Tales of a Transitioner: My Henna Transitioning Story



Usually, when we refer to transitioning, we are talking about gradually growing out a relaxer. Sometimes we are talking about heat damage. Well, for me, it was growing out henna-loosened* curls.

If you have followed Hairscapades for a while or have read my Henna and Me HairStory, you know that I experienced SIGNIFICANT curl loosening from henna. I was doing frequent, full strength, whole head applications from June-December 2010. In January 2011, I started to do roots only, full strength applications and a henna gloss (i.e. more conditioner than henna) on my length to keep the color and conditioning benefits of henna without the excessive loosening of my curls. When I say roots only, I mean that I apply henna to the first 3 inches of my hair to gradually get about 3 full strength applications on new growth (so, I overlap previously treated hair for 2 applications as I tend to henna once every 4-8 weeks and my hair grows about 1/2 an inch a month. See my full henna/indigo process here.).


Top Left: Several years prior to using henna (2005, I believe). My hair is frizzy, but you can get an idea of the curl pattern, which is a mix of 3b/3c.

Top Right: August 2010, after several months of frequent, whole head, full strength henna treatments. This pic was taken the day after I did a treatment and following a haircut/styling session with Tameeka aka Jaded Tresses. This is when I realized that I needed to stop doing so many treatments as my curls had completely changed.

Bottom Left: February 2012, after a little over a year of roots only henna applications. You can see that the top half of my hair is curlier than bottom half.

Bottom Right: Yesterday, January 27, 2013, after 2 years of roots only, full strength henna applications. Though my curls are still a little looser than they were pre-henna, the full length of my hair has now been restored to a more normal curl pattern. I do think that my looser curl pattern is a combo of henna AND hormonal/age-related texture changes, because my nape is straight now and I don’t apply henna to it. It was not straight and actually was curly 5 years ago, though it was always looser than my crown.

So, I essentially transitioned over the last two years. However, rather than transitioning out a relaxer or heat damage, I transitioned out henna loosening.

*Henna does not loosen all natural hair textures. It is more common among those with fine strands and S-wave curls.


Have you transitioned out of something other than a relaxer during your natural hair journey?


17 responses »

  1. Shelli, thanks so much for your thorough explanation of your transitioning from henna-loosened curls. I have only had a relaxer a few times in my life, over five to seven years ago. Yet, I considered myself “transitioning” because I have been growing out my heat-damaged curls for the past year or so. I finally “big chopped” on Dec. 27, 2012, and my hair went from mid-back length back to armpit length. Thanks for sharing your story and helping to expand the definition of transitioning. Thanks! And…. of course, your hair looks gorgeous, as usual!


  2. Hey Shelli, i just recently purchased some henna and i was wondering if i should apply it all over and if so how many times b4 i start just doing the roots only. I would like my curls to loosen a little but not much.


  3. I purchased henna hair coloring a few weeks ago but have yet to apply It. My curl pattern is tight but with the nothing but curls sealer, it loosens a lot. How often should henna be reapplied?


    • Champagne, that’s entirely up to you. I do it every 4-8 weeks now (more often closer to 8). So, if you like the results, you can do it as often as you want. The color does build up though as it actually attaches to the keratin in the hair.


  4. Hi Shelli! This is a very informative post!! How do you perform your henna treatments in relation to protein treatments? What difference have you noticed between the effects of henna (besides color) as compared to let’s say, a deep protein treatment. I henna once a month and am thinking of adding in Aphogee 2 step protein treatment every 6-8 weeks. Thanks!


    • Hi Zenith, the only balancing I do is not use protein conditioner on the day I’m doing a henna treatment. Other than that, I use Aubrey GPB as part of my pre-poo/DC almost every week. I haven’t done a 2 step tx since my first one. If I were to do it again, I’d probably wait 4 weeks after my henna treatment. So, henna once every 8 weeks and ApHogee 2 Step at the halfway point.


  5. I’ve been using henna for a year now. I’m about 8-months post so I just noticed the curl loosening a couple of months ago. I actually didn’t really believe the claims until recently because I’ve read so many crazy claims on hair boards that I figured this one was just like the others. When my stylist detangled my hair in seconds, I thought she used some amazing conditioner but when I washed it last week, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to detangle.

