Henna for Gray Hair

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A close-up of my hair after henna.

Once a month I smear my head with green mud.  And my hair thanks me for it.  Yup.  I am a henna advocate.  When I first started using henna, my hair was dull, lifeless and chemically damaged.  After only a few months of henna, my hair was transformed.  Now, several years later, I am in my mid-forties and my hair is thick, shiny and nearly waist length.  Who knew mud could be so great?

Only one problem.  I’m in my mid-forties.  That means I’m a leetle bit gray.  Okay.  I’m a lot gray.  When I first started using henna, I only had a little gray.  The henna just made my gray look like lovely red highlights.  But the more gray you have, the more red your hair will look after henna.  I’m getting a lot of gray hair, so I was starting to look like this:

Now, if Lucille Ball is the look you’re going for, then great.  Hop over to my How To Henna Your Hair post and I’ll tell you all about it.  But if you want a more auburn look, and you have a lot of gray, keep reading.

In my research about henna, everything pretty much said that you can use henna as long as you only have 10% gray or less.  Great.  So I guess that means you can live a natural lifestyle until you turn gray, and then you either need to use chemicals or embrace the silver sheen.  Or look like Lucille Ball.  Thanks anyway.

I started experimenting with Indigo (more on that in a minute) and longer wait times.  My results were mixed.  Then one day Rula, one of my lovely readers, commented on this blog and sorted out my dilemma for me.  You guys really should comment more.  I learn so much from your comments.  Just saying.

Before I tell you Rula’s ingenious solution to the henna for gray hair dilemma, let me give you a little back round information.

Before you can make any changes to the way you henna your gray hair, you need to know how to use henna in the first place.  I tell you how I do my hair and give links for supplies and information here.

Once you know how henna works, there are a few special things you need to know about henna for gray hair:

Lawsone Content:  The lawsone content of henna affects how rich and deep the dye will be.  Less lawsone means less gray coverage.  More lawsone means more gray coverage.  Mehandi.com will tell you if you are getting a high lawsone content.  The henna I purchase has a higher than 2% lawsone content.  (If you are standing in the local health food store looking at the back of a henna box, put it down and slowly back away.  If you are really careful, it probably won’t bite you, but you should leave the area immediately to protect yourself.  I only use body art quality henna that comes in little pouches and has nothing in it but very finely ground henna leaf.  I have only found it online.  I have had so many people read my posts, rush out and buy some sort of pre-mixed boxed stuff at the store and then tell me they didn’t get my results.  I can’t vouch for what they put in that stuff.  Go ahead and spring for the good stuff!)

Longer Wait Times:  If you don’t have gray hair, you can rinse the henna off in a couple hours, but if you want good coverage on stubborn gray hair, you need to be more patient.  I usually leave the henna on for 6 hours — sometimes I will even leave it on overnight, but I never rinse it off in under 4 hours.

Indigo:  Indigo is just what it sounds like.  It is the plant used to make indigo (denim blue) colored dye.  Indigo can be your friend if you use it properly.  But if you just slap it on haphazardly, you will end up looking like this:

You don’t want that.
The indigo for hair is very finely powdered indigo leaf — nothing else.  There is an art to using indigo.  In some ways it is easier.  Henna needs an acidic element to release the dye and a long sit time for the dye release to occur.  Indigo is just mixed with water and used immediately.  That part is easier.  But you don’t want to apply it by itself unless you like blue hair.
If you want jet black hair, apply henna first, and alone.  Then when your henna is all done and your hair is dry, mix and apply indigo.  You can learn more about it in the free Henna for Hair ebook.
If you want brown hair, mix your henna first.  When you are all ready to color, mix your indigo.  Then you will need to stir the two together.  You need to stir, stir and stir some more, or you could end up with blue streaks.  The more indigo you add to your henna, the darker brown you will be.  When I have done this, I used half henna/half indigo or 3/4 henna/ 1/4 indigo.  Again, you can find lots more information about how to use indigo and how to mix it to get the color you want in the Henna for Hair ebook.
My problem with using an indigo/henna mix on my entire head:  I always like the results the first time I use it.  The second time, I think it’s a little darker than I wanted, but still okay.  By the third time, I think it is way too dark.  Once I experimented with just a little indigo in my henna.  It took longer to get to the way too dark stage, but I still did.  Indigo seems to build up over time.  Sigh…  What’s a gray headed girl to do?
This is the point that Rula stepped in with an ingenious idea that totally revolutionized my hairy world.  This is what she said:
“….What I did this time was I put the henna for 6 hours and washed it. That was 2 days ago. I kept about 3 tbs of the mix. Today I mixed 50 gr. of the indigo then added the 3tbs of mixed henna to it and applied to my roots. I left it for 20 min only and washed my hair. It did not become dark. [It’s a] lovely auburn, What I used to do before was I used to put hibiscus tea in my henna mix. It made it go dark and more purplish which I did not like. This time I did not. I found it much better. I never tried mixing both in one application. It is a hassle I’m sure you know, but henna is very good. This kind is by far the best I have ever tried…”
 
After reading her comments, I decided to try her method, or something very similar to it — it worked wonderfully.  Did you get what she said?  Here’s what I did:
 
1.  I colored my hair using henna and my regular method (here) and saving a out few tablespoons.  I left it on for 6 full hours.  Then I rinsed and washed as usual.
2.  When my hair was dry (the same day for me, Rula waited 2 days), I mixed enough indigo with water to make a few tablespoons.  Then I made a mix of half henna/half indigo.
3.  I applied the henna/indigo mix to the roots only and set a timer for 20 minutes (I might try 30 minutes next time for a slightly deeper, richer color), then I rinsed and washed my hair again.  Ta Da!  Blended auburn roots without going too dark over the rest of my hair.  Thank you Rula!!!
 
Here is why it works:
 
First:  By just using straight henna on the bulk of your hair, you get the lovely effects of henna without the gradual darkening effects of the indigo over the bulk of your hair. But your gray roots are left looking like this:
This is me after rinsing the henna out.
My hair is still wet, but the gray roots are really red and very noticeable.
We need to fix that.  Time for stage two.

Second:  By applying a henna/indigo mix just to the new gray growth, you are able to darken the part that needs to be darkened without over-darkening the rest of your hair.  Because that new growth will be part of “the rest of your hair” next time, it will only get one indigo application.  This blends the roots into the rest of the hair without making anything too dark or too red.

