How Long To Leave Henna On Hair?

Hair dyes produce vivid color payoffs, but the hydrogen peroxide and harsh chemicals may damage your hair as a consequence. Due to this dilemma, many individuals are opting to dye their hair using a more natural ingredient: Henna.

This beauty ingredient can transfer pigment to your hair while making your locks shinier and stronger due to its nourishing components. Henna may be effective in hair coloring and conditioning, but you still need to use it properly to get your desired results.

In this article, we have provided a complete guide on how to dye hair with henna, the important do’s and don’ts, and how long to leave the henna on hair after application. But first, let’s understand what henna is exactly and how it can benefit your hair.

How Does Henna Colors The Hair? 

Henna is derived from the tree commonly known as the henna tree, while the original terminology is Lawsonia inermis. The leaves from the henna tree are dried and crushed to make a fine powder which is dark green and the pigment from the leaves is reddish-orange in color.

A natural hair dye method - Henna
A natural hair dye method – Henna

When the powder is mixed with a liquid, it forms a paste which can then be applied to your hair. Depending on the hair color, the paste usually leaves a rich-copper hue when applied. 

If you have ever used artificial hair dyes, particularly box dyes; you might have experienced the damaging effects of the chemicals in those hair dyes. They might make the hair look nice and shiny for a while, but soon the color wears off, leaving the hair dull and dry and in some cases it also causes the hair to weaken over time and end up in hair fall or breakage even.

It is because these store-bought products have ammonia, alcohol, parabens, and peroxide, etc. On the other hand, the natural henna powder is devoid of such harmful additives. In fact, it can benefit your hair in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of henna for hair.

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Shampoos Hub
  • It helps in reducing dullness in the hair and makes the hair look healthy and shiny
  • It has antifungal properties which can help in resolving various scalp issues.
  • It helps restore the PH balance of the scalp, prompts the sebaceous glands to function normally, and hence prevents excessive production of oil.
  • It can help stimulate hair growth.

How Long To Leave Henna On Hair?

Our previously published article on How Long Should You Leave Dye In Your Hair emphasized the dangers of leaving the chemical solution on your locks for too long.

To illustrate, failure to wash away hair dyes after 45 minutes can lead to brittle and dry hair strands. This damage is caused by the strong chemicals that reduce the amount of natural oils in your hair cuticles.

On the other hand, henna dyes don’t contain the strong chemicals present in hair dyes so they can be left on hair for a longer duration.

In fact, it is recommended that you leave the henna on the hair for at least two hours. However, some factors need to be taken into account.

  • You should decide the time based on the color intensity you are looking for. If you want to highlight your hair, you can leave the henna on your hair for 2 or 3 hours. However, if you want to cover grey hair, you may want to leave it on for a little longer.
  • If you want a deeper and richer color, you must keep the henna dye on your hair for 4 hours.
  • If your skin is sensitive, you may not be able to leave the henna on for long, in case you feel irritation. Try doing a patch test first and then apply it to your hair if it checks out.
  • If your hair is resistant to dyeing agents and is not porous, you may have to keep the henna on for long. 

Therefore, before you decide how long to leave the henna on hair, make sure you have considered all the relevant factors. 

However, too much of one thing can also be bad, which is why you shouldn’t leave the henna for more than 5 hours. Doing this could potentially dry out your scalp and irritate your hair.

The condition of skin
The condition of skin and hair will affect how long you leave henna in your hair

What Happens If You Leave Henna On Your Hair For Too Long Or Leave It Overnight?

Although henna is a safer alternative to chemical-loaded dyes, too much of everything is not good. While you may be tempted to leave the henna on the hair for too long for a richer darker pigment, you should not leave on the henna for too long. 

Ideally, the henna should not be left longer than 4 to 5 hours. If you leave the henna overnight or even for too long it may make your hair too dry and brittle.

If it stays on your hair for too long, it is likely to re-hydrate and will try to draw the moisture from your hair, causing it to become dry and lifeless.

In some cases, it may even cause irritation if left on for too long. Moreover, if you leave the henna overnight, it will form dry and harden and form patches on the hair.

Washing them out may prove to be quite a challenge. It will be messy and will be quite hard to get all out. If you pull too hard, you will cause damage to the roots and even hair breakage.

