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The truth about Henna (Lawsonia inermis)

Lets start with the history of Henna.

Lawsonia inermis (Lythraceae) : These are the the name Henna goes by in the plant world. The Evergreen shrub and or tree is heavily scented growing over 20ft (6M). This is a beautiful plant with narrow pointed leave with beautiful clusters of pink or white flowers and blue/black berries.

Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) is Native to North Africa, Middles East and the Indian subcontinent. Henna grows in sunny areas and is used as a hair restorative and hair color.

The best time for cultivation is at the peak of the growling season. The leaves and bark are used in many ways. This plant is a power house, let's get into some of it's amazing qulaties.

  1. Coumarins: These are organic compounds found in henna and other plants. Coumarins can have various effects and are often associated with a sweet scent.

  2. Naphthoquinones: Lawsone is the most well-known naphthoquinone found in henna. It is responsible for the dyeing properties of henna.

  3. Flavonoids: Flavonoids are a group of polyphenolic compounds found in many plants. They can have antioxidant and other beneficial properties.

  4. Sterols: Sterols are a type of organic molecule found in plant cell membranes. They can have various functions in plants.

  5. Tannins: Tannins are polyphenolic compounds that are often responsible for the astringent taste in plants. They can also have antioxidant properties.

These compounds contribute to the various properties of henna, including its ability to dye hair and skin, as well as potential medicinal uses. Henna has been used traditionally for its cooling and soothing effects on the skin, and some people believe it has benefits for conditions like burns or skin irritations. However, it's essential to note that while henna is generally considered safe for external use, individual reactions can vary, and it's crucial to use it with caution and do a patch test if you have sensitive skin.

Henna does indeed leave a lasting stain within the cortex of the hair shaft, which can be considered a type of pigment deposit within the hair. This is why the color change from henna is often referred to as "permanent," although it can gradually fade over time and may require touch-ups.

The lawsone molecules in henna penetrate the hair's cuticle and bind to the proteins within the cortex. As a result, the color remains within the hair shaft even as the outer layer (cuticle) is subjected to wear and tear.

This long-lasting color deposit is a unique characteristic of henna and sets it apart from temporary hair dyes, which only coat the hair's surface and can be washed out more easily.

So how does Henna actually work to color the hair?

Henna's coloring properties are primarily due to the attachment of lawsone molecules to the disulfide bonds within the hair shaft. Here's how this process works.

The hair shaft is primarily composed of three types of chemical bonds:

1. **Disulfide Bonds:** These are the strongest type of chemical bonds found in the hair shaft. Disulfide bonds form between sulfur atoms in the amino acids that make up the hair's protein structure, known as keratin. These bonds are responsible for the hair's strength and resilience. Disulfide bonds can be broken and reformed with chemical treatments, allowing for changes in hair shape, such as in perming or straightening.

2. **Hydrogen Bonds:** Hydrogen bonds are weaker than disulfide bonds but still play a significant role in the hair's structure. These bonds form between the hydrogen atoms of one amino acid and the oxygen atoms of another amino acid within the same or neighboring protein chains. Hydrogen bonds are responsible for the temporary changes in hair shape caused by heat styling, such as curling or straightening with a flat iron. They can be temporarily altered by applying heat and reformed when the hair cools.

3. **Salt Bonds (Ionic Bonds):** Salt bonds, also known as ionic bonds, are formed when positively and negatively charged atoms or groups in the amino acid side chains attract each other. These bonds are weaker than both disulfide and hydrogen bonds and play a minor role in the overall structure of the hair. They can be influenced by changes in pH levels and can affect the hair's texture and manageability.

Understanding these bonds is crucial in the field of hairstyling and hair care, as different treatments and products can impact these bonds, leading to changes in the hair's appearance and structure. Proper care and maintenance can help keep these bonds intact and promote healthy hair.

  1. Disulfide Bonds in Hair: Hair's structure is held together by various types of bonds, including disulfide bonds. Disulfide bonds are strong chemical links between sulfur atoms in the hair's protein structure, known as keratin.Lawsone Molecules: Henna contains a natural dye molecule called lawsone. When henna paste is applied to the hair, lawsone molecules are released from the henna and become activated.

  2. Chemical Reaction: Lawsone molecules have an affinity for sulfur atoms, which are found in abundance in the hair's disulfide bonds. The lawsone molecules chemically bond with the sulfur atoms in the disulfide bonds.

  3. Color Development: As lawsone molecules attach to the disulfide bonds, they create a stable and long-lasting color within the hair shaft. The resulting color can vary from red to reddish-brown, depending on factors such as the individual's natural hair color and the specific henna used.

  4. Long-Lasting Effect: This color is often referred to as "permanent" because it doesn't wash out immediately. However, it does gradually fade over time as the outer layers of the hair naturally shed.

