Best 3 Herbs For Permanent Hair Dyeing

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Hair is made up mainly of the protein keratin. A good diet rich in proteins and certain vitamins is the basis for healthy and beautiful-looking hair, but nutrition alone is not the only factor that affects the hair. Hormones, stress, genetics, and some health conditions also play a role in how the hair looks and feels. 

Although most commercial hair dyes give a superficial and temporary nice color, most products of this kind are quite toxic and detrimental to health in the long run, as the chemistry enters the bloodstream through the scalp. 

Using herbs for hair dyeing strengthens and protects the hair strands and benefits the scalp. The results of permanent herbal hair dyeing are tangibly superior when compared to average hair dyes.

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In traditional Chinese medicine hair is viewed as an extension of Liver Blood and Kidney Essence (jing); it is said that the hair reflects the health of the Liver. Kidney jing is the essence of vitality, fertility, development, and preservation of the body. The loss of hair pigmentation due to aging is considered to be a result of lost Jing. 

During fetal development, jing prioritizes vital systems such as internal and sense organs over other bodily constituents. As jing decays with old age, the body sheds components of lesser importance such as hair color and favors the vital organs. 

In middle-aged individuals, hair graying may occur due to excessive chemical treatments in the hair, deficient nutrition, stress, hormonal imbalances due to thyroid disease, taking estrogen contraceptives, menopause, Chronic Kidney Disease, as well as liver conditions. According to Chinese medicine, excessive sexual activity also consumes jing and can contribute to hair graying and loss.

Natural Hair Dye

Herbal hair treatments are very popular in countries with an alive herbal medicine culture like China, India, and Egypt. Most plant species employed in hair care are extremely common and grow naturally in their original lands. These herbs require minimal processing to be utilized.

Not only are herbs relatively cheap and efficient, but they are also healthier than mainstream hair products found at supermarkets and cosmetic stores in most cases. Henna, indigo, and cassia have natural properties that can be used as both hair treatment and permanent hair dye. 

Most commercial dyes have carcinogens and other harmful substances that are detrimental to health as well as the environment, and the effects of these dyes vanish with time turning the hair pale and lifeless after a short while. Although the variety of tones achieved with herbs is limited when compared to chemical dyes, they make the hair look better for as long as the strands remain.

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Henna

Henna is a dye made from the leaves of the plant Lawsonia inermis. This plant is found in Asia as well as in Africa and Australia. The dye is produced simply by drying and grounding the leaves of the henna tree. 

Henna contains a pigment called lawsone which binds to the keratin in the hair and skin creating a bright orange or reddish stain depending on the application procedure. Unlike synthetic hair dyes, henna is able to penetrate the hair cuticle and strengthen the hair strands at the molecular level.

How to apply henna to the hair

 

    • Henna leaf powder is very easy to use, however, it requires an 8-12 hours soak prior to application in order for the dye to leach out from the powder.

    • The powder must be mixed with distilled water since the minerals present in normal water may react with the dye.

    • The water must be warm but not boiling hot.

    • A slightly acidic solution is needed to extract the lawsone, for which either green or black tea, apple cider vinegar, or diluted lemon juice is recommended.

    • The hair must be clean of all dirt, oil, and residue.

For those with shorter hair 50 to 100 gms of henna will suffice. For shoulder-length hair, use 100 gms of henna. For long hair, 200 gms of henna is enough. The amount of distilled water should be just enough to create a muddy paste, keeping in mind that it needs to be moist enough to be easily spread in the roots and strands, but not runny.

The ideal acidic solution can be attained with regular green or black tea made with distilled water, lemon juice diluted in distilled water at a 1:3 ratio, or apple cider vinegar diluted in the same ratio. The mixture should be covered and rest for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 12 hours prior to application. The application can be done by hand (using gloves), going through section by section in order to ensure an even color. 

The end result of henna hair coloring depends on the color of the hair in which it is applied, as well as on how long the mixture is left on the hair. Henna coloring is permanent and does not vanish with time but gets darker after a few days of application as the chemical reaction between lawsone and keratine continues inside the hair shaft.

