Is Henna Safe for Coloring Chemically Relaxed Hair?

April 15, 2012

Can You Henna Relaxed Hair?

Can you use henna on relaxed hair? Henna, a plant-based coloring product, has been a staple in hair coloring for ages; but is henna safe for coloring black, chemically relaxed hair? Most people will say, "No." But before you take this as gospel, consider that though henna has only recently picked up steam in the relaxed hair community, this natural colorant pre-dates relaxers. In its purest form (no chemical/salt additives), henna works very well on chemically relaxed hair. Can Relaxed Hair be Hennaed?
Chemically relaxed hair can be safely hennaed without damage, and its use in the relaxed hair community continues to grow. Natural, or body art quality henna is a great option for those of us who like to play around with color, but want to cut back on the damage. Because it only coats the outer hair cuticle, henna is able to give relaxed hair a nice gloss and reduce its porosity. Henna is also able to enhance the hairs' overall thickness by adding to each hair shaft's individual diameter.

How Does Henna Color Relaxed Hair? Henna is able to color relaxed hair by attaching itself to the outer cuticle. Henna is actually similar to a protein treatment in many ways. Both treatments give the hair additional strength and deposit material along the cuticle to increase individual hair shaft thickness. Because relaxed hair is often porous hair by nature, henna pigments are able to get deeper into the cuticle than they would otherwise be able to for natural or untreated hair. The effect is a longer lasting color.

How often is it safe to Henna relaxed hair?
Most chemically relaxed henna users refresh their henna color every 4-6 weeks. Henna can be used in the last week or two leading up to a relaxer, and as soon as a week following the relaxer application. Since henna does coat the hair shaft, it can interfere with typical relaxer straightening for some individuals. Henna on the hair shaft can act as a barrier to the relaxer- similar to a heavy basing. If you are one who prefers bone straight hair, then you'll either need to henna well in advance of your relaxer or wait until just after.
Relaxers must lift the cuticles to operate, so some of your superficially deposited henna color may bleed an orangey color into the relaxer. This is normal. Relaxed hair is already porous so a great deal of the henna coloring will be deeper in the shaft. This guarantees that a bulk of your henna color will survive the relaxing process. If you henna regularly, your henna color will adhere and remain true longer.

When Henna is NOT a Good Idea for Relaxed hair
VERY IMPORTANT!!! Commercially prepared "compound" hennas should be avoided by those with relaxed hair at all costs. This cannot be stressed enough! These compound hennas contain harmful metallic salts that will react with your chemical relaxer and cause your hair to essentially melt and break. If you are unsure of your henna source or suspect the quality, perform an assessment on "harvested hair"-the shed hair in your brush. If the henna application does not damage the harvested hair then you know you are working with a natural, quality henna source.

Henna Colors
Most compound, pre-mixed hennas will claim to be able to color your hair a variety of colors, but true henna is only able to produce one color: red-orange hues. Natural henna can be manually mixed with natural dyes to produce beautiful browns, blacks, and blondes. If you desire a color other than the natural henna red-orange, then mixing various plant dyes with henna yourself is preferable to purchasing a pre-mixed, compound henna. This way, you know exactly which ingredients are being used in your henna mixture. Dyes like indigo and cassia obovata can be safely added to henna to give you additional color options for your relaxed hair. For more information about all things henna and suggestions on where to purchase it safely, visit

Final Henna Tips for Chemically Relaxed hair
After henna'ing relaxed hair, always follow your color session up with a moisturizing deep conditioning. Henna can make your hair stronger and a bit coarse initially, so a good moisturizing will restore your hair's moisture balance and soften the texture.
Published by Audrey Sivasothy

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  1. Thanks for this. I have been tempted to try the Henna but I have been a bit scared about damaging my hair

    1. :-) please do let us know how it turns out when you do it. HHJ!

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  3. I have relaxed hair. I saw a post by Ghal that to dye my hair black naturally I can use Indigo and Henna.
    Where can I get indigo in Nairobi? I asked at Super Cosmetics but they were clueless. Or does it go by another name?

  4. Hello I came across your post while research an ingredient i saw in my henna after application sodium picrmate. Apparently it is a metallic salt that you mentioned. After reading your post i immediately washed it out. The paste was in my hair for about 40mins.
    My hair is texlaxed and im due for a relaxer next month. How long should i wait before relaxing or should I not relax my hair at all. Will the metallic salts ever leave the shaft of my hair or do i have to cut my hair

    1. hi dear, don´t panic. you can use a shampoo with EDTA to remove the metals from your hair and then please wait a while for your hair to recover before you do any other chemical treatments like a relaxer. also take care not to overprocess your hair when you finaly do relax. sorry for the delay.