A little over a year ago, I had bleach blonde hair. I really loved the look of it, but right around that time I went through my health fiasco and changed my views about a lot of things, including hair dye. I highly suggest you read up on the ingredients in conventional hair dyes and consider boycotting them forever.
Related: Why I Stopped Using Hair Dye
So as I decided to stop using chemical hair dye, I had to figure out a way to get from blonde back to my natural dark brown hair color. I couldn’t just wait while my blonde hair grows out because my roots are too noticeable and I’m too impatient.
Naturally dying your hair dark brown
After a lot of research, I learned that I can go back to dark brown hair naturally by using herbal dyes like henna and indigo. However, this wouldn’t happen overnight. These herbal dyes need to be layered over each other to eventually build up a natural-looking dark brown.
You cannot just put a dark brown henna-indigo mix on blonde hair, because it will come out too light and “transparent” and potentially greenish.. you have to layer it over red. That’s how the pigment in your hair works naturally. Everyone with brown or black hair has an underlying red pigment. If you’ve ever tried to bleach dark brown hair, you’ve probably noticed your hair change first from brown to red before it turns yellow.
I now had to work my way back up, starting with yellow. So for several months I dyed my hair with nothing but henna to develop the red pigment. After a few henna colorings, I built it up to a deep auburn (you can read about it here), and now finally my hair has reached the level where I can add some indigo (the dark blue pigment) into the henna to achieve a rich dark brown color.
So if you are also looking to get your hair to a dark brown naturally, you can use henna and indigo to get there. Just remember, you result will be dependent upon the color you start with.
- Starting with blonde? It needs to be red before it can become brown. Color your hair with pure henna a few times until it reaches an auburn tone.
- Red? You can just mix the henna and indigo and get dark brown in 1 step.
- Brown? You should have no problem getting a richer, deeper dark brown using henna and indigo.
Where to get henna and indigo powders
If you plan on mixing your henna and indigo yourself like I did (as opposed to buying a pre-mixed kit), make sure you are buying body art quality (BAQ) henna – it’s nice and fine and gives you the best pigment. There are different types of henna you can pick from and the resulting color will vary depending on where the plant was grown. This time I used a Red Raj type.
Shop around on Amazon for good deals from suppliers straight from India and Morocco or go to Hennasooq.com – they are a pretty trusted distributor with great reviews (and a good selection).
How to mix henna and indigo for a dark brown color
Depending on the color you are starting with and on how dark you want your hair to turn out, you can use different ratios of henna to indigo. This is my favorite part about dying my hair naturally – I get to create the color myself and tweak it to my liking.
For a dark brown color like mine you should use 1/3 henna and 2/3 indigo in your mix. If you prefer a warmer, lighter brown, use more henna and less indigo. Basically, the more indigo you add to your henna, the darker and cooler the color will turn out.
The most important part about mixing henna and indigo is timing. The two powders need to be mixed with water separately from each other, since they have different release times. Henna should be mixed 2-3 hours in advance, covered and placed in a warm spot. You can mix the indigo in a separate bowl, cover, and let release for 20-30 minutes (that’s all the time the indigo will need!)
Combine the two pastes together and start putting it on!
If you would rather avoid the hassle, there are some henna/indigo mixes you can buy already pre-mixed and ready to go in a much shorter time. The only reason I avoid them is because I don’t understand how they release properly. Since both plants have different release times, I am not sure how they work without each getting the appropriate amount of release time. That being said, I personally know someone who uses a “Dark Brown” mix from Light Mountain, and gets a perfect color every time.
How much henna and indigo will you need?
Depending on your hair length and thickness, you might need more henna/indigo than me. My hair is fairly thin and isn’t very long (bra strap length). I used a total of 200 grams of leaf powder – roughly 66 grams henna (1/3) and 133 grams indigo (2/3) – of course those are approximations – I’ll be honest, I usually just eye it out.
If you have shoulder length hair or shorter, 100 grams should be enough.
For really long hair, 300+ grams might be necessary. Always have some extra powder on hand in case you didn’t make enough!