How To Use Henna Correctly

Henna powder is commercially available in three forms. One of these is black henna, which is mixed with indigo to form a black color. If the black henna has PPD (para-phenylenediamine), it may cause allergic reactions or even burns on the skin. So, it should be avoided.

Another form of henna is neutral, which does not leave any color. Therefore it does not serve much purpose when it comes to dying. The third form is the natural henna powder. Upon application, the natural powder tends to leave a reddish-brown to copper color depending on the previous hair shade.

Therefore, if you want to dye your hair with henna, the natural form is the way to go. Here is how you can make henna paste for application.

Making henna paste

Usually, the henna powder is mixed with some form of liquid to make a paste which is then applied throughout the hair. There are various forms of liquid you can add to the henna powder, including water, olive oil or coconut oil, a little lemon juice mixed in water, black tea or coffee, etc. 

Some individuals also add herbs with aromas or essential oils to the paste to derive further benefits. However, that is completely optional. Here are a few things you will need

Prepare the paste: You will need a glass or ceramic bowl and a non-metal stirring spoon like a wooden spoon or chopsticks. 

For application: You will need rubber gloves, a shower cap, old towels or washcloths to wipe the excess off, old sheets to avoid the mess if any, and a comb. 

If you do not want the henna to leave color on your skin, you can apply a water-resistant gel or balm to your hairline to protect the skin. You can also use a hairdryer if you want the dye to dry off in a short time.

Now let’s move to the crucial step of making the henna paste.

  • Depending on the length of your hair, take the henna powder in the glass or ceramic bowl. If your hair is short, you may only need a cup of powder. However, if the hair is long, you may need three to four cups. For shoulder-length two cups should suffice. 
  • If you want to add some aromatic herb to your henna, this is the time. Depending on how much henna you are using, put half or full teaspoon of the herb and stir it.
  • Now add the liquids to the powder. If you want to enhance the color of the henna dye, you can use an essential oil like lavender. 
  • You can also add lemon juice to aid the coloring process; particularly for grey hair.
  • Now add a little oil and add water gradually while continuing to stir and make a fine thick paste. Let it sit for an hour or so.

Water should be of normal temperature or lukewarm; not too cold and not too hot either. Similarly, the amount of oil depends on your hair type and length. The oil basically helps in moisturizing the hair. If your hair is dry, you can add more and vice versa.

Prepare a mixture of henna dye for hair
Prepare a mixture of henna dye for hair

How to apply

Now one thing to keep in mind is that henna leaves stains. So, be sure to put on an old shirt that you wouldn’t mind getting ruined. Spread out old sheets around you to avoid spatter and keep a washcloth handy to remove any drippings. 

Put on your gloves while applying the henna. Start from the top center of the hair and apply to your scalp directly. Spread it across the length of the hair while dividing your hair into sections so that no hair is left out. If you feel some areas are missing, re-apply the paste. Once you are done, gather the hair and gather it in the form of a twisted bun on the top of your head.

Once all the hair is gathered on the top of your head, cover your head with a shower cap or anything that is waterproof and prevents the henna from dripping around. If there is any remnant of the pigment around your hairline, wipe it away with a washcloth. 

If you want a deeper shade, you can cause the pigment to penetrate more by using a hairdryer. If there is a specific section of the hair where you want a darker shade, you can use the hairdryer on that particular section for a few minutes, depending on the length of the hair. 

Henna works extremely well on porous hair
Henna works extremely well on porous hair and is easily absorbed

Rinsing it out

When you have had the henna on for a sufficient duration, it is time to rinse it out. Henna takes quite some time to be washed out of the hair so you may have to be patient. It may take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes and even longer if you have long or curly hair. However, do not tug at your hair to pull it out. 

Use a conditioner once the henna is out and rinse it with cold water. If some pieces remain in the hair, they will also wash out with the conditioner. When the water is clear, it means all the henna has been rinsed out.

Use an old towel to pat the hair and let the hair dry on its own. Wait for at least a day before you shampoo your hair even if you feel the need to do so. It will allow the pigment to settle deeply in the hair.