Excuse the terrible picture, but this is after the the second stage application.  I was using an all-over henna/indigo application for the last few color jobs, so my hair is a little brown right now (The indigo I put all over my head last time will fade out eventually).  Also, this is immediately after the second application, so the colors haven’t had time to oxidize and mellow yet (that takes 2-3 days).  I like Rula’s way much, much better than the way I had been doing it lately (henna/indigo mix all over).  The roots are blending in nicely with the rest of my hair.
Third:  By leaving the henna/indigo mix on the gray roots only 20 minutes (I might try 30 minutes next time for a slightly richer color), you avoid ending up with black roots (remember, indigo applied after henna will give you black hair).  You just deepen the color of your roots and blend them into the rest of your hair.  Perfect.  Now I have auburn hair again, and I can keep it that way.
Thank you Rula!  You’re idea deserves to be shared with the henna world!  We really can keep using henna when we are more than 10% gray!
Have a great day!
Angela

 
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104 Comments

  1. Oh my God Angela! Thank you so much! You should see the smile on my face! I enjoyed reading your post.
    I do both applications the same day all the time, but that time I was stuck at home because we had the most horrible snow storm so I decided to wait. No one was going to see me anyway in my Lucille Ball roots 🙂 If you add about 2/3 indigo to 1/3 henna, you can leave it for 20 min or as you said about half an hour for half half mix. I keep on experimenting and get diffirent results, but this is the best method for the color we want.
    I'm so happy about this post.
    Love xxxx

  2. I'll have to try the 2/3 indigo and 1/3 henna next time. It worked great this time, though. I am super happy with the results. Thank you so much for figuring this out! I'm glad you liked the post. We henna girls have got to get the word out! Have a great day!!

  3. Thank you, Jennifer. It depends on what color you want to achieve. The lighter your hair, the redder henna will make it. And indigo mixed with henna gets darker each time. So unless you want to dramatically change your color, I would recommend using caution. You might look into Casia. It doesn't change the color of your hair so much. It does brighten your hair and give it more shine. The free ebook I recommended above shows samples of different mixes for different hair colors. It will give you some idea of the results you might achieve. Also, harvesting hair from your hairbrush will give you something to test. By testing your own hair, you will have a very good idea of the color your hair will become. Mehandi, where I get my henna supplies, also sells samples very inexpensively, so you can test before you commit. My hair is naturally pretty dark (except for the gray), so I don't have experience with lighter hair, but you might be able to experiment with a casia/henna mix or a casia/henna/indigo mix to lighten your results. I hope that helps a little.

  4. Hello!
    Rula please tell from where you buy indigo? Is it available here in Amman? I have black hair with lots of gray. I want to try using henna because i'm allergic to chemical dyes.
    Angela I want to thankyou for this lovely post.
    Alaa

  5. Alaa, I'm so glad you liked the post! It may take Rula a few days before she sees this. In the mean time, I buy my indigo online through the same website I get my henna. It is http://www.mehandi.com. I don't know if there is a similar online site from a local store in Jordan, but if there is, that would really help your shipping costs and ship times. If I hear from Rula, I will send her your way. Have a great day!

  6. Dear Alaa and Angela,
    I had a death in the family, my aunt.That's why I did not check for a while. I answered on the previous henna post. Sorry for the late reply.

  7. Hello Rula,
    My condolences on the loss of your aunt.
    Thank you for answering my question, I will get a shop and ship account from Aramex soon. How long did it take for your order from Amazon.Uk to arrive to Amman? Did you have any problems with your order? I've heard that any powdery substance is not allowed to enter Jordan; it might need an approval from the Ministry of Health. Is that true?

  8. Dear Alaa,
    No, it arrives through Aramex without any problem. If I order from the States from Mehandi, it takes about 2 weeks. However, the one from Amazon usually arrives within 5 days. Here is my email pearly115@yahoo.co.uk if you need me to answer you quickly.

    Hi Angela, How are you doing?
    By the way, yesterday a total stranger asked me where do I color my hair because it's beautiful! I proudly said henna 🙂

  9. Hi Angela
    My hair is dark brown, now almost 40 % white hair. I have been dying my hair for the past 13 years with chemical dyes, which made my hair dry and my scalp itchy. I just recently bought organic body art quality henna for hair and organic indigo. I was wondering if I could color my grey roots with a mix of henna and indigo in one application since my hair is already dark from the chemical dyes. How much henna and indigo should i use ?

  10. Hello Lena,
    When I switched from chemical dyes to henna, I did my whole head, so I can't tell you exactly what your results will be if you only do the roots. I'll just have to give my best guess based on my personal experience with henna. I would think that mixing henna and indigo for your roots would work fine. If, after you've done your roots with henna and indigo, you find that there is a color difference between the chemically dyed hair and the natural dyed hair, I would just do my whole head with the henna/indigo mix. I would probably use a little less indigo for my whole head since it seems to get darker each time. I would think that would help blend the hennaed roots with the rest of your hair (if there is a difference). After you were happy with the blend of roots to the rest of your hair, I would think you could just continue to do the roots from there. I hope that helps. Let us know how it works for you. We have a lot of people checking these posts with henna questions. Your experience can help all of us. Have a great day!

  11. Hi Angela,
    Today, I did a test on my hair by taking a couple of sections. I made a mix of one teaspoon henna and two teaspoons indigo and applied it to my roots and left it for 11/2 hours. The resulting color was shocking; the grey hair turned green. What happened? What do you suggest I do?

  12. It sounds like you used too much indigo. That much indigo in your indigo to henna ratio would give your hair a bluish color which would look green, I would think. I wouldn't advise using more than a half and half mixture. Usually I use less indigo than henna. Also, when I did my roots, they had first been dyed with straight henna, then the henna/indigo mix (as indicated in the post) Make sure you are preparing your indigo and henna properly, too.

    Also, are you absolutely sure your henna is pure? It should be only powdered henna leaf and your indigo should only be powdered indigo leaf. Pure henna should never turn your hair green, even if it is applied over a previous chemical dye job. Did you follow the indigo and henna preparation instructions found in the Henna for Hair book I linked to?

