Healthy Hair Habits » Henna Hair Dyes- What They Are and Where They Came From

What is Henna Hair Dye?

-What it is-

Henna is a powder ground from the leaves of the lawsone plant. It contains hennatannic acid which coats the individual hair shafts and has a protective conditioning effect, making it not only safe, but benificial for your hair. True henna comes in only one color: red. The orange tint of the henna powder gradually darkens after being applyed to the hair and is generally described as a “deep auburn” color after it has matured. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 applications to get the desired depth of color.

Henna is often mixed into other natural hair dyes to create a more permanent, healthy color. It is often combined with indigo, walnut, alma, arnica montana or cassia to make black, brown and strawberry blonde colorings. It’s incredible hair health benefits make these dyes even more effective and they are most commonly labled “Henna,” though that is only a very minor ingredient in them.

-Where It Came From-
The lawsone plant that the henna leaves are harvested from has always grown in the Middle to Far East. In Asian and Middle Eastern cultures henna was used for temporary body art for ceremonies and rituals, decorating the hands, faces and feet of men and women both,  as well as used as a dye for disguising gray or white hair. Henna for hair was only a small part of its use, but when European trade traveled East, that was the dominant use that Europeans found acceptable. In the late 19th century Victorian women found the artistry and romanticism of the Eastern culture to be extremely appealing, and henna hair dye became a popular trend.

When Eastern vendors discovered that there was a market for their traditional products they decided that it would be easier to simply call all of their hair colors as “henna.” So they made their different colors of concoctions, sent them west and nobody knew any better, therefore the name was stuck for good.
Because the term was generically used “black henna” and “neutral henna” became common names for products that either dyed your hair black, or added shine and “golden” tone to blond or light brown hair, but they were not actually henna products. The “neutral henna” is actually the cassia plant, which has a slight yellow tint, but for the most part simply conditions the hair.

By the 1930′s “hennaing” was the common phraseology for dying one’s hair, and the labels are still stuck.  Chemicalized and synthesized hair dyes became popular due the wide variety of colors available and the relative ease there was to obtaining them, but the transition from natural to man-made was not without consequence. Until the 1970′s, chemical based hair dyes contained a vast number of chemicals that have now been linked directly to cancer. While the majority of manufacturers have switched their methods since the early 80′s, it is still very important to check your products for ingredients that could be harmful.

-Why It’s Wonderful-

  • Henna hair dyes are very natural looking. Because they don’t bleach your hair before coloring it, they simply tint all of your natural shadings, highlights and lowlights, which gives your dyed hair a lovely depth and works with your natural skin and hair tone.
  • Henna hair dyes are beneficial to your hair. Because they are not full of chemicals they do not dry your hair out, or break it, but instead they fill it with moisture and nutrition. The conditioning effect that henna has can last from 4-6 weeks, and can be redone over and over without risking any damage to your locks.
  • Henna hair dyes have no health risks. Allergies and sensitivities to the ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and the chemicals used in the dyes, as well as the tar and coal products used in chemical based dyes, can become active with no warning, and after a lifetime of absence. There is no way to know whether or not the next time you use a chemical product on your hair your skin will be burning and your lungs will be closing up from a sudden chemical sensitivity.

-How to Shop-

Be very careful when ordering your henna. Some manufacturers use henna as an ingredient, then label chemicalized products as henna products. Also, some growers use metallic ingredients in their henna kits that  can be very harmful. Research each product to ensure that the ingredients being used are 100% natural.

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