, and henna-for-hair kits are put together. To the right, Lynnette’s office is dimly lit with hanging lamps and smells like a temple. Her office is also the home of one of our printers, whom we call Hal. Hal prints our labels and other things needed for assembly. Val is the other printer.

              Walk forward into the next room, and you are in Packing and Shipping. The walls are lined with shelves holding henna for hair kits and big baskets of individual plant dye powder packets. There are drawers full of shampoo bars, soap bars, and smaller items. There are wide tables where Michelle or Melissa are stacking shallow black bins, each containing the contents of an order ready to be packed and shipped. They double-check the order form and initial it. When an order gets packed, it’s checked and initialed again before the box is taped up. Carl the cat is most likely snoozing under the shipping table.

Melissa and Carl wait for the mail truck.

Through the door straight ahead is Customer Service. Be quiet and keep the door closed. Here are several desks with computers, each area personalized by each customer service representative. The walls are covered with fabric tapestries, hair swatches, letters and photos from happy customers, and cheat sheets for item codes, mix ratios, and other important information. The CSRs are chatting through their headsets and typing on their keyboards. If the phones are slower, they are answering emails, or responding to posts on our Facebook pages.

              A door on the other side of the Customer Service office leads to a hallway. Here are the doors to the offices of the administrative positions. Roy Jones, Catherine’s husband, is the man behind anything having to do with technology. He also does photography for promotional materials. His office is tech’d out and filled with books about computer systems and coding. Other administrative positions have offices in this hallway, as well. Val, our other printer, spits out customer order sheets in the corner.

              The Packing and Shipping room is also attached to the warehouse proper, as well as the break room. The warehouse contains huge pallets of boxes filled with henna, indigo, and other plant powders, which we ship from India several times a year. It is dark, quiet, and cool.

              The break room is a wide space that holds a large, comfy couch, shelves of packaging materials and office supplies, and a dedicated space for photography. Someone may be having lunch or catching a quick nap while others prepare a body art piece for shooting. There is a shelf full of fabrics and props. The couch is eternally covered in glitter. This is where we have company meetings. Some of the staff will pile on the couch, others will bring in their chairs, and others sit on the floor. The cats will wander from person to person, demanding their due pats.

There are no cubicles here. The furniture is a mix-and-match of used and re-purposed items. There are several very old, very pretty rugs. The whole place looks like it is run by a hippie who went into business, and who has a penchant for digging through Craigslist for antique furniture. Because maybe it is. Catherine works from The Shed, her office at her home, and pops in from time to time. But her presence here is always clear. The warehouse is a home, and the people are a family. We joked among ourselves that the type of person to work here is always a little weird, and maybe you have to be, to be this passionate about something like henna.

Rumple guards the entrance to The Shed. Here is where Catherine completed her PhD Disseration.

What is

              Mehandi is the online store for Ancient Sunrise® hair and skin products. It is the result of years of research by Catherine Cartwright-Jones, PhD., who had an interest in providing safe alternatives to commercial hair dye and providing research-based information on henna. The company’s origins go back to the Henna Page Forums of the mid-to-late 1990s when henna began to gain popularity in the Western world.

             We ship across the globe.,,, and our blogs continue to publish scholarly and research-based information that is free to the public.

              Catherine’s vision went beyond selling a product. It was about educating the consumer and shedding light on safe, effective methods of hair care and body art. Catherine has spoken to the FDA and to cosmetic giants about the epidemic of para-phenylenediamine (PPD) sensitization. She hopes to influence change in the use of PPD in hair dyes and to bring henna for hair into the mainstream. has tens of thousands of customers who now happily color their hair without risks of allergic reaction or hair damage.

Our new and improved website launched in 2017.

Happy Staff = Happy Customers

              Catherine firmly believes that the success of the company depends on the way her employees are treated. She knows that work can be stressful and that the staff spends much of their time at The Warehouse. Therefore, work should be a comfortable and enjoyable place. Our kitchen is stocked with coffee, teas, and healthy snacks. There is a request sheet that is filled regularly. Out of chocolate-covered almonds? Put it on the list. Snacks are part of the company’s budget. Roy regularly treats the staff to lunch. If a company meeting is happening, there will probably be food.