    As far as turning it to a nice color…hmmm…I have no experience with this, so I'm not sure. You could try applying straight henna that has been properly prepared and leaving it on for at least 4 hours. That might help. I think at this point, I would try contacting Mehandi.com to see if someone there (who has more experience with these kinds of things than I do) can give you some suggestions. I'm glad you did a test section first — that is always advisable so that you know what you'll be getting when you do your whole head. Sooo sorry you are having a tough time with this.

  13. Thank you for the quick reply, I think you're right, maybe using more indigo than henna made my grey hair turn to green (it's actually a mix between blue, green and yellow). Tomorrow I will do it your way; I will dye my hair straight with henna then followed by a mix of henna and indigo on the roots.
    I'm positive that my henna and indigo are pure. Today was my first experience with indigo but I used to henna my hair when I was in my twenties so I know what good quality powered henna looks and smells like.

  14. Let me know how it goes, Lena. I've never tried to correct too much indigo, so it will help all of us to learn what to do when something goes wrong.

  15. Hi Angela,
    It worked out great ; the grey hair is completely covered with
    a nice brown color. It blended well with my dark hair. What I did is, first I left the henna for 4 hours, then I made a mix of half henna and half indigo and applied it to
    my roots. I left it for 2 hours and washed it.
    My hair grows fast, so I might need to do my roots every two weeks and henna all my hair once a month. My hair feels soft and shiny ; I love it.
    Thank you for this blog.

  16. Oh, Lena, I'm so glad it worked out for you! That is awesome. My hair grows really fast, too. I should be doing my roots every two weeks but I'm too lazy, so I look at gray roots for the last two weeks of every month. Sigh… Tonight is a henna night for me. Good bye gray!!

  17. I'm so glad that I found your page. I have long hair, like yours, and I am so sick of using chemical dyes and damaging my hair. I sought out a natural alternative and my search brought me to a whole new world! Henna, and Indigo, and Cassia – oh my!

    I did a ton of research online and ordered BAQ henna and indigo from HennaSooq. It was smelly, messy and a complete pain in the butt but I absolutely love the result. Great color, great feel…..great big smile 🙂 That was about a month ago and now it's time to do it again.

    I'm turning 40 shortly and my greys are getting thicker. The battle is on! I was concerned with my hair getting darker and darker due to continued use of henna/indigo but thanks to Rula – now I have a plan.

    I'm going to henna my whole head tonight and then henna/indigo just the roots in the morning. I mixed my henna a few hours ago and I'm trying some ginger mixed in to try and kill the smell. It was recommended on Mehandi's website and I hope it works. I found it nauseating last time. Ugh.

    My husband is not home tonight and that's a good thing. I thought he was going to have an anxiety attack during my first application. He was absolutely convinced that my hair would be bright green and that would result in a very loud, late-night meltdown from me. Ha!

    Full steam ahead! 🙂

  18. Rula is great, isn't she Susan? I don't know why I didn't think of it before she commented, but I'm glad she did. I have been using her method ever since and it's working great.

    That's pretty funny about your husband. Mine is used to me by now, but I still try to henna when he is away or asleep. I prefer to keep a little bit of my feminine mystique if I can, and sporting a henna-head isn't the way to do it. Let us know how your hair turns out!

  19. Hi Angela…just a quick question. Does using shampoo after using henna to dye the hair (to get the henna out) …do you think it removes the color a little from the hair? Would it be better to rinse with just plain water and then shampoo a few days later? Or just conditioner and then shampoo a few days later? Or it really dosent matter either way? Thanks for your help. Patti

  20. Hello Patti. Thank you for your question. I always use both shampoo and conditioner after henna. That way I get all the henna out and my hair has a lovely shine. I've heard other henna users say you should wait to shampoo. In the beginning I tried that, but I couldn't get all that henna mud out of my long hair without shampoo. If you leave the henna on long enough, it will penetrate the hair shaft and doesn't need to stay on any longer. I leave my henna on for at least four hours (when I'm in a hurry), usually six and sometimes overnight. One of the wonderful things about using henna instead of chemical dyes is how long the color lasts — henna doesn't fade like chemical red dyes. You shouldn't have any trouble with the color fading because you used shampoo. By all means, though, do what you are comfortable with. Shampoo, no shampoo, or only conditioner will all work fine.

  21. Hi,Angela I,m a Norwegian 54 years old lady,and used to henna my hair many years ago.Then I stopped because to much work.Then I went to a hairdresser a went slowly light blonde.(I'm naturally a dark mousy blonde) But because of my 75 % grays,I thought I looked washed out.So I though to go more naturally,so I bought naturtint dark blonde.I went vey dark and on the lenght greenish.So I bought a hair dye remover from boots.It took all the dye away,but was gingery up,and little greenish on the lenght.So I used casting chocolate on it,also It was not covering probably on the lengths.So I bought surya henna powder in. Burgundy it's now a chocolate copper on top,but less red on lenght.I was wondering I want to use morrocan henna from now on just,but will my roots be very orange since I'm 75 % Gray.and also how much indigo to put in to get a auburn red colour on it.And which henna give the darkest stain,I don't like orange yellow hair,thank you.

  22. You may need to take a gradual approach until you get a look you're happy with. It sounds like your hair is a different color on top than it is on the bottom. If you follow the directions in this post, using the second step (the indigo/henna mix) on the lighter part of your hair, it may help blend the two shades better than what you have tried in the past. Even if it still isn't exactly what you want, getting the two shades more blended will really help. Once you have the top and bottom of your hair about the same color, you can reapply the henna or henna indigo mix until you like the shade. Indigo seems to make the hair darker each time you apply it, so once you are dark enough, just do your new roots with the indigo/henna mix. I would wait at least two or three days after I had evened out the tone before I did a second full application of henna because the color deepens over that period of time. You can also do experiments on hair harvested from your hairbrush to avoid taking your hair on another hair color roller coaster ride. Everyone's hair takes henna a little bit differently. One more thing, I would make sure I left the henna on for a minimum of 4 hours, but more like 6 or overnight. That will help the gray hair take up more dye so that it won't look orange. When you do the henna/indigo step, I would use anywhere from 1/2 henna/1/2 indigo to 1/3 henna/2/3 indigo, and I would only leave it on as indicated in this post. I would build that color more slowly until I liked the color. I hope that helps you. Let me know how it goes for you. We are all learning from each other here.

