How to Dye Your Hair Dark Brown Using Henna and Indigo

Dye your hair dark brown using henna and indigo, all natural and chemical-free! Conditions and smooths your hair too

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.

Hair Colors and Underlying Natural Pigments - Get to any natural haircolor using henna and indigo!
Photo from pinterest.com

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.

To recap:

  • 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!

Instructions:

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!)

Step by step instructions to get dark brown hair using henna and indigo. It's completely non-toxic and actually stengthens your hair!

Supplies:

  • 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 1/3 heanna with 2/3 indigo to get a rich dark brown hair color

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

henna tutorial

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

Mix 2/3 indigo with 1/3 henna to get a rich dark brown hair color

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

How to dye your hair with henna and indigo

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

DSCF1376

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

How to dye your hair dark brown with henna and indigo

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

Get a natural-looking dark brown hair color using henna and indigo - no toxic chemicals

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!

16 thoughts on “How to Dye Your Hair Dark Brown Using Henna and Indigo

  1. I’ve been using henna for a few years now & it was the best discovery for my hair!! The color is gorgeous, it lasts so much longer and it makes my hair look & feel amazing! After getting over the weird smell & nailing the mixing process, I love doing it!

    1. Oh yes the smell! It’s funny how I don’t really notice it anymore, but I remember the first few times I was really weirded out by it! My mother thought I was smoking cigarettes because she walked through my kitchen just as I was mixing the henna with hot water haha. But now I actually like the smell, it lingers in my hair for a few days and reminds me of the scent of hay or dry grass. It’s much better than the awful chemical boxed dye stench in my opinion.

  2. Can you dye red and then immediately dye again to brown? I have blond highlights and red is a terrible color on me.

    1. Hi there!
      Yes you can totally do that. I would just recommend you do it on a weekend, since henna can take several hours. I usually leave it on for 4 hours to get the right vibrancy. So you might need a total of 8 hours (4 for the red henna, 4 for the henna/indigo mix).

  3. Hi!
    Nice article and nice haircolor you recieved!
    I have dyed my hair with pure henna for around 3 years now, and would like to change to a cool shade of brown. The problem is just that the red from the henna shines through the henna-indigo mix so I get a reddish brown…
    Do you have any ideas how to get rid of the red shine, and recieve a cooler ash brown shade?

    1. Hey Marie!
      Thanks for stopping by.
      I do find it difficult to get (and KEEP!) a cool brown shade because the henna tends to stay in your hair longer, and eventually the indigo fades a bit, leaving you with a reddish brown tone. My advice would be to increase the indigo to henna ratio, so you get more of the cool tones, and simply re-apply more often. For example try 70/30 of indigo to henna for a much cooler brown.
      Amla powder (just 1-2 tbsp) is a great thing to add to your henna/indigo mix because it not only makes the indigo last longer (and gives you a cooler tone) but it also has healing properties and makes your hair strong and shiny!
      A great way to maintain the cool tones in your hair longer is to use one of those blue-tinted shampoos (typically made for blondes) because they are supposed to keep the cool tones in your hair longer. If you’d rather stay away from the chemicals in those shampoos – I know Manic Panic makes some awesome blue-ish vegan temporary dyes, that you can mix with your conditioner and use like a 15-min mask over your hair when you notice it getting brassy. I’ve used the Manic Panic in this manner both when I was trying to maintain red color in my hair, and when I was a cool brunette avoiding brass – so it definitely works! They have a whole range of colors that can work for many different needs, but you would need one in a blue tone. I hope this helps!!

      1. You can add Amla and/or Nighfall Rose to your mix. 1 spoon for 4 spoons of Henna. That will make the redish look cooler and have a more ash tone

  4. I love both! But I also have highlights (old and grown out) that look like I dipped my hair in orange sherbet…yuck! The red was so pretty but I used color oops to remove the uneven ash blond/orange/red mix and now my natural face framing highlights and fake ends (that I eventually want to cut off) are BRIGHT next to the remaining ash blond. Should I do just indigo? I wish I could find a salon that doesn’t want to slap chemicals on me but I can’t. I love the henna process and was amazed by the color… But it was so uneven. I’d like something more like your second pic.

    1. I have not used chemicals since December for those horrible highlights. They had turned brassy and started as STRIPES, so I went natural after that. I don’t want to go back to the salon because they were also pretty condescending once when I did an at home job that turned my hair black. I know I’m not an expert, but they are and I hated what they did. I just want to get this orange out, because I didn’t realize my natural blond was so light. I was told I’m a dark ash blond but the natural sun lights were more like a 10 or 9. If I want red still, but more of an auburn, should I do henna first, then indigo? I probably won’t do anything for at least a month to see how it fades. OH and I started on “virgin” hair that had a keratin treatment… That’s why the henna took so well. Guess I’m just sick of chemicals…

      1. Hey Becca!
        Yeah, I know how it is with the awful salon highlights that remain in your hair forever until they finally grow out! The way I’ve dealt with them is by covering them every few months with henna/indigo. The henna/indigo will never cover them 100% (but neither will chemical dye – that’s just how color works, if you have a lighter base, no matter what you put on it – it will always show up lighter, especially under sunglight!) but at least they will have a more natural look. I would definitely do a henna – then indigo treatment at first, and then subsequently just do henna/indigo every few months. It will give your overall hair a dark auburn look, and the highlights might be a lighter auburn/caramel (but at least they won’t be brassy!). My hair is darker than yours, but I had bleach-blonde ends that I’ve been covering with henna/indigo every 3-4 months. At first my hair looks like a dark auburn/brown evenly. Then, after a few washes, the previously bleached hair starts to look a little lighter and more caramel-y. But I don’t mind it! You could also look into pre-mixed henna/indigo dyes from Light Mountain in “Burgundy” – that should give you a nice auburn color without having to do it in 2 steps. I hope this helps!

  5. Hello

    I am confused which heena color powder should i choose to mix with indigo.I have dark brown hair.Can i use pure heena po wder with indigo or else i choose brown colour

  6. Hello!
    I was curious about the fading process. I have blonde hair and about to try the process of getting it to a brown colour.
    However when it starts to fade I now that more red tones come through.
    However I am concerned that all the brown will wash out and then leave me with strawberry blonde coloured hair. 😌
    Love to hear your input. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Marina!
      There will definitely be some fading, especially after a few months. In my experience the faded color is more of a caramel light brown. Once it gets too light for me, I repeat the henna/indigo coloring and it goes back to dark brown. Each time I do this, the fading is less noticeable. Hope this helps!

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