              In addition to staying well-fed, we are quite comfortable. There is no dress-code policy. Staff are encouraged to wear whatever is most comfortable for them, whether it is jeans, pajama pants, or flowing skirts. Some shuffle around in fluffy slippers. There are a number of seat options available, so whether a person prefers a swiveling office chair or a yoga ball, there is something that will work. The large sofa in the break room is great for naps. The two office cats, Carl and Jenny, who keep us company, provide stress relief, and lie on our keyboards at inopportune times.

Jenny is very good at getting in the way. Photo credit: Elizabeth Nissel.

Customer Service

Our commitment to customer service is what makes this company great, as well as unique. I don’t mean it in that cheesy-commercial-slogan kind of way. Catherine understood that the knowledge of using henna was once commonplace because it was shared among family and friends. In the areas where henna was traditionally used, men and women went to their respective public bathhouses, and communal spaces to wash, groom, and interact with others. People washed each other’s bodies, hennaed each other’s hair, hands, and feet, and shared grooming tips. Now that personal hygiene has moved to the privacy of individual homes, Catherine understood that, in order for this knowledge to be spread again, she had to create a modern version of this community.

              It starts with the customer service team. Each new representative takes the time to read the Ancient Sunrise Henna for Hair E-book and many other resources before being able to work one-on-one with customers. The other team members help each other to make sure that the info they are giving out stays accurate. When needed, the staff re-read material and find new articles to share with one another to keep their knowledge fresh. New members are quizzed on their knowledge by their co-workers. They role-play potential phone calls and give constructive criticism. It may be several weeks before a trainee is allowed to take a phone call on their own; they begin with emails and responses on social media which are checked by Maria, the Customer Service Supervisor, before being sent. This is all to make sure that our customers get consistent and accurate information.

              The customer service staff communicates with customers in several ways: By phone, email, online chat, one of our many Facebook groups and pages, and through social media programs like Instagram and Twitter. We also send out a monthly newsletter. The customer service office is open much later than an average business—often until 10pm EST on the weekdays—so that people can contact them late in the evening for last-minute orders, questions, or advice.

              Customer Service advises henna users on custom mixes and selecting the products that work best for them. They take orders. They troubleshoot. Being a customer service representative is both stressful and rewarding. It requires an amazing amount of multitasking. Jumping from a phone call to a chat session, to a Facebook thread is a normal part of the job.

              We know many of our regular customers by name and even their usual order. CS keeps notes on customers’ files, so if a customer has been working on adjusting their mix, or has been having difficulty achieving their desired color, any representative can pull up their history and continue the conversation where it left off last. (Here’s a secret: We’ll also write notes like “This person is so sweet and a joy to work with!”)

              Because of this, we are able to develop a personal connection with our customers and grow a community of henna users who are well-versed in henna for hair. Our online community at the Ancient Sunrise Henna group on Facebook is now well over 3,500 members and is very active. Customers are able to ask each other for advice and to share photos of their hair. The group is like our virtual bathhouse, and the CS representatives, Catherine Cartwright-Jones, and I are like the grandmothers, sitting quietly in the corner until someone needs a little help.

If you’re not yet part of our public Facebook group, join now!

              Of course, henna knowledge then spreads in real life, through families, friends, co-workers, and even strangers. This company does very little in the way of advertising; many of our new clients call us after being introduced through word of mouth. In fact, there have been numerous times when a new customer told me that they are calling because they had stopped someone on the street and asked about their hair. Customers regularly report that they are asked about their hair. This happens so often that, by customer request, we began adding an extra business card to each of our shipments.

              It is exactly this kind of community that Catherine envisioned when she began Her goal was not only to provide quality product, but also the knowledge and support that would allow henna to become a regular, household practice again.

Cross-Training and Interdepartmental Magic

              Because we are a small company, many of us wear several hats. When I was living in Ohio, I worked in the Customer Service office during the week, and at our brick-and-mortar store, Empire, on Fridays and Saturdays. I, like many others, was also trained in Shipping, where we pick and pack the items that go out all around the world. I also helped out in Assembly, where the products are put together. I liked to measure the powders for the Henna for Hair Kits, and stick labels on the packaging. At one point, when the bakery and chocolate shop, Bittersweets, was short-staffed, a few of us also filled in there to help at the register and to clean chocolate molds. During the winter months, some of us do body art, hair, and/or make-up for promotional materials and tutorials, and other staff members act as our models.

