How to use Henna

Henna has been used for thousands of years. Traces have even been found on the hair and beards of Egyptian mummies

Here at Lush we are very comfortable with henna. But we know that it scares some people if they haven’t experienced its joys before.

Henna has been used for thousands of years. Traces have even been found on the hair and beards of Egyptian mummies. However, in modern times, synthetic dyes have pushed henna out of use in many parts of the world.

At the start of Lush founder Mark Constantine’s career 30 years ago, he felt very concerned about the health effects of these synthetic hair dyes and started to study natural alternatives. He soon realised that henna is the ultimate natural hair colourant and he has studied and worked with it ever since.

We think our current henna is the best we’ve ever produced. We now mix the powders with cocoa butter and press them into a brick. What we love about our current hennas is the fact that they are a completely new way of using an age-old ingredient. By making the henna into solid blocks, we don’t need preservatives in there. But it also makes them easier and more effective to use.

Here’s how Henna works. The outer covering of a hair consists of cuticles - these look a bit like the scales on a fish when viewed under a microscope – which normally lie flat and protect the central shaft of the hair containing the cells that give hair its colour. Chemical dyes work by forcing the cuticles open and pouring colour underneath them, permanently dyeing the hair. However, once the cuticles have been lifted in this way they will never quite go back the same or lie as flat, making your hair feel rough and out of condition.

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Instead of forcing the cuticles open with chemicals, henna coats them in a protective layer of glossy natural colour. Think of it as a varnish covering each hair and thickening it, giving it shine and making it more manageable. It’ll add weight to flyaway hair, calm and soften frizzy hair and smooth hair that tends to be affected by static or tangles. Henna really is the ultimate conditioning treatment!

However, successful colour results depend on a few key rules.

PH levels: The more acidic the mixture, the more red the results will be.

Water: Henna needs water to allow the colour to come out onto your hair. Mix to a wet paste that will stick onto the hair without flaking off or falling away.

Heat: Break the block into a bowl, cover chunks with boiling water and leave for a while to soften. Then mix to a paste, the consistency of double cream, adding more hot water if needed. Keep the bowl over another bowl of hot water (or bain marie) whilst you apply the henna. The hotter it goes on the hair the better it can work.

Exposure to air: Wrap your hair up tightly for redder results. Loosen it up and expose to air for a darker effect.

Water and steam: The more water involved, or steaming the head will produce darker results.

Plenty of henna: The more henna that makes contact with each hair, the better the transfer of colour. So get lots of mix on there and make sure it covers all of your hair.

Repeated applications: Henna colour can build up. Deeper, darker and richer results can be achieved with more applications. Some of our blocks include indigo for darker tones. Indigo can take up to 24 hours to fully develop – so expect the results to darken throughout the next day.

Application: Apply to the nape and base of the neck first and work up towards the front of the head. Take a pinch of hair at a time, work as much henna into it as you can as you twist it into strands. Do the roots of the hair first and work plenty of henna into the ends last.

Finally: Always do a strand test. Everyone’s hair is different so you can’t be sure how yours will react to henna.

Which Caca is for me?

Caca Rouge is the full-on red henna, turning blondes and greys into fiery redheads. Those with naturally dark brown hair will see a more subtle result; a warm natural red tone with a glossy sheen which will catch in the sun.

Caca Marron will give blondes shiny hair the colour of autumn conkers. Brunettes will get a pleasing reddish tinge, though less pronounced than those using Caca Rouge.

Caca Brun will make blonde hair several shades darker, giving a rich coffee-coloured glaze. For brunettes, this is the Caca to use if you want the conditioning benefits of henna without drastically changing your natural colour.

Caca Noir is mixed with indigo to give a black gloss with a very slight reddish tinge. All hair will go several shades darker after using Caca Noir.

Always do a strand test. Everyone’s hair is different so you can’t be sure how yours will react to henna

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