Reader Q&A: CurlyNikki on the Benefits of Henna Gloss for Natural Hair

Curly Nikki Henna 400
Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceOnline with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.

Check out the newest installment in CurlyNikki's reader Q&A series:

READER QUESTION: What is a henna gloss and how do I apply it to my natural hair?

CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: A henna gloss is perfect for a subtle color change along with deep conditioning. It’ll temporarily smooth your frizzies, add bulk to fine strands and leave the hair strong, silky and shiny. Henna gives me what I call baby doll hair- thick, glossy strands that are less susceptible to breakage. It’s a little different than a full strength henna treatment because it’s mixed with a moisturizing conditioner, but for the most part, yields all the same benefits with an added moisture boost.

Henna glosses are easier to apply than full strength henna treatments because of the wonderful slip provided by the conditioner, much easier to rinse, and leaves your hair smooth and soft rather than dry and hay-stacky like a full strength henna treatment upon rinsing.

Remember that the property in henna that dyes the hair red, is the same one that conditions, strengthens, defizzes, and smoothes. So even though you’re using less henna, it will still leave a slight red tint on dark hair (similar to drawing on black paper with an orange crayon), and dye your grays red.

It’s a great option for those that find a full strength henna treatment to be too taxing on strands and for those faithful henna’ers that want to experience soft, smooth results upon rinsing. It’s amazing. My gloss mix leaves me with similar dye release, gray coverage, strengthening and smoothing, almost making the full henna treatments obsolete.

What You'll Need:
• Body Art Quality Henna (at least 100g)- enough for my fine arm pit length hair
• A light, protein free conditioner-- Many users across the web like the Generic Matrix Biolage Balm from Sallys. *Optional: Honey, Unsweetened Yogurt (some people use Yogurt in place of the conditioner), and olive oil

My Henna Gloss Instructions:
• Add 100g of henna to 1.5 cups of warm green tea in a plastic container. I usually use 2 or 3 tea bags. It should be the consistency of cake batter.
• Seal off the container and let it sit for a few hours for dye release.
• Mix in 1 cup of conditioner. At this time, you could also add in oils, yogurt and/or honey.
• Apply to detangled (dry or damp) hair in sections. Then don a plastic baggy, cotton balls or tissue rolled up near your ears to catch drippies, and a scarf to cover the ugly green mess!
• Leave in for the desired amount of time. Remember, the shorter amount of time (15-30 minutes), the less dye uptake... so less red, but also less conditioning. 4 hours is optimal.
• Dunk your head in a tub of tepid water to wash away most of the mix. Hop in the shower and rinse away the rest using a cheapy, slippery conditioner. It rinses very easily, and you could probably skip the tub dunking :)
• Apply a Moisturizing Deep Treatment
• Rinse, and style as usual.

I hope this is helpful. The key things to remember are:

1. Modify my recipe and leave it in for less time if you want only a subtle color change. If you want the full benefits of color and henna's conditioning powers, leave in for 4 hours or more.
2. Use a cheapy conditioner free of protein, and preferably free of cones in your mix. A thicker conditioner will help prevent a runny mix.

Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural haircare, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.

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