  23. Hello and thanks for stopping by. My hair color before henna was a dark brown. Henna will not change your existing color, but will add to it. So for me, that means it turns my brown hair dark auburn. But now that I'm going gray, the gray parts turn brilliant red. If your hair is light brown or blond, it will be much more red than the pictures you see of mine.

  24. How dark was your hair?? Im trying to see how red my hair wold turn out (hopefully like yours). Its a very dark brown.

  25. Hmmm…how to explain it…. In terms of wood, it was about walnut colored (as opposed to pine or maple or something). It was pretty dark, but not black or so dark that people thought it was black. I'm trying to think how else to describe it. Dirt colored? But that isn't very flattering…

  26. You aren't annoying at all. The problem is that I have been using henna for over 10 years. Before that, I used chemical dyes. (Even in high school). I don't even know if I can find a picture of my natural color. It's been about 30 years since I've seen it.

    What I would suggest is that you "harvest" your own hair by getting the hair out of your hairbrush until you have a nice sized clump of hair. Meanwhile, order a sample of henna (if you don't already have some). I get mine from Mehandi (linked in the post). Then do a sample test on your harvested hair. That way you will have a very accurate idea of how your own hair will react with the henna. I think this will help you more than any pictures will. I have had several friends who tried this before taking the plunge and doing their whole head.

  27. That's hard to say, since I have never actually seen you. But going on the "very dark" description, I would say that it should become a deep, rich auburn. It will seem brighter the first few days, and then mellow out a bit. But, again, that's just a guess since I haven't seen your hair. And if you use boxed "henna" from a store, it's anybody's guess. Sometimes they mix other things in that. If you use body art quality henna, though, you will probably end up with a hair color similar to mine (based on your dark hair description).

  28. Hooray a post that keeps my hopes of continuing to use henna AND have long hair alive!!! I use a mix of henna and indigo but parts of my hair are starting to turn black, I am going to try this method and pray it works for me . Thank you 🙂

  29. So it worked!!!!! My roots are a little bright still but I'm leaving it a while to see if it mellows but otherwise the rest of my hair is a much richer colour, still very dark in places but without the constant indigo applications I am hoping that will fade

    Thank you so much for this 🙂

  30. Hi Angela, I ordered henna & indigo from Mehandi a few days ago & while I am waiting for it to arrive, I have been reading all over the internet about henna & about what mix to apply. I have colored my hair about 7 times in the past with a box dye & I always hated using it because of the chemicals. My natural hair color is black & I have about 10-15% gray ~ it is sprinkled throughout my hair with the most concentrated areas on each side near the front. I want to have deep red / mahogany highlights were the grays are & the rest of my black hair to have a red tint to it from the henna. I am planning on using straight henna & leave it on for 4 hours, then after rinsing, if the grays are too bright & orangy, should I color my whole head with 2/3 henna & 1/3 indigo mix for about 30 minutes or just the sides near the front? As I mentioned, I want to have the deep red / mahogany highlights to be where the grays are now but I do not want to go too dark & make my hair all black & lose the highlights. Not sure how much indigo to use, because I don't want to use too much & make my hair too dark & black. Thanks for your help, Paula

  31. Hello Paula. This is a great question, and one that I see come up often. In my experience, indigo gets darker on your hair each time you use it. After about 3 applications, you won't have highlights anymore and your hair will be really dark. Also, I have heard a lot of people complain that straight henna on blonde or gray hair left it orange instead of red. Often, that is because they didn't leave it on long enough and/or had too low lawsone.

    If it was me, this is what I would do if I had your situation (black hair with gray that I wanted to be deep mahogany with red highlights.) First of all, I would make sure that I had henna with a high lawsone content (greater than 2%). A higher lawsone content will give you better coverage on gray and deeper red on dark hair. Then I would leave the henna on for at least 6 hours rather than 4. The longer sit time allows the henna to really penetrate the hair. For the first 2 or 3 applications, I would use no indigo at all. The red of the henna will become richer over the course of 2 or 3 applications, until your hair reaches a saturation point.

    If, after all that, you feel that the gray in the length of your hair is too red, you might try a 3/4 henna/1/4 indigo mix. I would only do that once or at most twice, though. It seems that indigo really takes off on that second and third application and will turn your hair really really dark. At that point, it is likely that you will lose all highlights and end up with a uniform blue/black/brown color.

    If your roots are really gray, and therefore making red roots when you henna alone, I would use Rula's method for dealing with gray roots as indicated in this post.

    I hope that helps you, Paula. Let me know how it goes for you!

  32. Sooooo happy to have found this post!!! Dealing with this exact issue- hair has gotten far too dark from my indigo, and my roots cannot keep up with it and always stay too light!! I did my henna tonight, and now after seeing this I'll be doing this method tomorrow! I suppose I'll do 2/3 indigo to 1/3 henna, although I had initially planned on doing 1/2 and 1/2. 🙂

  33. I'm so happy to have you here, Julie. Let me know how this technique works out for you. Oh, and if you would like to lighten the old indigo in your hair, I was able to lighten the indigo I put in the length of my hair before I learned this technique. (Maybe not completely remove it, but blend it into the rest of my hair much, much better.) I tell how I did it here:
    http://www.gallimaufrygrove.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-remove-indigo-dye-from-hair.html
    Have a great day!

  34. Thank you thank you thank you for the citric acid info too!! This helps a ton!!! I LOVE my henna and truly will never switch~ The health and shine of my hair far outweighs the fact that my color may be off a bit after using it for so long…but it's wonderful to have nice natural deas to modify it a bit!! YAY!!!

