Wednesday, 06 July 2022

Hair Colours and Health: Is Henna Safe For Your Hair?

Written by Craig Ramsay
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With an industry worth £300 million net in the UK, we have a fair choice of hair colourants: from ‘convenient’ options on the shelves to salons' pricier but more professional looks. But, are they safe enough?

Today's pick-and-apply hair dye options cannot guarantee a truly natural hair colouring treatment. Henna could be the choice for your peace of mind (and hair).

Hair Colourants: The Issues

Modern hair colourants, whether on the high street or in salons, carry a range of potentially harmful ingredients including:
· Sodium lauryl sulphate
· Parabens
· Ammonia
· Resorcinol.

While these ingredients have been tested and considered generally safe for public use, they can have unwanted long-term effects on the hair. In particular, those with sensitive scalps may fall prey to skin reactions such as redness and flakiness.

This is where henna hair colour can help...

Henna 101

As a natural alternative, henna is a safe option for people who want to revitalise their locks without using harsh chemicals. But what is henna?

Henna is a natural dye that is derived from the plant called Lawsonia inermis. It has been used all over the world for centuries and millennia, and it played and still plays a prominent role in many cultures, from Ancient Egypt through to modern-day West Asia.

Historically, it has been used to dye fabrics, as well as nails, hair and skin. Many cultures use henna for body art, for example, mimicking a non-permanent ‘tattoo’ effect.

What Is Henna Hair Dye

Thanks to its semi-permanent properties, henna is ideal for dyeing hair a variety of reds and browns. Henna hair dye comes in a range of textures, from powder for mixing to creams and hair masks. As a natural plant derivative, it is generally much safer to use henna to dye your hair than high street alternatives. However, it is important to know the different kinds of henna so that we can understand its benefits.

Natural henna

Natural henna is made from 100% pure Lawsonia inermis plants. It is sometimes referred to as ‘red henna’, as its results produce warm red, brown or mahogany shades. This depends on your natural or base shade, as well as how you mix the henna and leave it on your head.

As this type of henna is not mixed with anything else, it is the only truly natural product. Other henna products promising shades such as blonde or black may be mixed with chemicals.

Is Natural Henna Safe For My Hair

As natural henna does not contain any human-produced chemical compounds, it is generally considered safe for both hair and scalp. Of course, as with all dyeing products, it is recommended to do a patch test 48 hours before every time you try henna hair dye. The process is similar to patch tests for any new hair colourants or cosmetics: apply a small amount behind your ear or on your inner elbow, on clean skin, and watch for any reactions.

Trusting a brand and doing a patch test are not enough. You should also be careful to read the label and check for any misleading claims about ‘natural henna’. In fact, sometimes brands are marketed as natural henna but are actually mixed with other ingredients, making them a "compound henna".

Compound Henna

Compound henna comprises a mixture of natural henna and other ingredients to supplement the colour. Dyes claiming to offer other colours outside of standard reds or browns may be compound hennas. You may come across the terms “colourless henna” or “black henna”, for example. These are compound henna.

These hennas have a lower concentration of Lawsonia inermis, which makes them lower quality. In the best-case scenario, they may be enhanced with natural herbs to achieve different colours but they may also contain chemicals such as metallic salts and synthetic dyes.

Is Compound Henna Safe For My Hair

You will need to read the label to determine if compound henna is safe for your hair. Stay away from products containing PPD as this can dry out your hair and scalp. Ideally, natural henna is best, but compound henna fortified with herbs may be a convenient alternative.

Kali Mehndi Black Henna

Kali mehndi or ‘black henna’ is something of a misnomer as natural henna is not black: it creates a reddish-brown result. While black henna may be enhanced with another natural ingredient, such as Indigoferia tinctoria, it usually contains harmful chemicals.

Is Black Henna Safe For My Hair

Black henna may contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD) to make it darker. This is a known irritant and allergen, which means it could spark a reaction if your scalp is sensitive. It is always best to go with natural hennas and avoid hennas claiming to help your hair turn black.

Why Natural Henna Is Always Best

For complete peace of mind and safe hair colouring at home, if you are choosing henna hair dyes, always go for brands that use 100% natural ingredients. An added benefit of natural henna hair dye is that it is an antiseptic, which means it can also soothe sensitive scalps. This makes natural henna the perfect hair dye for sensitive skin.

Reviving your colour? Whatever your skin type, remember: it is best to go as Mother Nature intended!

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