How Long to Leave Henna on Hair

By: | Last Updated: March 12, 2022

If you want to give your hair a break from chemical hair dyes but still want to freshen up your look, henna can be a great alternative.

Henna has been used as a natural hair dye for centuries in the Middle East and South Asia but has grown popular in different parts of the world as it gives your hair a vivid red-brown tint without damaging your hair.

Applying henna can be easy, even if it’s your first time trying. But how long do you wait to wash hair after henna?

In this article, we’ll explore how long henna should stay on your hair and what happens if you leave it on for too long. So come along to learn more below.

How long should henna sit on hair?

henna hair dyeing

How long you leave the henna on your hair can depend on how dark your starting hair color is and how dark you want the color to turn out after.

So is 2 hours enough for henna?

It’s recommended to leave the henna on your hair for 2-3 hours, but not more than 4-5 hours. 

That’s because it takes henna a minimum of 2 hours to activate. But if you have hair that doesn’t absorb color as fast, you can extend the time longer.

This also applies if you only want to put in highlights on your hair.

Another great thing about henna is it will still develop the color after 24 hours of taking the henna out.

So don’t worry if the color appears orange after washing the henna off. The shade will eventually deepen over time.

Can you leave henna on too long?

Henna may be organic, but leaving it on your hair for too long can also have its risks.

Henna can dry out your scalp and hair as it can rehydrate itself back by pulling moisture from them.

Besides, the bonds between the henna’s dyeing molecules and your hair’s keratin also weaken after a certain amount of time, stopping the henna from depositing more color onto your hair making it useless.

So if you have dry hair and a sensitive scalp, it’s better to leave the henna on for a shorter period.

Can I leave henna on hair overnight?

As mentioned above, it’s not recommended to leave the henna on your hair for more than 4 hours. 

But some do sleep with henna on their hair to achieve a darker shade.

It’s a messy method, and it can be uncomfortable.

But if you want to try it out yourself, make sure your hair is healthy since henna can dry out your hair and scalp if it’s left on for too long.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s better to skip this one out if you have a sensitive scalp. Sleeping with henna on can irritate your scalp, making it itchy.

How long to leave henna on hair for conditioning

How long to leave henna on hair for conditioning

Aside from giving your hair a reddish tone, did you know that you can also use henna as a conditioner?

Henna helps restore your scalp’s natural pH, leaving you with stronger, thicker, and shinier hair.

It also gives your hair a subtle color change, so it’s great for when you’re not ready to commit to new hair color.

To try, mix your henna powder with warm water until it forms into a thick batter consistency. Avoid making the mixture too thin as it can run down your hair.

You can also replace water with yogurt and add an egg for a conditioning boost.

Next, mix in a dollop of conditioner and apply the mixture to your hair. Put your hair up and cover it with plastic wrap or a shower cap.

Leave the henna mixture on for 15-30 minutes. This allows the henna to condition your hair without activating its dyeing molecules.

Once the time is up, wash out the mixture and enjoy softer hair.

How long to leave henna on natural hair?

If you have natural hair and want to try henna, don’t worry. 

It’s the best hair type to apply henna since it doesn’t have chemicals that henna can react to. 

As long as you follow the general rule of leaving the henna on for 2-3 hours, you’ll end up with great hair.

But if you’re nervous about what color the henna’s going to turn out, you can do a patch test.

You can do this by applying henna on a small patch of your hair close to your neck. It’s a sneaky tactic that makes the hair not easily detectable if you do not like the result.

By doing this, you can also determine how long you need to leave the henna, depending on how light or dark you want the color to be. Check the patch of hair every 30 minutes, so you’ll know how much the henna has developed.

Once you’re satisfied with the color, you can then wash the henna out.

Now you’re ready to dye the rest of your hair without worrying about how it will look.

How long to leave henna on black hair?

Applying henna can give it a reddish tint if you have naturally black hair.

As always, you can leave the henna on your hair for 2-3 hours and adjust depending on how fast your hair can absorb the dye.

But if you have chemically-dyed black hair, applying henna won’t make a difference since it can’t lift color.  Henna doesn’t have the lightening properties that bleach has. 

So the best thing you could do is wait for your hair to grow out before applying henna on your hair.

How long to leave henna on hair for red?

How long to leave henna on hair for red?

How long you should leave the henna on your hair for a red hue depends on your starting hair color.

Pure henna can stain it into a reddish-orange color if you have naturally blonde hair, whereas natural redheads can also use henna to boost their hair color. 

So leaving it on for 2 hours is always a good starting point, then adjust from there. But make sure to check your hair every 30 minutes so it won’t go darker than you want it to be.

When it comes out bright orange after washing it, don’t freak out, The color gradually deepens after a few days, so it’ll look closer to red. 

If you have naturally brown or black hair, henna can give it a reddish tint when exposed to the sun or light.

Also, start by leaving it on for 2 hours and extend if you need to. But if you really want to bring out henna’s red tint, the secret is by adding coffee.

Instead of just plain warm water, soak your henna powder in coffee water overnight, so the red hues become more visible once you apply it to your hair.

Once the henna is ready, apply it normally and wash it off when you’re satisfied with the color.

How long to leave henna on grey hair?

Using henna to cover up grey hair is an excellent choice, especially when you need to touch- up often.

It doesn’t damage your hair the same way chemical dyes can. Plus, since henna is natural, you don’t have to wait for a couple of weeks to re-apply it again.

But how long to leave henna on hair to cover grey hair?

The same time as when you normally apply henna, which is 2-3 hours. 

It’s also a good rule of thumb to check your hair every 30 minutes to see if you’re satisfied with the color.

Once you wash out the henna, gray hair can appear red or green but don’t worry; it will darken after a couple of days.

If you have naturally dark hair, the dyed gray hairs will appear lighter than the rest of your hair. 

So if you want your hair color to look even, you can re-apply the henna, using the same method, after a couple of days.

CHECK OUT: Why I stopped using henna

Final thoughts

Henna is a great alternative for chemical hair dyes since it only coats your hair shaft from the outside. So it doesn’t damage the inner layer of your hair.

An important tip to remember is to always do a patch test before applying the henna all over your hair, especially if it’s your first time using it. So you’ll know if you are allergic to henna.

Another tip is to wash your hair before applying henna. Make sure there’s no product on it once you use the henna since that could block your hair from absorbing it.

Once your hair is ready, follow the tips above on how to apply it, and you’ll end up with vibrant hair.

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