  35. Sooooo I just did the 1/3 henna and 2/3 indigo mixture (left on for 1/2 hour)….and YAY!!!! IT'S FANTASTIC!!!! Sooooo very happy to have found you last night!!!! Now I'll have to try the citric acid next! What do you find to be the best amount of water/CA to use at this point? I definitely don't want to cause any damage whatsoever because the henna has my hair as healthy and shiny as I could have ever prayed for! 😀 😀 😀

  36. I am so glad the gray hair technique worked for you, Julie! That is awesome. For the Citric Acid treatment, I would wait a little while so that the new henna has a chance to mellow out. When I did my citric acid treatment, I did it a couple days before I was ready to do a new henna dye job. That way I had removed the old indigo before I did anything else. You might want to wait until you are ready to color again, or wait a few days and only do the length of your hair (leaving the roots and new indigo/henna alone.) You can refer to the "How to Remove Indigo Dye from Hair" post for my citric acid to water ratios. I didn't notice any drying or damage to my hair the way I did it. In fact, my hair was even shinier — I think that's because it removed old shampoo buildup. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  37. How often do you think I can Henna/Indigo my roots? My roots (which was plenty grey) are too bright red for my dark brown hair (dark from previous chemical hair dye), and I would like to get a uniform color all around, thanks

  38. Hi Angela! I have been using the two-step process for about six months and getting great coverage. However, my hair is thick, coarse and curly, and now it seems to be getting rougher. Do you think it could be because of henna / indigo? Also, do you use a natural / organic shampoo or a chemical shampoo to maintain the color for longer duration?

  39. Hmmm… My hair is fine and definitely not curly, so I will give you my utterly non-professional opinion. It could be the indigo. Indigo tends to build up on the hair shaft over time. A build up of indigo shouldn't happen with the 2 step process, though. It is more likely that some of the other products you are using on your hair may be drying it out, building up or something. I don't use any chemical products on my hair besides hair spray (I haven't found a good natural substitute for that one yet.) Occasionally I will use a small amount of styling mouse, but not that often. I use a shampoo that is SLS free and a conditioner that is silicone free) I also make mud masks that condition my scalp and help remove any buildup, etc. (one of my recipes is here:
    http://www.gallimaufrygrove.blogspot.com/2015/01/diy-hair-scalp-mud-mask.html )
    The shampoo and conditioner I use is from Dessert Essences. My favorite is their coconut shampoo and conditioner (awesome stuff). Another thing that could be a factor if your hair starts getting rougher, etc, is hormones. If your hormones are off, it really does affect hair texture, shine and lots of other things. So if you are having other symptoms, take thyself to thy doctor of all things hormonal. But even if it's hormones, natural haircare can go a long way to improving hair. To improve the roughness, you might try the mud hair mask I mentioned and switching shampoo and conditioner. Also, if you notice your hair looking not so smooth and nice, try rubbing a small amount of coconut oil in your hands and then running your fingers through your hair. This is wonderfully nourishing for the hair and works to tame fly-aways and roughness. Too much will make your hair look oily, though, so be careful. I hope that helps.

  40. Hi Angela, I'm having a hard time with the henna process. I ordered the twilight and indigo from mehandi.com. I am 40 and I have about 1 1/2 gray root I tested some of my gray hair it turned yellow with a green hue to it and the chemical treated hair came out fine. I am trying to cover my grays but I had no luck. I only did a strand not my whole head to scared. I read some of your posts about the 2 step. When you dyed your hair with henna only after the time allowed did you wash it let it dry then applied henna and indigo. My hair is chemically dyed reddish purple brown color which I love. Any advice on how much of indigo verses henna? Who would of known after 20 years of dyeing my hair i would be allergic…HELP I really want to make henna work for me.

  41. Christine, how long did you leave the henna on? If you didn't leave it on long enough or if the henna didn't have a high enough lawsone, it would be a more of an orange tint. If your gray hair is more stubborn with accepting the dye, it will take longer. If that's the case, try leaving the henna step on overnight. That gives the henna time to really penetrate the hair shaft. The green tint could be a couple things. If you mixed the indigo in and didn't leave it on long enough, it could look greenish. Or if you have very hard water, the mineral build-up on your hair might be doing it. Mehandi sells a product (I think it's called Rain Water) that removes mineral build-up from hard water. You said you bought your henna from Mehandi, so we know the were no weird chemicals mixed in. Some of the over-the-counter henna has things mixed in that can turn your hair green. Also, there could possibly be a reaction if you had just had your hair colored chemically. Older chemical color shouldn't be a problem, though.

    When I did the 2 step, I washed and let my hair dry between the henna step and the henna/indigo step. I haven't used chemical dyes in at least 10 years, so I don't have any experience with the 2 step method on chemically dyed length and fresh roots.

    I don't think there is any way to get the purplish color with henna/indigo. Maybe someone out there can chime in if they know of a way. With indigo, it really builds up on the hair shaft and can do bad things to your hair if you use it more than once or at most, twice. That's why the 2 step process works so well — it means you only use indigo on the roots, not the length. However, if you have two-toned hair, it might need an all over henna/indigo treatment once to help even things out. With indigo, less is more. Every person's hair is different, so you'll have to experiment. I wouldn't go more than 1/2 henna/ 1/2 indigo, unless I was sure that's what I wanted. I might even start with just 1/4 or 1/3 indigo first, though. You can always do it again, but it is really hard to get indigo out if you use too much. Also, henna oxidizes over the first 2-3 days. In other words, it deepens and gets richer during that time. So don't panic if it looks a bit orange-red at first. Let us know what you decide to do. We learn from each other around here. 😉

  42. Angela , Thank you for responding. I used distilled water with the indigo.and I left in on for 4 hours. I called Mehand they found it weird that my hair turned that color.I told them that I had read a post by you and I told them about the applying henna first then indigo and henna. They said since I have a level 4 in my hair to leave the henna and indigo on for 1-2 hours on the roots…They are wonderful and the the posts I came across from you are so amazing that I thank you for that, I still have hope. I will not giving up just yet. They want me to call back with the results. I will be doing my hair this Friday. Lets cross our fingers and cross our toes….

  43. Angela (and Rula!!!)!!!–
    Thank you so so SO much!! I have medium-dark brown hair that is 50% gray in front and on top, and have used your method very successfully for a couple of months. My new grey growth really stands out from my hair, so I try to henna and then hendigo it every 4 weeks, and I basically do exactly what you do, except,

    I leave the henna in "just" 4 hours, and, since I'm going more for "medium-dark brown" with highlights, I have been doing a 1/3 henna, 2/3 indigo mix and leaving it on for 30 minutes just on my roots. I think to avoid things getting too dark (as I age,) I may see what your hendigo recipe (half henna and half indigo) is like for me, but it may be too red. If so, I'll add some cassia to my 1/3 to 2/3 mix and adjust as I need to.

