Is henna safe to use? Many ask this question before using henna for its natural benefits. And with 38 per cent of UK adults using home hair colouring in the past year, it’s a question that comes up more frequently. To learn more, let’s first look at what exactly henna is, plus the varieties of henna you’ll see on the market.
What is henna?
Henna is an organic plant product that has been used as a dye for centuries. Think we’re exaggerating? Then you’ll be surprised to hear that humans have been using this humble plant since the Bronze Age. This includes on mummies in ancient Eypt!
Applied as a medicine, skin coolant and in various cultural rites, henna was ground into a paste before use – much like how we use it on our hair and skin today.
What types of henna are there?
Not all henna is made equally. Believe it or not, there are many types of “henna” out there, some of which don’t even contain henna leaves. This makes it absolutely crucial to know which type you are using, as they can have very different outcomes.
Natural henna is the traditional henna you’ll find in most cosmetic products. Why?
Because natural henna is completely free from chemicals, preservatives and hazardous ingredients. Being 100 per cent organic, natural henna is also kinder to the skin and hair – although it’s a good idea to do a patch test before using, just to be entirely sure you aren’t allergic.
Natural henna is a reddish-orange colour and will achieve hues from a dark auburn to shades more coppery. You can also supplement with other natural ingredients to alter the desired undertone.
Another type of henna you might encounter is neutral henna, also known as Cassia obovata. This plant extract is more yellow in colour and is favoured by those with fair or grey hair. Why, you might ask?
Let me explain. As the dye molecule in neutral henna is much weaker than the pigment in natural henna, it struggles to produce any colour on brunette and darker hair strands.
That’s not to say brunettes can’t enjoy the affects of neutral henna – this hair dye will still work its magic, reinforcing the hair follicles with added strength and shine without changing their colour.
This is where you should take extra care. As many products listed under the label “black henna” aren’t strictly made with henna extract, it’s easy to buy the wrong product mistakenly, which can lead to some unwanted consequences.
There are several dangers of so-called black henna that you should take note of. Most black henna products use a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (PPD). PPD is sometimes found in commercial hair dyes in strict quantities – but is often found in black henna at a higher ratio. The problem is that PPD has been linked to induced hypersensitivity.
PPD reacts with the air to create a black colour, but can cause irritation and burns to the skin and sensitive scalps in the process, and increasing the risk each time. As such, you should be careful when choosing black henna for tattoos or hair dye. At itselixir, we only sell PPD-free organic henna hair dye – that way, you know your scalp is in safe hands.
Confusingly enough, this plant extract is also sometimes referred to as “black henna”. However, we can assure you that hair dyes made using indigo powder are perfectly safe.
Indigo powder is derived from the indigo plant and will help you achieve beautiful locks with a blue or greenish tint on light coloured hair. Usually used in conjunction with natural or pure henna, it permeates deep into your locks and darkens the colour of existing henna shades.
Is henna bad for your hair?
With the exception of black henna, which isn’t really henna at all, henna is exceptionally good for your hair. Not only does it inject vital vitamins and minerals into your scalp and locks, but it can prevent, and even reverse, hair thinning and broken and/or frizzy hair. This means henna is an effective and safe hair dye for thinning hair.
Is henna safe for all hair types?
We’ve mentioned thinning hair briefly, but which hair types are compatible with henna hair dye? Good news: pretty much all of them!
Afro and coily hair
Henna is a healthy choice for afro hair and this includes curl patterns from 3A to 4C and particularly those that are high porosity. Similarly, you can dye dreadlocks using henna – just make sure to apply the paste liberally.
Curly hair and henna get on like a house on fire – you heard it here first. Not only do the plant-based components in henna hair products rid your curls of dryness and frizz, but they actively work to fight off fungus with their antiseptic properties.
Beards and facial hair
It’s not all about heads. Henna works a treat for beards and other facial hair too. Given its kind and healthy ingredients, is a great choice for folks who suffer from sensitive skin or eczema.
What about colours?
Henna is wonderfully versatile and will work across a vast array of colours. From transforming yourself into a blonde bombshell to reinvigorating natural red hair, henna is a beautifully simple option that is better for your tresses and the planet.
How to check henna is safe
Perform a patch test
Before using henna products for any purpose at all, be it dying hair, beards or skin for tattoos, it’s a good idea to have a patch test. This is a small amount of natural henna product applied to the crease of your elbow or under the ear, that is left for a short time. If there is no localised reaction to the henna, then you’ll be safe to use the product as intended.
Check its shelf life
As henna is an organic product, let’s not forget its shelf life. Organic, natural henna sold as a paste will begin to separate over time and doesn’t have a long shelf. If you are working from henna powder, then this will be less of a concern as you will make the paste yourself.
To preserve the life of your henna, make sure you store any opened product in an airtight container or mix it with some shampoo to use as aftercare. Here’s another secret: pure henna will freeze so you can keep it around for much longer, up to three years if left unopened!
Does it smell right?
Odds are that if your henna smells bad, it’s bad. Fresh henna should smell earthy and often with undertones of florals or other essential oils. If you catch a whiff of something acrid or chemical, it’s likely to contain harmful synthetic additives such as PPD.
Why use natural henna hair dye?
Natural henna brings a number of benefits to your hair. When using henna as a hair dye, you must make sure you buy your henna from a trusted manufacturer that only uses 100 per cent organic, natural henna. This will keep your locks safe and healthy.
Using natural henna brings several benefits:
- Pure henna is free from chemicals and much kinder to skin and scalp.
- You can mix henna for hair colours yourself, giving you control over the colouring.
- Natural henna promotes scalp health while balancing pH levels.
- It also repairs and strengthens hair while stimulating hair growth.
Only use the most natural ingredients
Here are your key takeaways. Henna is a natural substance that comes in a few varieties. Some of these, such as black henna, have potentially harmful side effects and should be treated with care – so make sure your black henna is PPD-free.
Natural henna, however, is a nourishing organic ingredient that provides untold benefits that will keep you looking and feeling your best. Now you’re all clued up, learn more about using henna for hair health at itselixir’s blog today.