Lawsone, a naphthoquinone compound, is the primary active ingredient in henna responsible for its dyeing properties. It's the presence of lawsone that gives henna its characteristic red or reddish-brown color when applied to hair or skin.

  1. Staining Process: When henna leaves are crushed and processed to create a paste, lawsone is released. This lawsone-rich paste is then applied to hair or skin.

  2. Binding to Keratin: Lawsone has an affinity for the protein keratin, which is abundant in hair and skin. It forms a chemical bond with the keratin molecules in these tissues.

  3. Color Development: As lawsone binds to the keratin, it creates a stable and long-lasting color. The resulting color can range from a vibrant red to a deeper, reddish-brown hue, depending on factors like the initial hair color and the length of time the henna is left on.

  4. Permanent Effect: The color imparted by lawsone is often referred to as "permanent" because it doesn't wash out immediately. However, it does gradually fade over time as the outer layers of the hair or skin naturally shed.

Lawsone's ability to bind to keratin and create a lasting color is a unique characteristic of henna and sets it apart from temporary hair dyes, which merely coat the hair's surface and can be washed out more easily. This natural dyeing process is one of the reasons henna has been used for centuries as a hair and skin coloring agent.

However there is something everyone is overlooking. It has the ability to break into the cortex of the hair shaft the same way professional hair color does. It's a protein based color agent that binds to the keratin within the cortex or the hair shaft. If you have low porosity henna will cause your hair to break over time.

Henna's ability to bind to protein can indeed have different effects on hair, depending on its porosity and sensitivity to protein. Here's a more detailed explanation:

  1. High Porosity Hair: High porosity hair typically has a more open cuticle layer, which can lead to moisture loss and a porous, rough texture. Henna's protein-binding properties can be beneficial for high porosity hair, as it helps fill in gaps in the hair shaft, making it feel smoother and more structured. It can also add weight to the hair, making it appear fuller.

This is all a vanity metric. Henna gives the APPERANCE of smoother and fuller hair but it's a illusion. The molecules in Henna are binding to the protein within the hair shaft filling it up giving the illusion of thicker fuller hair.

  1. Low Porosity Hair: Low porosity hair has a tightly closed cuticle layer. Henna's protein-binding effect can make the cuticle layer even tighter which causes hair weathering and breakage over time with regular use.

Henna is a natural protein treatment that leaves behind pigment that lives in the hair shaft forever unless manually extracted with a chemical that can safely detach the lawsone molecules from the disulfide bonds of the hair shaft.

For individuals with low porosity hair who are protein-sensitive, henna can indeed be problematic because it adds more protein to the hair, which can lead to an undesirable stiffness and dryness.

Understanding your hair's porosity and how it reacts to different treatments is crucial for effective hair care. If you have low porosity hair and experience dryness or negative effects from henna, it's advisable to explore alternative hair coloring or conditioning options that better suit your type and needs.

While henna is generally considered safe for external use, it's important to note that overuse or improper application of henna, especially if you have low porosity hair or a sensitivity to protein, could potentially lead to hair issues over time. Here are some concerns to be aware of:

  1. Protein Overload: Henna is rich in protein, and excessive use on low porosity hair could lead to protein overload. Too much protein can make the hair brittle and prone to breakage, potentially leading to thinning or damage.

  2. Dryness: As mentioned earlier, henna can have a drying effect on some hair types, particularly low porosity hair. Prolonged dryness can make the hair more susceptible to breakage and, in extreme cases, contribute to hair thinning.

  3. Buildup: Regular henna applications can lead to product buildup on the hair, which may affect its overall health by. Buildup can clog the hair follicles and potentially interfere with healthy hair growth.

To mitigate these risks, consider the following:

  • Moderation: If you choose to use henna, use it in moderation and avoid frequent applications to prevent excessive protein buildup.

  • Deep Conditioning: Incorporate deep conditioning treatments into your hair care routine to maintain moisture balance and counteract the potential drying effects of henna.

  • Consult a Professional: If you experience any adverse effects or concerns about hair thinning or balding, consult a professional hairstylist or dermatologist for personalized advice and solutions.

Ultimately, individual hair types and sensitivities can vary greatly, so it's essential to listen to your hair's needs and adapt your hair care routine accordingly. If henna or any other hair product is causing issues, it may be worth exploring alternative options that better suit your hair type and goals.


Amla, also known as Indian Gooseberry, is a remarkable herb for promoting hair health. Its high vitamin C content and antioxidant properties offer several benefits for your hair and scalp:

  1. Strengthens Hair: Amla helps strengthen hair from the roots, making it less prone to breakage and split ends. This can result in longer and healthier hair.