Because most of the staff has experience in several departments, we understand how other departments work. This makes it easier for someone in Customer Service to know what is possible for Shipping, or for Inventory to check on how much time Assembly will need to create more stock. Because the space is relatively small, it is easy enough to run over to the next room to ask someone a question related to their department. Having a small crew of knowledgeable and flexible staff makes everything flow smoothly.

Communication and Collaboration

              In addition to the comfort of the physical environment, the feeling of openness and respect extends to the way that we are able to communicate and be heard by those in charge. Company meetings invite brainstorming and collaborating on new ideas. When asking my co-workers for input about this article, many of them said that they feel respected and that their ideas are heard. I wholly agree. One of my favorite parts about working for this company is that creativity is appreciated.

              In fact, these blogs came about because a few months prior to my move to Canada, I mentioned that the blogosphere seemed like a place where we needed a stronger presence. This turned into Catherine’s decision to launch and, and have me write while in Montreal. It was wonderful that she recognized my knack for research and writing, and turned it into a way to keep me with the company.

My home office in Montreal, in its natural state of chaos.

Photography and video happen by the bookcase; research happens all over the desk and floor.

              Other products of staff creativity include our Instagram accounts, video tutorials, and ideas for promo codes. The Customer Service staff propose events for promos, and create those fun announcements you see on our Facebook pages. We are also listened to when we feel something is not working smoothly. In 2017, when the new website was launched, Roy gave everybody access to the site in progress so we could check the pages and provide input and corrections.

              It’s wonderful to work for a company that recognizes its employees as creative and skilled people with ideas worthy of being heard. We can say, “I would like to try this” and the response is more often than not, “Great idea! Go for it!” We know that our co-workers will be excited to see the outcomes of our ideas, contribute suggestions, and give constructive criticism. With so many projects happening at any given time, work never gets old.

              Our work takes us around the world and in front of big audiences, too! In 2016, Catherine presented to the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at the USFDA, and then later that year at The IFSCC, International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists. In spring of 2017, Maria and Gwyn spend a week in Italy, working with a salon interested in incorporating henna into their services and products.

Catherine Cartwright-Jones speaking to members of the USFDA. Photo credit: Roy Jones

Maria Moore and Gwyn Jones in Italy. Photo credit: Maria Moore

Gwyn presents to a company in Parma, Italy. Photo credit: Maria Moore

We Are a Family Company in Every Sense

              Catherine’s husband, Roy, oversees day-to-day operations and decision-making at the office. Gwyn, Catherine and Roy’s daughter, knows everything there is to know about importing and customs. Catherine’s son, Rhys, is an attorney who helps with legal matters. Mehandi is very much a family-run business.

              But the staff’s family matter, too. When I asked my co-workers for input for this article, one of the responses I repeatedly received was how much they appreciated the flexibility they had when it came to taking care of their own families. Many members of the staff have children of different ages and needs. They are able to adjust their schedules when situations arise. Because our jobs are so fluid, it is often possible for one person to fill in for another across departments when needed. Staff members sometimes bring their children to work during school breaks, or on days when school is canceled. In fact, the employees’ children love to play with each other. Jen’s daughters are great models for body art, sitting still while having their hands or faces painted. They have been featured in many of our promotional photos. Maria’s son has also had his face painted his fair share of times.

Staff kids at the office during the winter holidays. Photo credit: Jenifer Jeney

Playing dress-up, Becoming Moonlight® style.

Body art by Maria Moore and Alexander Limbach, respectively. Photography: Roy Jones. Visual Montage: Alex Morgan

              Finally, we are like a family to each other. We bring in snacks and groceries to share with one another. We trade clothes. We talk about our families and our lives. We spend time with each other outside of work. For me, one of the hardest parts of moving out of Ohio was leaving my co-workers. I am still a part of the company and communicate with them over the internet, but I miss the day-to-day camaraderie.

Thank you!

     is a company that values solid research and creative collaboration. Our staff come from diverse backgrounds and bring their own unique skills. We love our products and are happy that you do, too. When you order from us, you are supporting a small business, and you are receiving products and knowledge that we are proud of. You are supporting our ongoing research and innovation. You are supporting our families and fur babies. On behalf of everyone at, thank you for being part of our family!

Alex, Michelle, and Maria (Empire, Inventory, and Customer Service, respectively) after a body art and makeup photoshoot. Photo credit: Alexander Limbach

In memory of Carl and Jenny <3.

Author: Rebecca Chou
Updated: Maria Moore November 2022