Get some color!
Henna is a great natural dye and is also probably the most famous plant dye out there. There are however many other plant dyes out there as well! Combining these with henna gives you a wide variety of colors you can experiment with yourself.
Henna contains lawsone which can bind to the keratin molecule. By pulverizing or acidifying the leaves of henna, this molecule is released. Applying it to your hair results in a nice reddish stain. But what about other colors? Well despite what you might have heard, it is not possible to get other colors with henna! Wait a minute, you say, I’ve seen things like black henna and blonde henna? Well, hate to break it to you, but that’s not ‘real henna’. They probably contain henna, but also other chemicals or other plant dyes. In the following paragraph you can see which plant dyes you need for your ultimate color! Just remember, much depends on your base color, so check out our color chart as well.
Red/Brown Plant Dyes
- Henna (Lawsonia inermis) is probably the most famous and popular natural hair dye out there. Not only does it dye your hair but it has a lot of other benefits as well! Henna can be combined with other colors and is often used as the primary binding agent to your hair, due to the presence of lawsone.
- Walnut (Juglans regia) has a hard outer shell which gives a particularly strong dark brown color. Crushing the walnut shells and then immersing them in boiling water for about half an hour to release the dye. Now let the liquid cool and let it soak in into a cotton ball to make it easy to apply it to your hair. Or even better, add it to your paste, making your own color! Make sure you cover up everything you don’t want stained, cause trust me, this one stains a lot! Gloves and old towels will come in handy. Also, as always, try to avoid (too) hot water, since this will reduce the dye effect because this dye stains less deep than henna. Of course, if you have a nut allergy, stay clear of this!
- Catechu (Acacia catechu) is the dark brown variant of the Catechu (the other one, Ourouparia gambia, is a yellow dye). This dye is actually tannin dyes, but is often added to henna to create variations on the standard henna color, achieving brown and dark brown shades.
Blonde/Yellow Plant Dyes
- Cassia obovata, also known as neutral henna, looks a lot like henna powder, but generally does not stain. That makes it a perfect conditioner for your hair, resulting in thicker and shinier hair while also improving the health of your scalp!
- Catechu (Ourouparia gambir) is the yellow variant of the Catechu (remember the dark brown variant, Acacia catechu, from above?). This dye is a tannin dye as well, and can be used to achieve lighter, blonde-like variations.
- Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is another dye that can be used to create blonde hair dyes. You might know this herb from your spice rack since this is often used in cookery to flavor aperitiv beverages or to color foods such as butter, rice, sauces, cheese and soups!
- Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), although not very effective, can be used to accomplish blonder dye colors. Also, as you might remember from a previous post, can chamomile tea be used to bring out highlights in your hair, effectively giving you a lighter look!
- Rhubarb Root (Rheum rhapoticum) can be used to create blonder tones, although it’s not often used!
Blue Plant Dyes (often very dark so it looks black)
- Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) produces a dark violet blue dye and is probably the most popular one amongst the non-henna plant dyes. It is even used to dye jeans blue! When mixed with henna, you can get a hair color varying from brown to pitch black, all depending on the ratio of henna and indigo.
- Woad (Isatis tinctoria) is also a plant that has a blue dye. Although it does not create the vivid blue-black as indigo does, woad is more dye-fast in the hair.
Black Plant Dyes
- Vashma is actually partially fermented indigo from the “real” indigo leaves, Indigofera tinctoria. Indigo can be acquired from other plants such as Baphicacanthus cusia or Persicaria tinctoria, but these contain much less dye compared to the true indigo plant!
- Karchak (castor bean) comes from the castor oil plant and has also been used for textile dyeing and making printing inks.
Other plant dyes you should try
Amla is another great plant dye. It does not actually dye your hair, but it is able to tone down the red or brown color of the henna-indigo combination. It’s also great in adding some natural shine to your hair. If you add amla to your henna mixture, remember to add it last into the paste! Amla also works great to get rid of dandruff or reducing hair loss.
In case you are not really someone fond of experimenting until you get the dye you like best, you can always get a pre-mixed package. Be sure to check the list of ingredients to ensure you’re not buying something containing metallic salts or other nasty chemicals but something purely consisting out of natural plant dyes!
However, if you still want to have full control over the ingredients, but do not want to go through a trial and error process, the list of ‘golden combinations’ below is for you! That way you are sure that the particular combination of ingredients gives you the color you want. The intensity will still depend on the ratios you use, allowing you to achieve different shades for each color! Keep in mind that these colors can also be achieved with combinations from other plant dyes, so don’t be scared to experiment on some hair strands from your brush if you have a bit left over!
- Natural red hair: henna
- Brown hair: henna and woad
- Dark, warm brown hair: karchak and vashma
- Golden hair: henna and saffron
- Black hair: karchak, vashma and indigo