The recommended waiting time for an intense red color is 4 hours. When left on the hair for one hour, henna will create a very bright orange/copper hue which will darken to a burnt orange tone in about three days. The henna must be washed with plain water and it is recommended to wait at least 48 hours before using shampoo on the hair. 

Indigo

Indigo dye is obtained from the leaves of a shrub named Indigofera tinctoria which can be found naturally in Asia and Africa. Indigo powder is obtained through a process that involves fermenting, drying, and crushing the leaves of the indigo shrub. 

Indigo powder releases a blue dye when moistened. Unlike henna, indigo does not require an acidic solution or a long time to release its dye. Indigo powder will immediately release indoxyl once it is mixed with water. 

Besides coloring the hair, organic indigo powder is rich in antioxidants that are very beneficial for the hair and scalp. Just like henna, indigo dye also contains a molecule that binds with keratin in the hair shaft. Indigo, however, is more delicate and requires a different manipulation method. 

How to apply indigo to the hair 

 

    • Only mix the indigo powder with water at the exact time of application.

    • Only add warm distilled water to the mixture.

    • In order to avoid the indigo molecules from binding to oxygen, do not mix the paste once it is ready. 

    • The hair must be clean of all dirt, oil, and residue.

For short hair use 100 gms of indigo powder, for shoulder-length use 200 gms, and for long hair use 300 gms. The amount of distilled water should be just enough to create a muddy paste, keeping in mind that it needs to be moist enough to be easily spread in the roots and strands, but not runny. The application can be done by hand (always with gloves), going through section by section in order to ensure an even color.

The waiting time for the indigo to create a dark color on the hair is 3-4 hours approximately. This time can be cut in half with the help of a heat cap. The final result of indigo hair coloring on light hair is a dark blue tone. Indigo is traditionally used in combination with henna to remove the blue hue and create brown tones.

Henna helps indigo to clench to the hair strands and is usually applied prior to indigo in a two-step process. Henna and indigo can also be applied together in a one-step application as long as the soaking process for the henna is done separately from the indigo mixture. The two pastes must be mixed before application in the one-step method. 

Cassia

Cassia comes from the leaves of a plant called Senna italica. Cassia is sometimes called “neutral henna”, and has been traditionally utilized as a laxative in places like India and East Africa.

Cassia powder contains chrysophanic acid, which is a golden yellow molecule. The chrysophanic acid in cassia can dye pale or gray hair a golden wheat color. The translucent dye does not lighten dark hair, but it can be used as a hair mask since gives any type of hair a glossy appearance. 

How to apply cassia to the hair

 

    • For optimal results, cassia powder should be combined with a mildly acidic solution and allowed to rest overnight before application (similar to henna).

    • Cassia powder must be mixed with warm distilled water since the minerals present in normal water may react with the dye.

    • The hair must be as clean as possible prior to application.

For short hair use 100 gms of cassia, for shoulder-length use 200 gms, and for long hair use 300 gms. The ideal acidic solution can be attained with regular green or black tea made with distilled water, lemon juice diluted in distilled water at a 1:3 ratio, or apple cider vinegar diluted in the same ratio.

The amount of acidic solution added to the mixture should be just enough to create a muddy paste, keeping in mind that it needs to be moist enough to be easily spread in the roots and strands, but not runny. The mixture should be covered and allowed to rest overnight prior to application. The application should be done section by section in order to ensure an even color.

Cassia is a great conditioner that makes the hair soft, shiny, and hydrated. It is possible to get the moisturizing benefits of cassia by simply adding cassia powder to warm water and applying it to the hair right away. Neither soaking nor an acidic solution is required to get the benefits of a cassia hair mask. 

Achieving Different Hair Tones Using Herbs

Although none of these herbs can change the color of dark hair to a lighter shade; henna, indigo, and cassia when applied in the correct manner can create different hair tones that range from golden yellowish to black, depending on the starting hair color.

Henna, cassia, and indigo can be applied as many times as it takes to achieve the desired tone. However, since the color tends to change after a couple of days it is recommended to wait until it settles before dyeing the hair again.

Watch this video from Henna Sooq to learn about herbal dye ratios:

Lozza, L., Moura-Alves, 1. P., Domaszewska, T. et al. The Henna pigment Lawsone activates the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and impacts skin homeostasis. Sci Rep 9, 10878 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47350-x

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