    Thanks again!!–jenny r

  44. Angela,

    Two more things I forgot to mention:
    1. I also only use Mehandi henna, indigo, amla, cassia. Amazing products and I LOVE that they've been tested!!

    2. Whenever I initially henna as the first step and my greys turn bozo-the-clown orange, it IS startling and a bit terrifying. But then, minutes later, after applying the hendigo on top of the orange, waiting 30 minutes, and rinsing, it's completely covered the orange and my greys are now…brown!! Even my hair stylist was shocked and impressed!! It seems too good to be true…but it works!!

    Thanks again!!!!xx

  45. Jerryr, thank you for sharing your experience! I am so thrilled that it is working well for you. I love how you've tweaked this to make it work for you. If you decide to add the cassia, let me know how that works for you. I keep thinking that I'll need to go a little lighter as I get older, and have thought about playing with cassia to do that. I'd love to hear your experience if you decide to try it. It's wonderful to know that we can stay with natural dyes as we get older!

  46. Hi Angela I've been using henna for awhile and have difficulty covering all the grey roots on the back of my head and nape of the neck. I have long hair like yours. Could you please provide some tips and maybe pictures of how you section your hair when applying henna.
    Thanks!

  47. Hello Yumgoodness. I have to admit being pretty pathetic about sectioning my hair "properly" when I apply henna. Part of how I manage to get good coverage is that I make sure the consistency of the henna is right. If it's too thick, it is almost impossible to get all the nooks and crannies. If it's too thin, it runs all over the place and doesn't stay on the hair well. I make mine about the consistency of yogurt. I talk more about it in my How to Henna Hair post. (I link to it in the first paragraph of this post). Once I know I've got the constancy right, I pull most of my hair up and clip it up out of the way. I leave the bottom, underneath layer down — just a thin layer, though, and pull the rest of the hair out of the way. I know a lot of people start at the front of the head and work back, but that doesn't seem to work as well for me. I glob some henna at the roots and massage it in, then work the henna to the ends of my hair. I really focus on the roots, though. When that section is saturated, I unclip my hair and section off another thin layer of hair and repeat the process. Once I have the entire back of my head done, I start working on the front (from the ears forward). I again section off the lower layer at my ears and work up to the top of my head until the middle of my head is done all over. Then I work on my bangs and front of my head. I pay particular attention to this part, since everyone will notice this first, sectioning small sections and focusing on the roots. I always focus on getting plenty of henna at the roots and working it to the ends. If your coverage isn't good at the roots, you are probably trying to make the sections too big or your henna is too thick (or both). I hope that helps.

  48. Hi Angela, thanks so much for your tips on sectioning hair. I'm about to henna again tomorrow night and will try it. I have much grey hair and have the red roots coupled with too dark indigo'd hair situation going on. I can't wait to try the two step process you've recommended! After applying henna overnight to all of my hair, then washing and drying; I'll apply a 1/2 henna 1/2 indigo mix on just the roots. I'll probably leave it on the roots for at least an hour to achieve a dark brown. But I don't want to get a jet black result, do you think this will happen if it's left on for an hour?

    Your site is amazing, there is so much great information here. Thank you!!

  49. Hi Angela, One more question, do you have any tips for how to apply the henna/indigo mixture to only the roots. My process seems so messy and I have a hard time not getting the mixture on the hair below the roots. Do you section your hair the same way when you're applying henna/indigo to the roots as you do when applying just the henna?

  50. Hello, LB. I am so glad you are enjoying the site. I'm not sure what leaving the henna indigo mix on for an hour will do, having never tried it. I have done 30 minutes, though and that worked well. I wouldn't think it would turn black since you aren't using straight indigo. You could try 45 minutes to be safe and inch up the time next time. Or, if you had time (who does?) you could do a strand test on a small section of your hair before you do all the roots. Or you could just wax bold and leave it on for an hour. Do tell us your results, whatever you do. These henna posts have a lot of people watching them and the comments do get read by other people who have questions. Your experiences will help us all. 🙂

  51. I just saw your second question. It IS messy. I section my hair like I do for the all-over henna. I just do my best. This is a very forgiving method, so just try to keep it to your roots the best you can and don't worry about the slosh-over. You aren't leaving it on long enough to make it a big problem. I can't wait to hear your results!

  52. Hello Angela, the results were so good!! The best results in two years of using henna. I left the henna/indigo mix on for an hour and used almost 1/2 henna and 1/2 indigo (my henna was a bit runny when I was mixing it, so I added a bit more, as a result there was slightly more henna than indigo in the final mix). When I washed my hair, combed it and saw the results my very first thought was "Angela, you are good, you are so very good!" I am delighted to have found your blog and this very effective two step process to cover grey with minimal indigo involved.

    Thank you, thank you thank you!!

  53. Joseph Valenti, I wish I could take credit for the indigo method, but all the credit has to go to Rula for figuring it out. Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  54. Hi Angela !
    Love your knowledge and how gracious you are.
    I think I read that you have been using henna for the last 10 years, do you do a whole head henna every time? I am considering going back to henna, I used to do it when I was in my 20's but when my grays turned into whites, the neon orange I would get was not becoming anymore. 🙂 Used chemicals for a long time, and my hair is lifeless, almost no shine, dry, etc. My main question is, how do you deal with the henna build up? or is there such a thing? or the build up of indigo for that matter ?, I will try to achieve a medium brown-auburn, although I know it will be hard on almost white hair, but I am willing to experiment. For older people like me, you can always be a little eccentric and wear hats, 🙂
    Would appreciate your reply, and thank you for your time.

  55. I'm so glad to have you here, Ficalli Gus! I've done various things with my hair since I started going gray, so I'll try to tell you what I have done and am doing. Keep in mind that my hair is naturally very dark. Some areas of my hair are almost completely white (temples, etc.) while other areas are more of a salt & pepper look. What I am doing still looks like highlights, but when I am mostly white, I will need to change my tactics.