Rinsing it out
Dyeing your hair with henna requires rinsing many times to get rid of the dye

When you shampoo, do not be alarmed by the residual color coming out in the water. The water will become clear in a short while when the remnants have cleared out.

What Can You Do With Leftover Henna?

If you’ve got leftover henna, then you can maximize the solution by applying the dye to your eyelashes and eyebrows. Since henna dye is safe, you can put it on your eyelashes and eyebrows to create a more natural look.

To illustrate, you can boost the appearance of your eyelashes by making them darker and longer. You can darken them by applying the henna dye onto your lashes using a clean mascara wand. Wait for ten minutes before removing the dye with a wet cotton pad.

Then, you can use an eyelash serum to provide nourishment and boost the length of your lashes. The moisturizing ingredients of the serum can protect the dyed lashes against any breakage and dryness.

Additionally, you can boost the appearance of your eyebrows by dying them using henna. Though eyebrow makeup can fill in any sparse areas, dying your eyebrows in the right color can help create a more complementary look. Just make sure that you keep the brows one shade lighter so that they can suit your hair color.

To achieve this, use a spoolie to coat the henna dye onto your brows. Let it sit for ten minutes if you want a lighter look. For a darker hue, leave it on for 30 minutes.

Henna solutions are super safe and effective, which is why you shouldn’t hesitate to apply the dye on your hair, lashes, and brows. Just make sure that you leave them on within the prescribed period for optimal results.

Frequency Of Henna Applications

Henna color stays in the hair for a good 5 to 5 weeks and even longer when applied properly. The color however doesn’t fade that quickly and takes quite some time to leave your hair completely. 

You can re-apply the henna after 4 to 5 weeks. However, the health of your hair and scalp is an important consideration.

Henna tends to make hair dry, so if you have dry or brittle hair, you may give the hair some time to recover before you do the next application. 

Tips For Using Henna

  • Apply henna to clean hair. You can wash it before you apply the color so that it is clean and free of oil and impurities and any buildup.
  • If you apply henna to damp hair, it will help make the application easier.
  • If you want to make the paste smooth, you can add a little sugar to it.
  • Make sure that the consistency of the henna paste is neither too dry nor too liquid. A dry paste will be harder to apply and a liquid paste will be hard to manage, as it will drip around.
  • Henna is messy and can leave stains so wear old clothes while applying. Also keep old sheets around you to avoid staining the sheets, floor, or carpet. Also, keep old towels or washcloths to clean any smudges or drippings. 
  • If your hair is too dry, you can boost moisture in it by applying an oil-based mask before you apply henna. Wash it thoroughly with a shampoo to rid the hair of excess oil.
  • After dyeing your hair with henna, your hair will be quite dry. You need to use more deeply moisturizing products such as hair mask, conditioner, dry conditioner, hair spray, …


After dyeing my hair, after how long can I wash my hair again?

When you wash hair to rinse out the henna, use a conditioner only and hold back the shampoo. It will allow the color to penetrate deeper and give a more rich and dark pigment.

Ideally, you should wait for 2 to 3 days before washing the dyed hair with shampoo. The color will have settled in by then. However, if you cannot wait for 2 or 3 days, give a gap of at least one day.

Related: Should I Wash My Hair Before Dyeing It?

How to keep henna in the hair for as long as possible?

If you want to get a darker color, you may keep the henna in the hair for 2-3 hours to allow the pigment to settle in deeply. If your hair is not too dry, you can keep it on for even 4 to 5 hours. (And then you can also use a darkening shampoo bar to give off a darker color.)

To keep the henna paste on the hair for long, you can wrap a plastic sheet around it or put on a shower cap after securing the hair on the top in a twisted bun.


When using henna powder, make sure you get it from a reputable source and do not buy a pre-mixed paste. Beware of counterfeit products in the market. When you plan to apply henna, do reserve considerable time as it needs quite some time in preparing, applying, and then washing it out.

Moreover, before you decide how long to leave the henna on your hair, do a patch test to make sure there is no skin or hair irritation and also whether you want to highlight your hair or cover the grey in your hair.

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Edna Feber

I’m Edna. I'm here to guide you about hair products and maintenance tips. You'll fine here product reviews regarding hair tools, hair color, hair care and more along with tips to keep your hair healthy!

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