  2. Reduces Hair Fall: Amla's nourishing properties can help reduce hair fall by improving hair follicle health. It can also help prevent premature hair loss.

  3. Promotes Hair Growth: By providing essential nutrients to the hair follicles and stimulating blood circulation to the scalp, Amla can promote hair growth.

  4. Healthy Scalp: Amla helps maintain a healthy scalp by addressing dandruff and dryness issues. It has natural antimicrobial properties that can contribute to a clean and balanced scalp.

  5. Adds Shine: Amla can add shine and luster to your hair, making it look healthier and more vibrant.

Amla can be used in various forms for hair care, including as an oil, powder, or in homemade hair masks. You can create Amla-infused hair oils or masks, or you can find hair care products that contain Amla as one of their ingredients. Regular use of Amla in your hair care routine can contribute to stronger, healthier hair and a more nourished scalp.

Peppermint: Peppermint oil can help increase blood flow to the scalp, potentially stimulating hair follicles and promoting hair growth. It also has a refreshing and invigorating scent.

Peppermint oil is indeed a popular choice for promoting hair growth and maintaining a healthy scalp due to its various benefits:

  1. Improved Blood Circulation: Peppermint oil has a cooling and tingling effect on the scalp, which can help improve blood circulation. This increased circulation can deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles, potentially stimulating hair growth.

  2. Strengthening Hair: Peppermint oil contains menthol, which can help strengthen the hair shaft, making it less prone to breakage and promoting overall hair health.

  3. Refreshing Sensation: The invigorating and refreshing scent of peppermint oil can provide a pleasant and awakening experience during your hair care routine.

To use peppermint oil for hair care:

  • Dilution: Peppermint oil is potent and should be diluted with a carrier oil, such as hemp oil or jojoba oil, before applying it to the scalp. This prevents potential skin irritation.

  • Massage: Gently massage the diluted peppermint oil mixture into your scalp. The massage itself can further improve circulation.

  • Leave-In Treatment: You can leave the oil on your scalp for a specified time, typically 15-30 minutes, before shampooing.

  • Shampoo Out: Be sure to thoroughly shampoo and rinse your hair to remove the oil.

  • Frequency: You can use peppermint oil as a hair treatment once a week or as needed.

Remember that individual responses to essential oils can vary, so it's important to do a patch test before applying peppermint oil to your entire scalp. Additionally, if you have any underlying scalp conditions or concerns, consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for personalized guidance on incorporating peppermint oil into your hair care routine.

Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers and leaves are used in various hair care formulations. They are known for their conditioning properties and their potential to strengthen hair. Hibiscus is indeed a versatile and beneficial herb for hair care. Both hibiscus flowers and leaves are used in various natural hair care formulations for their conditioning and strengthening properties. Here's how hibiscus can benefit your hair:

  1. Conditioning: Hibiscus contains natural mucilage, a slippery substance that can act as a natural conditioner. When applied to the hair, it can help detangle and soften it, making it more manageable.

  2. Strengthens Hair: Hibiscus is rich in vitamins and antioxidants that nourish the hair follicles, which can result in stronger and less brittle hair. It can also help reduce hair breakage.

  3. Promotes Hair Growth: Hibiscus is believed to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood circulation to the scalp. This improved circulation can provide more nutrients to the hair follicles, encouraging healthy growth.

  4. Prevents Premature Graying: Some people use hibiscus to help delay premature graying of hair. While scientific evidence on this aspect is limited, hibiscus's overall hair-strengthening properties may contribute to healthier hair.

To use hibiscus for hair care:

  • Hibiscus Hair Mask: You can create a hair mask by blending hibiscus flowers or leaves with water to form a paste. Apply this paste to your hair and scalp, leave it on for about 30 minutes, and then rinse it out.

  • Hibiscus Oil Infusion: You can infuse hibiscus flowers or leaves in a carrier oil, such as walnut oil or olive oil. After a few weeks of infusion, strain the oil and use it as a nourishing hair oil. ALWAYS LEAVE ON NO LONGER THAN 30 MINUTES BEFORE YOU SHAMPOO WITH A CLARIFING SHAMPOO. Your scalp only absorbs about 65% of what you apply to it. Any longer will clog the pores leading to follicle blockage which leads to scalp disorders and hair loss.

  • Commercial Products: Many natural and organic hair care products incorporate hibiscus extracts or hibiscus-infused oils for their hair-strengthening and conditioning benefits.

  • Learn to make your own extracts here!

Regular use of hibiscus in your hair care routine can contribute to healthier, shinier, and more manageable hair. As with any herbal remedy, individual results may vary, so it's advisable to test a small area of your hair and scalp to ensure compatibility and monitor how your hair responds.


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