How I Dyed My Hair Red with Henna (Complete Beginner’s Guide)

I’ve been searching for natural hair dyes to use on my own hair as natural alternative to chemical dyes, and henna has been my latest experiment (before it I tried turmeric, beet juice, and apple cider vinegar, all with great success!).

So! Safe to say henna was a HUGE success, too (wooooooo!), and I’m guessing if you’re reading this post today, you’re looking to dye your hair RED (and yes, with henna you need to type it like that ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) without using the harmful chemicals and toxic dyes involved in conventional hair dyeing.

Before and after dyeing my hair with henna! (use arrows to slide left and right for full view).

Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve learnt a few tricks of the trade since dyeing my hair with henna that I’ll share with you all along the way.

What You Need To Know Before We Begin

  • Henna needs to sit and “cure” for 4-12 hours after mixing in order for the dye to “release” and stain your hair properly. It also needs to sit on your hair for 1-4 hours (I left mine on for 10), depending on the shade you want and the intensity of the colour.
  • All henna isn’t created equal: you want to ensure you’re buying a good quality henna. I bought my henna online from iHerb, but you can find it on Amazon, too (the brand was Light Mountain Natural).
  • Henna looks different on every single different person, as we’re all individual and have different hair types, colours, texture, etc. You can follow my step-by-step tutorial below on how to dye your hair with henna, however you may end up with different results that don’t match what you’ll 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 the henna on.
  • Henna is permanent. This is good to keep 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 different, more 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 (which is NOT great for hair).
  • 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.
Henna’s very challenging to achieve full coverage, but I really like the mixed coverage look!

How to Dye Hair RED with Henna (Step-by-Step)

  • 100-500 grams body quality henna (I used the 113 g pack (already pre-measured for me), but I’ve read the general rule of thumb is 100 g for short hair, 200 g for collar-length hair, 300 g for shoulder length hair, and 500 g for waist-length hair)
  • 16 ounces hot/distilled water
  • large bowl
  • spoon (do not use metal)
  • plastic wrap
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional)
The red shows especially in the sunlight! I was finally living my dream of being The Little Mermaid – with red hair ๐Ÿ˜‰

How to:

Mix your henna I mixed my henna the night before, and left it for around 12 hours before I applied it onto my own hair. I left it on our countertop, just 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)

  • I pour the allocated bag of henna into the bowl.
  • I then add 1 tsp paprika to give the henna more of a burgundy hue later on when I apply it (for a more golden/orange red colour, add the juice of one lemon, and use brewed tea instead of plain water).
  • Next I add in the hot water (just 12 ounces 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 it’s not, add more of the remaining water until it is this consistency (up to 4 ounces more)
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Let it rest!

Apply your henna – It’s ready to apply! The instructions for my particular packet of henna advised to apply onto washed, towel dried hair, but it’s completely up to you.

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

  • Put on protective gloves (I had a pair of latex gloves from a hair dying kit my mum used previously). Henna STAINS everything, this means if it gets on your skin, your skin will have a nice orangey/brown tinge to 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 it’s always 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 going everywhere. 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 make sure you’re covering all of your hair with the henna compared to 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 left down, and leave the rest of my hair up, and then work from there.
  • Unwrap your henna and start applying! Try to avoid getting henna on parts of your hair that are pulled up (the parts of your hair that are pulled up). Henna can really tangle your hair up if you’re not intentionally trying to put it on a certain area (this happened to me, so I strongly advise sticking to the roots of your hair, then going through after you’ve covered all of your roots and using your hands to massage and spread the henna through the ends of your hair). You want a good, thick, lathered coating over ALL of your hair.
  • You want to REALLY saturate your head with it: don’t be stingy. Apply the henna on very thick for maximum coverage.
  • When you’ve finished, put all your hair up and pop a shower cap over your head. Then wrap your hair with plastic wrap. Once your hair has been fully covered in the wrap, you can start to clean away any spots of henna on your face, neck, ears, etc. that might be stuck there.
  • I let my henna sit on my hair for 10 hours (as my hair is quite dark, and I wanted to make sure the colour stained well, so it would show through later). But you don’t need to leave it for so long, 3-4 hours is usually enough. It really just depends on how deep you want the shade of red to be. Some people even just do 1 hour.

Wash the henna out – I washed the henna out of my hair in the shower using warm water (NO shampoo or conditioner). I rinsed my hair until the water ran clear (it took a while because it was so thick on my hair). After 3 days I washed my hair with shampoo, as the true colour of henna starts to set in after a few days (and I wanted to make sure the henna had fully set in my hair, so it wouldn’t wash out). 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 the smell.

I missed a spot on my face with the lotion, so ended up with a nice henna tattoo on the side of my cheek (which you can see here actually!). But it faded within a few days (so did the orange stained skin on my forehead).

If you’re hair is super bright and orange the first day after dyeing it, don’t freak out! That’s normal. Like I said, it takes around 3 days for the true colour of henna to come through, and over that time it will deepen . That’s something I really love about henna, unlike conventional hair dyes, henna doesn’t fade! You just need to touch up the roots of your hair as your hair grows out.

Different types of hair/hair colours will develop a different shade of red with the henna! My hair was dark hair originally, and I developed a beautiful burgundy red (I just LOVED it!)

Final Notes

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

For a live run-through of how I dyed my hair RED with henna (step-by-step, from start to finish), see my video tutorial below!

Have you used henna to dye your hair before? How did it go? Share your experience below! We’d love hear!

Lots of love,

๐Ÿ–ค Vanessa


Kaloi, Stephanie. (Updated: May 1, 2020). An incredibly detailed guide to dying your hair red with henna. Offbeat Home & Life. Retrieved from