My Two-Step Henna Indigo Process

by Shelli of Hairscapades

It’s finally here!! The highly anticipated (by, like, two people) tutorial for my two-step henna/indigo process!! LOL! I did a treatment this Sunday and photo-documented it for this post. I explained most of my process in my Henna and Me “interview.” So, a lot of this will be a repeat of that information. However, it’ll be bulleted and accompanied with pretty pictures and a little more detail ;). First though, here are a couple of notes about modifications I’ve made to my henna treatments due to my preferences and my hair’s needs:
  • I use henna alone on the front half of my head so that my grey hair becomes fiery red highlights.
  • I do a two-step henna/indigo on the back half of my head so that that hair is black (I don’t like “highlights” in the back as I think they look less intentional and also make my hair look finer, whereas the black makes it look denser in my opinion).
  • I don’t apply henna to my nape hair as that area is almost bone straight and very fine. Henna completely obliterates any wave/curl it might have.
  • I use what CurlyNikki dubbed a Conditioning Henna Treatment. That is, I mix a full batch of henna, allow full dye release and add conditioner to make it easier to apply and rinse. This differentiates my process from a “true” henna gloss since I mix a full batch of henna and allow dye release. It is also different from a full strength henna, because I add conditioner to “dilute” the thickness of the henna. However, I’ve done full strength treatments and see no appreciable difference in the results.
  • I only apply henna to my “roots” now (the first 3-6 inches of hair) as too many applications on the same hair loosens my hair significantly. I try to get about 3 applications on “new hair.”
  • I sometimes apply henna to wet hair and sometimes to dry. These are instructions to my “dry” henna routine. The only difference with my “wet” routine is that I’ll usually have pre-pooed and lightly finger detangled my hair with Vatika oil. Then, I’ll shampoo with either diluted Ion Curls Shampoo or Deva Care No Poo.
With that, here we go!

Ingredients and Supplies

Henna Mix
200g Henna (100g Jamila or Rajasthani Twilight; 100g Dulhan)
4 tea bags of green tea
3 cups filtered or distilled water
2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups Sally’s GVP Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm

Indigo Mix
50g Indigo
Salt (a pinch)

Supplies*
Plastic or glass liquids measuring cup
Large glass jar/container (large enough to hold 3 c. of water)
Plastic or wooden spoon
Medium to large plastic or glass bowl with top
Plastic gloves
4 medium-sized plastic jaw clips
Plastic wrap
Scissors
Plastic cap
Paper towels or cotton balls
Heat wrap, winter hat or bonnet dryer (hard or soft)
Old towels and/or newspaper (to protect bathroom floor/sink)
Old and/or black tee-shirt and pants/shorts
Herbal Essences Hello Hydration (HE HH) (for henna/indigo rinsing)
Slippery and Moisturizing Deep Conditioner (JessiCurl Weekly Deep Conditioner or Darcy Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Conditioner)
*no metal containers or utensils

My Process

The Henna Mix
  • Bring 3 cups of distilled or filtered water to a boil and then brew 3-4 green tea bags. Cool to warm/room temp.
  • Pour 2 boxes of henna powder into large glass bowl and gradually stir in cooled tea with a plastic or wood spoon until the texture of a thick batter (I usually need about 2, 2 1/2 cups. I brew 3 cups of tea to make certain that I have enough).
  • Cover bowl with top (I cover the henna with plastic wrap first, sealing out most of the air, then cover with the top).
  • Allow henna to sit in a cool, dry, dark place for 12 hours for dye release.
  • After dye release, I split the henna into half, and wrap one half in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, seal it in a freezer bag and then place it in the freezer (frozen then thawed henna has even better dye release).
  • After dye release, I mix in about 2 tbsp of honey and 3/4 c. of Sally’s GVP Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm (I never measure these, I just eyeball it). This makes the “batter” thinner (but not drippy) and more like the consistency of Greek yogurt.

The Prep
  • Protect bathroom surfaces, including floors, sink and door, with old towels and/or newspaper.
  • Don old clothes.
  • Divide dry hair into four sections/quadrants and use round-teeth jaw clips (less snag prone) to secure the front two sections and one rear section to keep them out of the way (More sections may be necessary if you have thicker hair).
  • Don plastic gloves (unless you like orange hands and nails;).

The Henna Application
  • Finger part and apply henna thickly to first 6 inches or so of of dry* hair, section by section, starting with back sections first and then applying to front (Again, I don’t apply henna to my nape hair). Ensure hair is completely coated in henna.
  • Mix 2 tsp of remaining henna into another 3/4 c. of Sally’s GVP Conditioning Balm to make a henna gloss.
  • Apply to remaining “un-hennaed” hair (I do this as I don’t like the idea of my dry hair under heat, so I put conditioner on it to get a deep treatment. I add leftover henna if I have it).
  • Place hair on top of head, securing with round-tooth jaw clip.
  • Wrap head in plastic wrap, wrap cotton balls or paper towel around edges to catch drippies, don plastic cap.
  • Allow henna to sit for 4 hours (I apply a heat source [winter hat, heat wrap or bonnet dryer] for 2-4 hours to increase speed of dye release and enhance amount of dye uptake).
  • Fill tub with enough water to cover head, put gloves back on and dunk hair to loosen and remove majority of henna.
  • Gently rinse remaining henna from hair under faucet stream (do not try to detangle at this juncture).
The Indigo Mix**
  • Pour 50g of indigo into glass bowl and add a pinch of salt to enhance dye uptake and color retention (several shakes of the salt shaker).
  • Mix in enough lukewarm/room temp distilled/filtered water to make indigo into a thick paste (indigo is grittier than henna).
  • Put gloves back on and apply indigo to first 6 inches of back half of hair until fully covered.
  • Wrap head in plastic wrap, don plastic cap and apply heat for one hour.
  • Hop in shower and rinse henna and gently finger detangle hair with lots of HE HH (usually takes about three rinses).
**Indigo needs henna to “stick” to the hair. So, henna must be applied first and then indigo to dye hair black. The dye in indigo releases immediately and expires rapidly. So, it should only be mixed right before application and leftovers should be discarded as indigo can’t be stored once it’s been mixed. Indigo powder should be stored in a cool, dry place. Do not freeze indigo powder as it will kill the dye molecule.

The Finish
  • Apply moisturizing deep conditioner (Darcy’s Botanicals Pumpkin Seed Conditioner this time), don plastic cap and apply heat for at least one hour (I sometimes sleep in my DC overnight, but am trying to not do that as often anymore given my realization that my hair was over-conditioned).
  • Cool, seal, finger detangle and rinse (click here for my DC rinsing technique).
  • Apply leave-in and style as desired.
So, that is the very detailed blow-by-blow of my process!
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