Henna is a popular plant used all over the world as part of a beauty regimen as well as medicinally use. In ancient Egypt, ointments made from henna were used to protect their skin from the sun and prevent sunburns. Indian women used henna products to cool off the skin during the warmest periods as henna contain cooling properties; these cooling properties can also help to reduce pain such as arthritis pain (by reducing inflammation), headache and other health ailments (such as draw out fever, detoxifying the body, boost hair health, speeding healing time etc.).
What is henna?
Henna plant is part of the Lawsonia genus species of plant and can grow between 12-15 feet high. Henna is a perennial plant- perennial plants and can survive many years in the wild. Henna first origin is heavily accredited to Ancient Egypt (Egypt is still the largest exporters of Henna for the world market) and is reported that Cleopatra used the plant as part of her beauty regimen. It is then used in the Middle East and in Asia countries such as India for Mehndi (they started to do elaborate designs on the skin after they discovered cools effect on the skin, as the Indian women were fed up with orangey/reddish colour hands). It grew in popularity in the Western world as a tattoo and now it is big in the natural hair community for all the hair benefits.
Henna oil, bark, and seeds are the most common elements of the used for medicinal benefits, and the high concentration of chemicals and nutrients in the plant provides the anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial, hypertensive and antiviral effects.
Benefit for the hair
Hair Colour – Although most people associate henna’s effect on the hair to dying its colour which may not show on darker hair; it plays many roles for the hair as well. Henna has been proven to increase the strength of the hair and, therefore, represents a safe dye that doesn’t permanently affect the health of our follicles as it coats the hair cuticles, providing a protective shield on each hair strand.
Hair Health – Due to the protective shield the henna coats the hair cuticle, this prevents the hair from breaking as well as hair loss and increasing the shine and appearance of the hair.
Improves Scalp Health – Due to its cooling, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, henna helps improve and maintain a healthy scalp and can reduce and smooth things like itchy and aggravated scalp, dandruff, irritable scalp and any other fungal infections.
Enhances Hair Colour – Henna is a well-known natural hair dye, but it can also improve your hair’s natural pigment and prevent premature greying of hair or colouring out any grey hair.
Relieves Oxidative Stress – Oxidative stress causes an imbalance in the production of free radicals. It causes hair loss, hair damage, breakage, and premature greying of hair. Henna has antioxidant properties that help reduce oxidative stress.
Conditions the Hair – A study conducted in Palestine suggests that henna has hair conditioning properties. This is because henna helps shield the hair cuticle so that it can retain all that important moisture.
Promotes Hair Growth and Curbs Hair Loss – Henna benefits the scalp by improving hair follicle health; this, in turn, restricts hair fall and enhances the rate at which hair grows.
Repairs Damage and Strengthens Hair – Henna is extremely nourishing, which helps repair damage in the hair shaft and improves the hair elasticity and strength, therefore reduce breakage as the hair retains its flexibility.
Balances pH and Oil Production – Henna is one of the best ingredients you could use for oily hair. It helps calm down overactive sebaceous glands, thereby controlling oil production. It also helps restore the pH of the scalp to its natural acid-alkaline level. This helps strengthen the hair follicles.
Disadvantages of Henna
Side Effects & Safety – It can cause some side effects such as inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) including redness, itching, burning, swelling, scaling, broken skin, blisters, and scarring of the skin. Rarely, allergic reactions can occur, such as hives, runny nose, wheezing, and asthma. It is always advisable to conduct a patch test when using henna or any other product for the first time.
Colour is not guaranteed – As henna is a natural dye, there isn’t any guarantee of the end (colour) result as many elements can affect this, such as harvesting, weather condition, individual’s hair and where it is cultivated. Where the henna is placed and stored can also impact the result of the colour it produces on an individual’s head.
Removing Henna – Henna is very difficult to remove from the hair and requires a waiting time or around 3 or more months for it to be removed from the hair especially if you want to chemically colour the hair. It also may have undesired hair colour on a chemically colour processed hair if the henna is applied afterwards.
Dry Hair – Some people reports of dryness; dryness can be reduced depending on the other ingredients the henna is mixed with. Some people add some of their favourite oils and/or conditioners to help combat the dryness.
Allergic Reactions – Where the henna is not purely available, pre-mixed henna may contain lead and metals which can cause allergic reactions. Please read the labels of all pre-mixed henna.
Loss in Curl pattern – Henna may loosen the hair curl patterns as the weight of henna gentle hang the hair loose. Some people find this as an added benefit whilst others as a disadvantage.
Messy and Time-Consuming – Henna can be a very messy hair process as it is messy to apply and to wash off. Since it is a dye, it can stain anything, it lands on (especially white surfaces), so it is best advised to clean immediately once this happens. Also, it is time consuming when mixing henna as the active ingredient (Lawsonia) takes time to release. When applied on the hair, it also needs to be on the head for at least one hour for the same reason (Lawsonia takes time to release and coat the cuticle).
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Stalnaker, H (2017); The Lotus Room; https://www.thelotusroomnashville.com/living-ayurveda/2017/9/25/healing-benefits-of-henna
Jennyogini (2012); Awakening Yogi; http://awakeningyogi.com/blog/the-cooling-and-healing-benefits-of-henna/
Robers, C (Access on 30 December 2019); Lush; https://uk.lush.com/article/what-henna
Study.com (Chapter 5, Lesson 7); Access 30 December 2019; https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-a-henna-tattoo.html
Silk and Stone (Access 30 December 2019); https://silknstone.com/About-Henna.html