    I use henna primarily for color but it has helped with my transition. I have super Oprah-thick hair and I’ve never been able to comb my hair without seeing hair on the floor but now I can. Its amazing!


  6. Hi Shelli 🙂 I’m actually transitioning out of mechanically damaged hair, in the front only. In the Time Before my Natural Hair Education, I didn’t know about brushing (or anything really lol) and I would brush it down, hard, to the scalp, and put it in a bun with a ton of gel for like two years. So I have an enormous chunk of hair in front that is frizzy and a totally different curl pattern than the rest of my hair, which is actually quite healthy because I wasn’t brushing or combing as vigorously. Sigh. My poor hair 😛


  7. I noticed last week that my curls have also been loosened significantly by henna. I have been transitioning to natural hair for last 3 years with weave/box braids. When I would take down a weave/box braids style, I would always do a henna treatment and then moisturizing DC. Now that I’m wearing my natural hair out, I can see the difference. Is there any way to reverse the curl loosening? I heard alma would help. Have you tried alma? Also, if you are doing root touch ups, wouldn’t it make the entire length of your curls looser? In the pics, it looks like your natural curl is returning (at the roots especially), but I don’t understanding how you that is if you are doing full strength henna on your roots. Please help – I’m seriously considering a 2nd transition 😦


    • If you read my henna and me hairstory (link is in the right) you can find the full details, but long story short, I was allergic to amla and it caused my hair to shed excessively. My hair loosened when I did at least 8 or 9 (maybe more) full strength, full length henna treatments. If I only do 3 full strength treatments on my new growth, my curls don’t really loosen. As to reversing henna loosening, sometimes time helps. I’ve also used zizyphus (another Ayuverdic treatment) with some success. Zizyphus is supposed to work by lifting some of the henna molecule, I believe. You can find a couple of posts on that on my blog too (just use the search). But, though those helped some, they didn’t completely reverse the loosening. So, that is why I called this a transitioning story, b/c it wasn’t until my hair grew out and I cut off the loosened parts that I had my normal curl patterns (I have several) return.


  8. Hi Shelli! I’m am currently transitioning and my hair looks like its around a 4b-4c type and I want to have looser curls (around 3a-3b). Does henna permanetly looser your curls and if so would I just have to touch up my roots since the rest of my hair would be looser? Thank you


    • Hi Malia, I don’t know if you noticed the statement in the post:

      *Henna does not loosen all natural hair textures. It is more common among those with fine strands and S-wave curls.

      I just want to first make certain you know that it doesn’t loosen everyone’s hair. If it were to loosen your curls, I have never heard of anyone having that much loosening. You could potentially get 4a/3c if your strands are very fine (henna loosens due to the weight of the dye). As to the permanency, for me, it was. But, generally I’ve read that the results of henna will fade after 6-8 weeks. They don’t fade entirely as the color is permanent. But, you can expect that the effects fade gradually.


    • Milia, if you have very fine strands of hair, it will loosen it. Whether 4b or c. From personal experience. Before I knew anything about my hair, I had springy 4c strands. I would do sectionless washing, which left my hair tangled then I would use coconut oil which left my hair crunchy. Detangling my hair was a nightmare as it broke always. I also hennaed repeatedly (for the colour and to strengthen my strands) My hair loosened and while detangling was earsier, because my 4c coil diameter is just a pen spring, it loosened to tiny waves and they have lost considerable elasticity. I have stopped hennaing for months now but they refuse to be springy. I am so annoyed. I know that 4+ inches of my hair will have to go but I will clip it little at a time. Its been a huge relief to get to where I can just twist my hair in 13 sections and just hold them with a band and have my peace. I do not like messing around with my hair always. 4c you know? My wholehearted advice is henna is good, but it will never get 4c spirals to 3c or 4a. It will loosen it if the hair is fine, but since coil diameter is small, it will make it into tiny annoying lifeless waves and almost bone straight when dry. As a lady with medium density hair, that is a no no. I rely on springy elastic shrinkage for volume. In the future, when I begin to have grey hair I will use henna, and like Shelli, 4 times and no more for roots only. If you wish to henna, do it full stregth 4 to 5 times and no more. I miss my coils a lot. Although I have more than 5 inches of new growth, the 4+ inches are so hard to give up.


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