Henna and Me: Carla’s HairStory

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How long have you been natural?
I’ve been natural my entire life, but I stopped using constant heat (pressing and flat ironing) 9 years ago. I had to grow out years of heat damage.

How long have you been using henna? When did you start?
I first started using henna back in 1994 to color a few highlights I had in my hair. I used Rainbow Henna – at the time it was only available through a catalog. I liked the color, but hated the dryness and mess that it created. But, looking back, I didn’t deep condition. I would do it before getting my hair pressed back then. I used it a few other times and gave it up due to the mess and dryness.

I rediscovered henna around this time last year and I never looked back. I read about body art quality (BAQ) henna on the CurlyNikki blog and decided to give henna a second go round. Though I love the results, I’ve been pretty hit or miss when it comes to using over the past year. After being frustrated with breakage I experience simply because my hair strands are fine to medium, I decided to get on a regular henna schedule to strengthen my hair.

What made you begin using henna?
As I mentioned  in the previous question, I used it for color.  I had no idea that there were other uses for it! I read about the conditioning and strengthening properties, which rekindled my interest.

How would you describe your first experience with henna?
My very first henna experience years ago was a nightmare. This next time around was a little better. It gets better each time. I feel like a pro now!

What type of henna do you use? What is your mix? What is your process?
I’ve been using Jamila henna, but I do want to try other brands. I basically mix it with either warm water with a little apple cider vinegar or full strength hibiscus, earl gray, or green tea. I let the henna sit for a few hours and apply it to freshly shampooed  and towel dried hair hair, or I make a henna gloss by adding cheap conditioner (Suave or Vo5) and sometimes agave or honey to the mix. After I apply it, I smooth my hair to the top of my head, secure it with a clip, sure up the edges with salon coil (cotton) and place a plastic cap on my head. I then tie my head up with a scarf and bonnet and generally leave it in overnight, rinse in the kitchen sink, co-wash, deep condition and style. To get the full color effect, I don’t wash my hair for about three days after application. This allows the color to “mature” on your hair, if color is the goal.

Supplies: I kept my old hair color towels and old shirts that are now exclusively for henna use. I either use a hair butter or castor oil around my edges, neck and ears to keep from getting henna stains on my skin. I also have a box of latex free gloves, processing caps and a box of salon coil I purchased on sale at Sally Beauty so that I will always have henna supplies on hand.

How often do you henna?
Right now, every other week.

How has your hair changed with henna?
I have much less breakage and my hair is stronger than it was before.

How do you feel about henna and the process now?
I love the process. I used to use commercial hair color, but ironically this is much less messy than commercial color, and there’s no toxic smell.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about trying henna?
Do as much research as possible. Consider the pros and the cons of using henna. Use only BAQ henna. Use old clothes and towels you don’t care about and protect your floors. Make sure you can carve out enough time to do a full henna treatment. For me, a full henna treatment includes mixing up the henna, letting it “cure,” preparing your hair and your bathroom for application, letting it sit on your hair a certain amount of time (minimum 4 hours), rinsing and deep conditioning.  Deep conditioning is a step that should not be ignored.

Anything else that you’d like to add?
Not sure right now, but I am open to any questions.

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20 responses »

  1. Great post and thanks for sharing how you henna. I have a question about the Jamila henna you use – I’ve been told that there is a lower grade Jamila henna that comes inside a plastic/cellophane wrapper enclosed by a cardboard box, but the BAQ Jamila grade henna comes in a sealed foil pouch – is this true? I have some of the plastic wrapper version and have suffered real dryness with full strength henna applications so am curious as to whether the other type is different and/or better. Thanks!

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    • @Gisele – I’m actually not sure about that. I’ve only seen/purchased/used the henna that comes in the foil pouch in a cardboard box. I have seen similar questions about that type of henna, but never any real answers.

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          • Gisele, did you deep condition with a moisturizing, cone free deep conditioner after henna? If not, that is probably the reason your hair was dry. Henna acts like a protein treatment, hardening the hair by binding to the keratin protein. You need to use a moisturizing deep conditioner after it to restore elasticity and moisture. Although the Jamila in cellophane is cheaper, it is still BAQ henna, just not as good of a quality as the foil wrapped Jamila. I use Dulhan from the local Indian grocer, which costs $1.59 or so and get great results with the cheapie version. So, if you didn’t deep condition, you may want to try that with the henna you have and see if you obtain better results. Hope that helps!

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            • yes, i did try to deep condition with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose under a bonnet dryer and my hair was really dry still. I tried the Jamila henna once more since then but as a gloss this time – 2/3 hair conditioner and that worked much better although i doubt the strengthening is the same as a full strength application. Hopefully a different grade of henna will work for me soon. I live in Canada and we seem to have less options here to buy. 🙂

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  2. First of all can I say in the second to last picture, your curls are poppin’! Your hair looks great! My first experience with Henna was a nightmare as well. Henna stained the floor, the tub and my clothes. My family could have sworn our bathroom was the scene of a murder. However, now I love, love, love to henna my hair!

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    • @Miche’al – Thank you! I’ve gotten to the point where its easier to henna than use commercial dyes. I rarely make a mess these days!

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    • Hey Miche’al did you make it too watery? I never drip. I make it very thick like mashed potatoes. I do like the Zizyphus and it doesn’t drip at all.Also, if you have a plastic from the cleaners you could drape it over your shoulders. It works great. since my hair is getting longer I mess up t-shirts regularly 🙂

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  3. Look at that henna head. it’s so obvious! I’m not using Jamila anymore. I’m loving the Rajasthani. However, I may go back to Henna for African Hair becaus it’s the finest sift of them all.

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  4. Hey Gisele (I couldn’t reply on the above thread anymore), maybe a different deep conditioner might be needed too? But, as you indicated, a better grade of henna may be necessary too. Hope you are able to find something easily and readily accessible … and affordable!!

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