How to Dye Hair Red Using Henna (Natural Hair Dye)

how to dye hair red with henna

Henna, we most often see, is used for creating temporary tattoos on our skin. But what if we could use it to dye our hair as well? I show you exactly how to do just that using henna to naturally dye hair red. It’s so much healthier for hair – as it’s chemical- and toxin-free – and lasts just as long without fading from leaching over time.

I’ve been using food to naturally dye my hair as an alternative to using chemical dyes, and henna has been my latest experiment.

It was a huge success, so I thought I’d share the step-by-step process of using pure henna as a hair dye for those of you wanting to try it, too.

Before we get started in learning how to use henna to dye hair red – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!

how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna

What You Need to Know Before We Begin…

  • Henna needs to sit and “cure” for four to twelve hours after mixing in order for the dye to “release” and stain your hair properly. It also needs to sit on your hair for one to four hours (I left mine on for ten hours), depending on the shade you want and the intensity of the colour.
  • Ensure you’re buying good quality henna. I bought my henna online (the brand was Light Mountain Natural).
  • Henna looks different on everyone. You can follow my step-by-step tutorial on how to dye your hair with henna, however, you may end up with different results that don’t match what you see in my photos. The shade of red you achieve with henna may be different, it really depends on what your hair looks like before you put on the henna.
  • Henna is permanent. Keep this in mind before starting. If you don’t want the red to last indefinitely on your hair, or wait for it to grow out, you may want to look for a temporary natural dye. Henna stains the hair by getting into the shaft of the hair itself. This makes it challenging to even dye over it with standard over-the-counter or salon dyes. Bleaching hair is one of the only ways to remove it.
  • Last thing. In my experience henna doesn’t apply evenly. If having every strand of hair the same colour is important to you, maybe henna isn’t for you.
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
The henna colour was most noticeable when I had my hair out and stood in the sunlight. As you can see in the above images, when my hair was tied up, the red colour wasn’t as visible.

Henna Red Hair Dye

A chemical-free way to dye hair red.


  • 100-500 grams body quality henna (I’ve read that the general rule of thumb is 100 grams for short hair, 200 grams for collar-length hair, 300 grams for shoulder-length hair, and 500 grams for waist-length hair)
  • 2 cups hot/distilled water
  • A large glass bowl
  • Non-metal spoon
  • Plastic wrap or beeswax wrap
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional)

To make:

Mix your henna. I did this the night before and left it for around twelve hours before applying it onto my hair. I left it on our countertop at room temperature but it is recommended that you leave it to sit in a dark(ish) area.

Here’s how I made my henna mix (the instructions were included in the henna kit I bought):

  • Pour the allocated bag of henna into the bowl.
  • Add paprika (if using) to give the henna a more burgundy hue later on when applied. For a more golden/orange red colour, add the juice of one lemon and use brewed tea instead of plain water).
  • Next, add in the hot water (just one and a half cups to begin with), a little at a time. The consistency should be gritty with a thickness similar to yoghurt after the water has been completely stirred through. If not, add more of the remaining water until it reaches this consistency (up to half a cup more).
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or beeswax wrap (just make sure it’s airtight), and let it rest.

Apply your henna. The instructions for my particular henna advised to apply onto washed, towel-dried hair, but it’s up to you.

Here’s how I apply the henna onto my hair:

  • Put on protective gloves. Henna stains everything, this means if it gets on your skin, you will have a nice orangey/brown tinge on it for a day or two. If it gets on the floor, the floor will also turn that colour. It will go away eventually, but I find it’s best to avoid that happening in the first place if you can. I put towels down all over my bathroom sink and floor to prevent the henna staining. I also applied lotion onto my hairline, back of my neck, and ears to prevent the henna from staining my skin.
  • Divide your hair into sections. It’s much more difficult to cover all of your hair with the henna than with using conventional hair dyes. Henna is quite thick so more challenging to evenly coat on every piece of hair. I’ve found dividing hair into small sections to be most effective. I’ll leave one small bit of hair down and tie the rest of my hair up and work from there.
  • Unwrap your henna and start applying. Try to avoid getting henna on parts of your hair that are pulled up. Henna can really tangle your hair if you’re not intentionally trying to put it on a certain area. You want a good, thick, lathered coating over all your hair.
  • When you’ve finished, put all your hair up and pop a shower cap over your head. Then wrap your hair with plastic wrap to lock the heat from your body in where the henna is (heat is helpful in bringing out the colour of the henna). Once your hair is covered, you can start to clean away any spots of henna on your face, neck, ears, etc.
  • I let the henna sit on my hair for ten hours (as my hair is quite dark, I wanted to make sure the colour stained well), but you don’t need to leave it as long as I did, three to four hours is usually enough. It really just depends on how deep you want the shade of red to be. Some people just leave it for an hour.

Wash the henna out. I washed my hair with warm water (no shampoo, no conditioner), and rinsed until the water ran clear. After three days I washed my hair with shampoo, as the true colour of henna starts to set in after a few days. Your hair will smell of henna for a few days, but once you’ve washed it a couple of times the smell fades. I read that washing your hair with lavender can help dissipate the smell quicker if you really can’t stand it.

If you’re hair is really bright and orange the first day after dyeing it, don’t worry, that’s normal. Like I said, it takes around three days for the true colour of henna to come through and during that time it will deepen. Unlike conventional hair dyes, henna doesn’t fade. You just need to touch up the roots of your hair as it grows out.

You can use henna as often as you like – it’s a wonderful conditioner – and unlike conventional hair dyes, it’s completely natural so doesn’t damage hair or deliver toxic chemicals into your body.

how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
how to dye hair red with henna
How the red henna colour shows up on my brown hair in different lighting.

Henna hair dye tutorial

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.

Have you used henna to dye your hair before? How did it go? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Stay in the Loop

Sign up to the Simply Natural Nessa newsletter to receive the latest news, updates, DIYs, recipes, and more!