    I used to always do a full head henna treatment (or henna/indigo when I did that). When I started using the method in this post, I did a full head of henna, then just the roots with the henna/indigo. Lately I have decided that I wanted to go slightly lighter over-all, so I am back to experimenting. The last two treatments, I have put henna only on just the roots. Instead of leaving it for 4-6 hours, I am leaving it on for 1-2 hours. This gives me far less saturation (gray hair is naturally resistant to color, so it takes a long time to fully saturate). By leaving out the indigo, I don't get the brown. By getting less saturation from the straight henna, I don't get the deep red either. Instead, I get a more orange-y blonde highlight. Because I still have so much dark hair to offset that, I don't look like a carrot (yet). I'm still not sure what I think — I don't have much new growth that I have done this way so it's hard to tell how it's going to look. Perhaps in a few more months I will know if it's going to look like red-blond highlights or if it's just going to look weird. I'm thinking that eventually I'll have a sort-of ombre look until the darker hair grows out. We'll see…

    Now, for your hair… Henna doesn't seem to build up. My hair is always shiny and healthy with straight henna. Indigo builds up terribly and eventually leaves my hair dull and with a very flat color. It is very hard to remove if you don't like it. It also keeps getting darker until eventually it is almost black, no matter what your mix is. That's the whole reason for the method in this post. I have no experience with cassia, but a lot of people use it mixed with henna to lighten the henna to a strawberry blond. With your hair being white, you will need to be cautious with anything you use. White hair lacks pigment, so the color you get will be entirely what you have mixed up and applied. It won't be as forgiving as pigmented hair. I would definitely recommend using hair from your brush to test the effect before you apply it to your whole head. If you are going for a medium brown-auburn, I would think you would need all three — henna, indigo and cassia. I would try a 2/3 henna & 1/3 indigo mix cut it back with some cassia. I have never tried that, so I can't be much help on telling you how. I will say, however, that I would do my whole head a couple times until I got a depth of color that I liked, then I would do the roots only from then on. That way you won't get that terrible indigo build-up. It seems like the 3rd all-over indigo treatment is the one that starts looking wrong. By only doing the roots from the 3rd application on, you will be working with hair that hasn't had indigo before. I would also recommend looking at the Henna for Hair book that I linked in this post. It has lots of color combinations and shows many of them on white hair, so you will have a good idea how things are going to look. Best of luck to you. Let us know how it turns out.

  56. It worked!! beautiful shine, deep burgundy color. Followed your directions I am so happy with the results and your suggestions. I found out a little trick for those stubborn orange hairs usually in the front of the head or the temples. When you freeze a batch, put some henna in those small containers for mixing paint, the ones with the lids, They are cheap to buy at Hobby Lobby or some place like that. Whenever you have a half an hour or so to spare, mix the indigo, get out one of those little containers to thaw out, that process would take 10 to 15 min. mix the henna and the indigo, ( 50% and 50%) paint the mixture on those orange hairs only, with a mascara brush, wait another 15 min ( I did that while eating breakfast ) then jump in the shower and voila, no more
    orange. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.

  57. I am so glad it worked, Ficalli Gus!! And I love your idea for those stubborn little hairs — so much quicker and easier than what I've been doing, so I'll be much less likely to let them go too long. I'm gonna have to get myself some of those containers. I already have a stray mascara brush. Perfect!

  58. I am so excited to have found your site. My henna/indigo hair got too dark underneath and I'm going to try your citric acid method and try and lighten it. I also buy from Mehandi and instead of using juice the next time I henna, am trying their potassium bitrartrate (which I just learned is cream of tartar) to mix in the henna. They claim it makes it more auburn. We shall see. I think I'll try the citric acid and then wait a few days and then try the henna. What think? Thanks again!

  59. I used henna for the first time a month ago on 9 inches of previously colored auburn hair with 2 inches of medium brown, 20 percent gray roots.. loved the color but wondering if I use straight henna all over this time will my ends get darker? More red? Will it get darker each time? Not wanting my ends to get much darker ..just have never understood what happens if u continue to layer the henna.

  60. Henna might get a richer, deeper color the first couple times, but it won't get darker. Once it reaches saturation (usually in one or two applications) the color won't change. It won't keep getting darker like indigo does. Henna works with the existing color of the hair and penetrates the hair shaft. Indigo coats the hair. That's why henna doesn't get darker, but indigo does.

  61. YesheChodron, I don't know of anyone who has tried this, so let us know how it works for you. Indigo used to be used to dye denim, so that might give you an idea of the color blue it might be. I'm thinking it would be darker, rather that a powder blue, but I don't know for sure.

  62. Hi. I have been hennaing my hair for the last year, and using a mix of indigo and henna as 2nd application. However, haing lots of greys, they are staying bright orange and not absorbing the blackmof the henna! My source is good, however am wondering if I should try their body art henna, rather than their hair henna. Any suggestions? Otherwise Ill have to grow jt out, which looks awful, or cop off my wait long hair. I really dont want to do that. Am about 40 percent grey, heading into 50 percent. Help!

  63. Hello, Naomi. Have you checked the lawsone content of your henna? The higher the lawsone content, the better it will do at covering gray hairs. For covering grays, it really needs to have a higher than 2% lawsone content. Often, the body art henna is a higher quality, but that doesn't mean it will have a high enough lawsone — you'll just have to check. Secondly, once you know you have a high enough lawsone content, you need to leave it on long enough. Four hours minimum, 6 hours or overnight is even better. That gives the henna time to really absorb into those gray hairs. I hope that helps.

  64. Hi everyone, I really enjoyed reading your posts. I've been using henna off and on for five years. I used body art quality and loved the shade. My hair is naturally dark brown with copper highlights. Now I'm about 10% gray, especially at my temples. My biggest frusttration is the henna will start to fade after a few days on my temples. For instance, I hennaed on Wed and can see a few grays poking through.

    I used Red Raj henna which gave a red highlight but it also had some orange. I will buy from Mehandi from now on. Anyway, I wanted to find out if anyone else's starts coming off so soon? I usually leave it on for four hours and sometimes overnight. I apps oil to my hair as it's naturally dry. I used indigo in the past but then went to straight henna because I thought maybe the indigo was affecting the gray coverage. I do like the idea to touch up my roots every two weeks as I'm not trying to darken my hair, just love the highlights.

    Any ideas would be appreciated.

  65. Holly, I was going to recommend you come here, but I see you've already found it. Good luck!!

    Henna lover, I never had any trouble with my henna fading. The lawsone content needs to be high in order to cover gray, so that might be it. I also wonder about using the oil. Do you do that in connection with the henna dye job? I would think that might hinder the henna absorption, if you do. I use oils on my hair, but only in-between dye jobs, never with the henna dye job. But definitely get a high lawsone content.

