DIY Henna Instructions: Learn How To Make Dye From Henna Leaves

Woman's Hands With Henna And Jewelry
henna dye
(Image credit: Arijit_Mondal)

The use of henna is an age-old art. It has been used for thousands of years to dye hair, skin, and even nails. This dye is from a henna tree, Lasonia inermis, and is a natural dye that many people are turning to once again as a source of chemical free color. Is it possible to make your own homemade henna? If so, how do you make dye from henna trees? Read on to find out how to make a DIY dye from henna.

How to Make Dye from Henna Trees

In many parts of the world, such as North Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East, henna leaves are ground into a green powder and mixed with an acid like lemon juice or even highly acidic tea. This concoction releases the dye molecules, lawsone, from the plants cells. The powder resulting from the dried leaves can be found at specialty shops that cater to people from these regions. How about making your own homemade henna though? It’s actually quite easy, if you can find fresh henna leaves.

Making DIY Henna Dye

The first step to your DIY henna is obtaining fresh henna leaves. Try Middle Eastern or South Asian markets or order online. Set the leaves out flat and dry them outside in the shade, not the sun. Sunshine will cause them to lose some of their potency. Drying may take a few weeks until they are crisp. Once the leaves have dried completely, grind them using a mortar and pestle. You want them ground as finely as possible. Strain the resulting powder through a sieve or through muslin. That’s it! Use the powder immediately for the best effect, or store in a cool, dark, and dry area in a sealed plastic bag.

Coloring Your Hair with Dye from a Henna Tree

To use your henna, combine the powdered leaves with lemon juice or decaffeinated tea to create a loose, wet mud. Allow the henna to sit overnight at room temperature. The next day it will be thicker, more mud-like, less wet, and darker. Now it’s ready to use. Apply the henna to your hair just as you would a home hair dye using disposable gloves. Henna will dye skin, so keep an old damp rag nearby to wipe your skin immediately if the henna drips on you. Also, be sure to wear an old shirt and remove anything nearby like a bath mat or towels that you don’t want to dye reddish orange. Once the henna is on your hair, cover it with a plastic shower cap and wrap your head in an old towel or scarf like a turban to keep any wayward henna from getting on things. Then just leave it on for three to four hours, or overnight for stubborn gray hair. Once the time has elapsed, wash the henna out. Take your time, at this point it is like mud entrenched in your hair and will be difficult to remove. Use an old towel to dry hair just in case there is some leftover henna that will dye it. Once the henna has been thoroughly rinsed from your hair, you’re done!

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.