I’m providing a detailed step-by-step tutorial on what I did to get a dark brown color using just henna and indigo from a medium auburn-ish color that I started with. Please remember that results will vary depending on your color and the type of henna and indigo you’re using, but I hope this helps!
Make sure you have the whole day to do this, because it’s a pretty lengthy process (but worth it, I promise!)
- indigo leaf powder (2/3 of your total mix)
- BAQ henna leaf powder (1/3 of your total mix)
- hot water
- plastic wrap
- paper towels
- something to protect your floor/walls/counters (I used a few large trash bags; newspapers would also work)
- 2 big bowls (make sure they are not metal)
- 2 spatulas or something to mix the paste with (make sure they are not metal)
- several pairs of gloves
Step 1: prepare the henna
Mix your henna with hot water in a bowl until it reaches yogurt-like consistency. Cover it tightly with some plastic wrap and let sit for 2-3 hours.
Step 2: prepare the room
Whether you do this in the bathroom or somewhere else, you need to prepare the space. This is about to get messy. I lined all the surfaces (including the floor) in my bathroom with big plastic bags. It might sound like overkill, but you’ll thank me later.
Step 3: prepare the indigo
Once the henna is almost done releasing, mix the indigo in a separate bowl with hot water until it reaches yogurt-like consistency. Cover it with plastic wrap and let sit for 20-30 mintues. After the time is up, combine it with the henna paste and mix the two very well.
Step 4: start with damp hair
You want your hair to be slightly damp (towel dried) because it makes it much easier to apply and distribute the paste through your hair.
Step 5: put on your gloves
Henna will stain everything it comes in contact with (duh, that’s why they use it for that awesome body art!) Make sure to use gloves, and have some extra pairs – you will go through a few. I have a large pack of vinyl gloves I bought at CVS and they work just fine.
Step 6: apply the henna/indigo paste to your hair
I like to start with the bottom section of my hair with the rest of it tied up on the top of my head. I start in the back and pick out a small strand of hair and cover it liberally with the henna mud. Make sure to rub the paste in down through the lengths to make sure each piece of hair is saturated. Continue around your whole head, moving up and working from back to front.
This is where the most messiness will happen. Try not to make any sudden movements or flip your hair – that mud can travel far and somehow almost always ends up on the most visible spot of your white walls :-/
Step 7: wrap your head and set the timer
The hardest part is over! Now wrap your head with some plastic wrap. For good measure, I also put a microfiber turban over it to keep it warm – it seems to help the color take better.
Find something to do for 4 hours. Make this your me-time, girl.
Step 8: Rinse it out
This is harder than it seems. You have to put on your gloves again. After sitting for 4 hours, the mud on your head is probably dry and a bit difficult to wash out. You have to try to wash it out with hot water – this can take a while. Use conditioner to make it easier.
Keep in mind that all that mud will be going down your drain. Some tubs can get a little bit clogged. Of course, it’s nothing a little Dran-o can’t fix, but I hate getting the tub clogged in the first place!
I’ve come up with a solution, but it’s kind of a hassle. So this is an optional step, for those of you who have a rough plumbing situation like me. Before rinsing out your hair in the shower, fill up a bucket with warm water. Place the bucket in the tub, get in next to it and dunk your head in there. Use your hands (with gloves!) to massage your hair under the water and remove some of the mud.
Once you’ve soaked your head for 10 minutes or so, remove the bucket from the tub (I suggest placing it on a plastic bag to avoid staining the floor) and continue rinsing your hair with the shower head like you normally would. You should now have most of the mud and plant particles in the bucket instead of running down the drain. The bucket can be flushed down the toilet later.
Step 9: enjoy your shiny new color
Once the water starts running clear, you’re done. Style your hair as you normally would. Henna is a great conditioner for your hair, restoring its shine and strength. Unlike chemical dyes, henna and indigo actually improve the condition of your hair and always look natural.
I hope this tutorial helps you out! Do you use henna and indigo to color your hair? Share your tips!