Thousands of henna users have reported and confessed on various online forums that their hair felt harsh, brittle, and a little unmanageable after applying henna dye. One can interpret this as dryness in the hair or a lack of moisture.
In reality, this transient condition has less to do with moisture and more to do with the basic composition of the hair. Henna coloring may result in a fleeting alteration at the base of the hair strand.
Within a few days, the hair returns to its usual structure. Moisturizing or an apple cider vinegar rinse might help speed up the smoothing process.
What is henna?
Henna is extracted from the leaves of the henna (Lawsonia inermis) plant. The powdered version is usually mixed with water and used on the hair or skin as a paste. To increase its staining capacity, henna dye is traditionally made by drying the leaves and then combining it with tannic substances, such as tea or coffee.
Henna includes lawsone, a protein-binding chemical that may be used to color hair, skin, and textiles. It has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Have you ever stood there watching your hair melt into a flaming mess right in front of your eyes? Hair falling out all over the place, a color that’s ratcheting up, and a treatment that’s left your hair feeling like straw? So, why is this harmless plant causing such a stir when it comes to hair coloring?
Let’s take a look at some of the henna’s drawbacks and understand why this harmless plant causes such a stir when it comes to hair coloring.
Disadvantages of Henna
• It is difficult to remove
• It may cause your hair to dry out
• It cannot be bleached
• Contains unhealthy additives
• Causes hair loss
• Leads to severe hair damage
• Requires an involving application process
• Leads to loss of hair texture
• Henna does not lighten but only darkens hair
• For people with pepper and salt hair, henna is not recommended
• Color fades out with time
• Heat styling may affect the hair
• Stains, clothes, and skin
Understanding Your Hair Structure and Henna Treatment
To understand the demerits highlighted above, it is imperative to appreciate the basic structure of a hair strand and how henna reacts when applied.
A single strand of hair isn’t a solid object. A hair strand comprises of numerous microscopic keratin scales overlaying each other in layers around a core structure, as seen in cross-sections under a microscope.
The outer layers of keratin are somewhat hydrophobic or water-resistant. They surround a core cortex consisting of a bundle of long cells called cortical cells that carry DNA and melanin. Water ballooning is more common in the cortex than in the outer layers. This explains why when hair is damp, it stretches even more.
A hair strand can only be stretched so far before returning to its original length. The strand will remain extended and degraded if it extends further than a specific point.
Excessive moisture in the cortex damages the hair structure, causing it to strain and break. Maintaining a healthy structure needs the proper moisture balance. With its hydrophobic keratin cuticles and the thin oil coating generated by the scalp, healthy hair achieves this on its own.
Hair can stretch, bend, and be subjected to regular friction and tangles while remaining healthy. Straight hair cuticles are more closely packed together, while curly hair cuticles have more room between them. Curly hair suffers from increased breakage due to the way cuticles are placed.
The cuticle layer is thicker and tighter near the scalp, where the hair is newly grown. Towards the end of the hair strand, it is older and could have a thinner cuticle layer. Split ends are caused by loss of the cuticle layer and splitting of the cortical bundle.
Instead of cuticles lying flat against each other, hair processed with chemicals will have damaged cuticles that stand up.
Moisture and acidity from the paste and intermediate color molecules travel into the hair strand’s outer layers during a henna treatment. A Michael Addition bond allows the dye to adhere to the keratin.
The residual paste may make your hair feel gritty and knotted if you don’t rinse it well enough, as if you had dirt in it. The dryness goes away when the color molecules settle in and oxidize, and the henna paste particles leave the hair.
Henna changes the hair’s physical structure; therefore, people with naturally curly hair may notice their curl pattern relaxing. This is a benefit for some people. Others who wish to keep their curl pattern might add amla to their henna mix before coloring.
Henna Ruined my hair! Reversing Henna’s Negative Effect on Your Hair
With the information provided above, it is important to acknowledge that there are ways of making hair feel softer, smoother, and more manageable after using henna.
1. Ensure that henna paste is fully rinsed
Fill up your bathtub with warm water and submerge your hair fully into the water while lying on your back. Move your fingers to swish your hair and ensure all of it is moving freely in the water; a process commonly referred to as “mermaid rinse.”
2. Use a handful of conditioners
Once you have drained the tub, use a hair conditioner on your hair to help any remaining henna paste slip out with ease. Use fresh water to rinse your hair and repeat if there are any traces of henna paste.
It is important to learn that you can wash your hair and shampoo it immediately after dyeing it with henna. This is because henna paste remains in contact with the hair while lawsone binds permanently with the hair. Washing will only remove the henna paste, but the dye will remain on the hair permanently. However, thorough washing also eliminates excess dye that may fail to attach to the hair strands during the application process.
3. Apple cider vinegar
For individuals who may be skeptical about using conditioners, apply diluted apple cider vinegar since it also has elements that will smooth the hair and close the cuticle. In the final rinse, it is recommended to use cool water because it helps to tighten the cuticle and close it.
Precautions for henna to color your hair
Once you have used henna to color your hair, it could be difficult to change it because some henna brands use metallic salts to make their paste. Always point out to your hairstylist that you have used henna since it could react differently to chemicals due to the metallic salts.
Take caution with the brand of henna you wish to purchase because it could negatively impact your hair. Always engage a professional hairdresser to understand your hair structure, texture, and strength and recommend the best henna brand.
Henna does not cause hair to fall out, but when you improperly apply a low-quality henna paste, your scalp will dry up and cause intense hair loss. Ensure that you purchase a high-quality henna product and have the right tools and skills for applying it.
Please do not leave the henna on the hair for long hours or overnight since it may cause side effects such as coughs and colds, mucus buildup, and aches on the shoulders and neck.
The information in this article opens our minds to understand that hair texture after applying henna dye should not be mistaken for dryness. Do not use coconut oil, yogurt, egg, milk, and other products trying to moisturize your hair. Adding these products will only prevent the henna dye’s proper application and uptake.
In addition, if you mistakenly and unknowingly make highly acidic mixes, they could further dry out your hair and scalp and irritate it such that you develop sensitive skin. All acids, including lemon juice, should not be used to apply the henna dye.