The Great Henna Experiment Of '09

Many people in my life (myself included) often forget I was a science major in college. That’s right, if you want to talk asymmetric boudinage or magma mixing, I’m your gal. Of course, I don’t talk geology much in my daily life but my course of study is has maybe appreciate the scientific method.

Hennabanda I posted a couple weeks ago over my battle with grey hair and a lot of people recommended henna. And who says I don’t listen to commenters! Initially I was a bit nervous about potentially making myself look bad (everyone’s chemistry is different), but I found myself more excited in thinking of this whole thing as an experiment.

I know, how exciting are my Friday nights!

Coffee (apparently it helps the brown develop better then plain old water. You can also add things like lemon (to play up blonde) or olive oil (to make hair soft)
Plastic bag
Hair elastic
Paintbrush (optional but it does help get those harder to reach places)
Two short movies or one long one


Henna-inprogress 1. Make coffee. (Oh and know that you’ve got to start with clean hair so do that if you need to.)

2. Mix coffee with henna according to package directions. Notice the weird green color. Decide the “test portion” will be your entire head.

3. Put green gunk all over your head. Note: Make sure you are wearing an old dark T-shirt when you’re doing this, or of course, you can go topless. Take your time and apply the gunk carefully with the paintbrush or your hands. Don’t splatter henna all over your white bathroom. Secure whole situation with hair elastic. Cover head with plastic bag.

4. Watch a really long movie, in my case “The Women”. The color needs to set for at least an hour. Tip: Might as well do all that other stuff you always mean to do like dishes or giving yourself a facial.

5. Once color is set (I waited an hour and a half) rinse in the sink, first with hot-water followed by cold water. Towel dry.

Results: Hair looks darker and grey is covered, feels gritty though (I am supposed to shower after but I’m going to wait until tomorrow morning). Smells like I’ve been in a pond all day.

At six dollars for a little pot of this henna stuff (I only used half of it), this is a pretty good bargain and it’s all natural. But it does take a freaking long time.

Conclusion: Henna is a good way to cover gray hair if you have a lot of time and inclination to sit around your apartment with a plastic bag on your head. You may want to do some pre-color smell prevention though. Clearly though the most important conclusion is that the commenters on this blog know what they are talking about!

Nicole Ouellette
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she's not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

3 Responses to “The Great Henna Experiment Of '09

  • Just a few notes on Henna use for best color results. I am not sure your instructions were accurate. Adding anything else (like oils, honey etc) to henna will hinder the absorption of color.
    1. Wear double gloves if you don’t want orange hands/nails
    2. Leave on for a min of 2 hours – I do 5hrs for max color depth.
    3. Rinse in a big bucket of water, then rinse with some cider vinegar, then rinse with some cheap conditioner. Your hair should not be “gritty” when you are done. Smell like hay, yes. The hay/earthy scent may last for a few days / shampoos.
    The ability to get glorious color and conditioning without chemical irritation – priceless !

  • Ally Day!
    10 years ago

    I love this idea! I prefer this to washing a bunch of clairol or manic panic chemical down the drain and into the ecosystem.
    But you forgot to mention, when you make the coffee, make sure you have enough left over for a steamy cup while head is bagged.

  • Oh, careful with the coffee! Caffeine can be absorbed through the skin!
    When I rinse the henna out of my hair I use a 2 in 1 shampoo conditioner after the bulk of the mud is gone, and I don’t get the gritty feeling anymore.

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