  66. I just thought of another question. Do you use a special kind of henna like Rajasthani Twilight to cover grays? Which website would you recommend I order from? I want to order more henna in the next few days as I'm out. Thanks so much

  67. I always bought my henna from Mehandi.com. They have very high quality henna with no add-ins. They test each batch of henna to make sure it is pure and to get the lawsone content. The variety I bought from them would change based on what henna they were getting with a high lawsone content. They always tell what the content is. Just look for the ones they say will cover gray. As far as the indigo inhibiting gray coverage, it shouldn't. It has a tendency to build up on the hair, though. After awhile, it starts looking dull, drab and dark. That's why we do the roots only — so it won't build up too much. But it shouldn't interfere with gray coverage.

  68. Okay, I'd heard of Mehindi but had purchased from Henna Sooq. I think part of the problem too is I don't always wash with a clarifying shampoo before application, so maybe my roots aren't rough enough to really absorb the stain.

  69. Hi! I came across this article while searching for what went wrong with my henna/indigo treatment, today. I usually use henna once a month. Today, I added indigo so I could go back to all dark hair. (My hair is very dark brown with orange-ish highlights from the henna covering my grays.)
    I mixed my henna powder with coffee and waited a couple of hours for the dye release. Then, I added the indigo powder and more coffee and mixed well. After applying, I left it on for six hours. I can't tell there is indigo at all. My red hair's and roots still look red. I used equal parts henna and indigo powder. Do you have any idea what I did wrong?

  70. Hi! I came across this article while searching for what went wrong with my henna/indigo treatment, today. I usually use henna once a month. Today, I added indigo so I could go back to all dark hair. (My hair is very dark brown with orange-ish highlights from the henna covering my grays.)
    I mixed my henna powder with coffee and waited a couple of hours for the dye release. Then, I added the indigo powder and more coffee and mixed well. After applying, I left it on for six hours. I can't tell there is indigo at all. My red hair's and roots still look red. I used equal parts henna and indigo powder. Do you have any idea what I did wrong?

    • It sounds like you mixed your henna wrong. I have been hennaing my hair for 10 years with great results each time. I had jet black hair for a while when I was into that. Then I switched over to dark brunette, nowadays I like light-medium brown with fire red highlights! Henna is so awesome because you can change how you colour your hair and it blends in so nicely without leaving a stark line across your head.

      Ok, so here’s where you went wrong. Henna works best when mixed and applied as follows:

      1. Mix your henna a day before in lemon juice. Add enough lemon juice until the consistency is like mashed potatoes. Cover and set aside to release dye. Usually over night is enough time.

      2. The next day, just before you’re about to colour your hair, mix your indigo. Indigo does not need to sit and in fact loses its strength the longer it sits. So you need to act quickly once you mix your indigo. Indigo is mixed with water only and nothing else. I use distilled. But I’ve heard that spring water also works. Do not use tap as it may contain chemicals that affect the mix. Mix your indigo in a separate bowl adding only enough water to make it creamy like thick yogourt. Now, 1 spoon at a time, stir the indigo into the henna mix until it is all well combined.

      Now your hendigo mix is ready.

      Here are the ratios for certain results:

      75-25 henna/indigo = light brown
      50-50 henna/indigo = medium brown
      25-75 henna/indigo = dark brunette
      10-90 henna/indigo = warm black

      The more whites you have, the more reddish streaks you will get. But the reddish streaks will be toned down due to the indigo in the mix. If you follow the steps above, the indigo will tone down the henna and not give you orangish highlights but deep cherry/auburn highlights instead — which are gorgeous in my opinion!

      So there you have it – the proper way to mix and apply henna+indigo mixes.

      Final point, make sure you are using body art quality henna finely sifted. I only use and recommend Mehandi henna found at mehandi.com

      Have fun and good luck!

  71. Let's see… I have never used coffee to prep my henna, so I don't know how that would affect things. Is that something you have always done, or was that new this time? Also, the henna needs to sit for awhile to release the dye (I am sure you already knew that), but the indigo does not. So I always prepped my henna with orange juice and water (it needs something acidic to release the dye…I think coffee is acidic, though…) In a separate bowl, I mixed the indigo with just water, right before I was ready to dye my hair. it isn't supposed to sit for a long time because it will lose it's strength. Then when I was ready, I just mixed the prepped henna and prepped indigo together really, really well. If you just mixed the two powders together, then prepped, it might have nullified the indigo. Other than that, I don't know. I would check the quality of the indigo you purchased in case that was a factor. As a fix: Indigo builds up on the hair, so you could try again and see if a second treatment gave you better results. Let me know how it goes for you.

  72. Hi, I have a question. My hair is naturally dry and when I prep the henna with lemon juice it's too dry after the treatment. How does your feel after using orange juice? Would apple juice work too or green tea? Thanks

  73. Angela, I've used this method twice now, and I love it! I've also been using citric acid and (separately) coconut oil to lighten the ends that were saturated with indigo, and my hair is slowly looking normal. Thanks so much for these super valuable blog posts!

  74. Henna lover, I found the lemon juice too drying, too. I used orange juice, but only about 1/4 cup and the rest was water. You just need something acidic to release the dye. I've heard that people have used lemon tea, but I have no experience with that. I found the orange juice to be much less drying to my scalp than the lemon juice (neither seemed to bother my hair), but even the orange juice made my scalp itch in the week or so after a henna job. I don't know if apple juice or green tea would be acidic enough, but you might try the lemon tea. If you use the orange juice, be sure to strain it. Orange juice pulp is next to impossible to get out of your hair. Experience talking…

  75. I have an even better idea. Why not just do the indigo-henna mix on your roots each time you colour and not colour the ends? That’s what I do. This way you never double up on the ends and only get a fresh auburn affect on the roots. This approach can only work once you get the desired colour on the ends. Then, since henna and indigo are permanent, there’s never a need to put the colour on your ends again.

    I henna+indigio my hair every 3 weeks and only do 1/2 roots each time. I never get black/darkened indigo affect because I’m never doing more than my roots each time, which are fresh grey+white hair never been died before. The other benefit to this approach is that you aren’t having to colour your hair twice in 2 days. That’s a hassle!

    Get it?

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