Henna can be wonderful, if you know how to use it!
About three years ago while on one of the many hair sites and forums I am a member of, I came across a henna thread. As I was reading it, I noticed how many wonderful things women were saying about the results of henna, like stronger, more manageable, and overall healthier hair. Of course, I just had to try it. I clicked on one of the links and was directed to one of the most comprehensive henna sites out there. The site showed the chemical composition of henna, offered the different types of henna from different corners of the world, pictures of henna-dyed hair, a bunch of henna-related definitions, and much more. I sat on that website for hours researching before buying a ton!
The henna was delivered super fast and of course I was very excited to try it. Even though I had memorized the recipe verbatim, I opened the site to be 100% sure that I was doing it exactly the way the site had directed me to. I poured the henna into a plastic container and then slowly added lemon juice to the mixture, while stirring constantly. Finally, once the mixture had reached a yogurt-like consistency, I covered the bowl with Saran Wrap and placed it in a warm area for 24 hours.
The next day, I noticed that the mixture had a slight orange tint to it as indicated, and it smelled very earthy. I loved the smell as it made me feel like I was getting ready to do something so wonderful and healthy for my hair. As the site directed, I added a little more lemon juice to the mix and started applying it to my freshly washed hair. My hair was already sectioned into 6-8 puffs, so I only took one puff at a time and applied the mixture section by section. It was easy, but very complicated. I then covered my hair in Saran Wrap and planned to keep it for the full 4 hours recommended on the site.
By the second hour, I had to use the restaurant. I went through my usual “rituals” and then when I got up I noticed my pee was bright green! I had read a lot of things on that site, but nothing warned me that my urine could turn green. Of course I was scared. I was quick to get the henna out of my hair and googled “green pee/henna”. I saw that this was actually a common and not harmful side effect that some people experience due to the way their body processes henna. I was so relieved when I read this on various sites, but I was completely horrified when I felt my hair!
To say that my hair felt like a Brillo Pad was an understatement; it felt more like barbed wire. Where in the world were all these benefits that I was supposed to experience? Where are the women on the forums conspiring to ruin my beautiful natural hair? I followed the instructions so perfectly that I expected to have a full head of new, softer, more manageable and shiny hair. I deep conditioned it and wet it to death; still dry as a bone! Was I going to have to cut my hair that I had finally grown to love and struggled for almost two years to grow? Over the next several months, my hair slowly returned to its normal state. I was grateful and vowed never to touch henna again.
Then about two years later I was sucked into another henna thread and again these women were going on and on about how they loved henna and the wonderful results they were getting. I went on the “henna challenge” forum and there were pictures of such beautiful hair. Okay, what was going on? I wanted that hair so badly that I posted my experience on the forum to see if I could get any feedback. They quickly informed me that I had made a BIG mistake; the recipe was not for African American hair. I had used a recipe with too much acid and did not add any moisturizing properties to balance the drying effect of the acid. Was I going to be brave enough to try again? The pictures on the forum left me no choice!
I used apple cider vinegar this time because the acid level was much lower than lemon juice and acv is wonderful for conditioning the scalp. I also learned that I was using too much acid, so this time I used just enough to moisten the henna and then poured in spring water and aloe vera juice to saturate it to a yogurt-like consistency. After letting it sit for 24 hours, I added plain yogurt, raw honey, and a very moisturizing oil blend, along with a couple more tablespoons of acv. This time I made sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo and a deep conditioner that was super moisturizing. All other steps remained the same. After 3 hours of processing, I rinsed my hair and finally got to experience what all the fuss was about. My locks were actually looser, my hair felt stronger, and it was as soft as a big old cloud! I joined the challenge and got a henna treatment every two weeks. It was a lot of work, but my hair thanked me every time I styled it.
Eventually my urine stopped turning green and I started doing one treatment every six weeks and then stopped completely for a period of time. It was hard to find 4 hours to dedicate to it, not counting the 5 hours it took me to do my hair. I have now gone back to normal every six weeks with the henna and have even given my 7 year old daughter a couple of treatments, which she loves.