How Long to Leave Henna on Hair?

How long to leave henna on hair? Henna is an excellent natural alternative to synthetic hair coloring. However, if you leave it in your hair for too long, it could make your hair and scalp dry. In this article, I will describe how long you should leave henna on your hair for the best results.

How long to leave henna in hair? It is advised to leave henna in the hair for about 2 to 6 hours. This is the amount of time for your hair and its roots to properly absorb the henna.

As long as the henna you are using is natural and pure and without any added chemical compounds, you can leave it on your hair for up to 6 hours. There are many who leave henna on the hair longer than 6 hours or overnight. If you do this, the color becomes more bold and prominent; however, it could make your hair and scalp dry. 

It is not difficult to treat or color your hair with henna. However, the process is different from the standard method of hair dyeing because of the time involved.

Read on to learn more about how long to leave henna on hair, as well as how to apply henna on hair.

How Long to Leave Henna on Hair?

The longer you leave the henna on your hair, the more prominent the color will be. At the very least, you should leave it on your hair for one hour. The longest time you can leave it on your hair is 12 hours. A safe amount of time for most people is between 2 to 6 hours.

The length of time will depend on the strand test that you are advised to do before coloring the entirety of your hair.

You may also sleep with the henna on to give it more time to sink in your hair and roots. But make sure to put on a shower cap to protect your pillows and bedsheets. The right time to rinse your hair is if you have determined that your hair and roots have fully absorbed the color. This length of time might take from two to six to a maximum of 12 hours.

It is advised to use a shower cap or plastic wrap when dyeing your hair, even with henna. This is more effective in helping to set the hair dye. It is also cleaner because it prevents drips off the hair color from spoiling your floor, bed, or furniture.

Leaving your hair wrapped like this for longer than 6 hours can certainly dry out some people’s hair, especially those with more sensitive hair or skin. So stick to the recommended time of 2 to 6 hours, at least for the first time you use henna.

How to Make Henna Paste (Mehndi)

If you like to make your own hair products, the below recipe is a great one for homemade henna paste (mehndi).


  • Ceramic or glass container – this should be big enough to hold 4 cups with extra room for stirring
  • Henna powder, natural (could be indigo or cassia depending on what you like)
  • A non-metal stirring tool like a chopstick
  • Acid to release the dye – could be vinegar, lemon juice, or apple cider
  • Water – distilled or filtered, not tap water
  • Waterproof shower cap
  • Rubber gloves
  • Old sheet and clothes
  • Old towel and washcloths
  • Comb

Optional materials:

  • Water-resistant balm to protect your skin at the hairline
  • Amla powder or capsules
  • A hairdryer to speed up drying
  • Coconut, olive, or avocado oil for moisturizing and easy rinsing
  • Aromatic herbs, essential oils, or spices to add a pleasant scent
how long to leave henna in hair


  1. Mix one to four cups of henna powder with one to four tablespoons of amla powder in the container. One cup of powder will be good for short hair, two cups for shoulder length hair, and four cups for long and thick hair. The powder can be frozen, so there’s no worry about the excess.
  2. This is an optional step. You can add some aromatic herbs or spices in the powder as aromatherapy. By doing so, it will help diffuse the odor and will add some highlights. You can use chamomile, cinnamon, paprika, etc. A teaspoon of this herb or spice will be enough.
  3. You can also add essential oil to enhance the smell. It will also cause the dye to stain better. Add a few drops of lavender, tea tree, cajeput, or geranium oil.
  4. Add one teaspoon of vinegar, lemon juice, or apple cider for every cup of henna. This step will help release the dye, which is required in coloring grey hair. You can also combine any of the two types of acid.
  5. If your hair is overly long, damaged, or dry, add one more teaspoon of oil to the henna powder. This will facilitate rinsing and will also add some shine into your hair. You can use olive, sesame, safflower, avocado, and coconut oil.
  6. If your hair is naturally oily, thin, or very fine, add only small amount oil so that your hair won’t look too greasy. You don’t need to add oil if you have short hair.
  7. Add water gradually while stirring. You aim to produce a thick paste. The consistency of the paste should be like a pudding or a mayo spread. Don’t use hot or boiling water since it will release the dye too fast. The final result will appear patchy or even funky.
  8. Cover the container and allow the paste to sit for at least one hour. For better results, you can enable the paste to sit overnight in the fridge or on your counter. If it develops a slight crust, just stir the paste. If it becomes too dense, add more liquid. Add more liquid.

How long to leave this homemade henna paste on hair? This homemade henna paste is safe to leave in your hair for 2 to 6 hours. I recommend doing a strand test for 12 to 24 hours first to ensure you don’t get any negative reactions.

How Do You Get Pink and Orange Hair?

How to Apply Henna Hair Dye

You need to know how to correctly put henna in your hair to get the best results. Be sure that you have clean hair before applying the dye. It doesn’t need to be freshly washed, though. Here are the steps.

Step 1

Put on the rubber gloves and comb your hair. Wear clothes that you don’t mind being stained. Cover the floor with washcloths to protect it from stains.

Step 2

Apply water-resistant balm on the skin nearest your hairline. This will prevent stains if your skin is lighter than the henna color. Don’t put cream on your hair.

Step 3

Apply the henna directly on your scalp, in 1/4-inch sections starting from the top center of your head. Pull the color through the lengths of your hair. Repeat doing this until your entire scalp and hair strands are fully covered with henna.

Step 4

Work the henna gently and well into your scalp. If some hairs pop out, re-apply the paste. These strands of hair could be around the ears, at the crown, or around the hairline. Then gather all your hair and pile it on top of your head.

Step 5

Cover your entire head with the waterproof shower cap. You can also use plastic wrap and anything to hold your hair and prevent the dye from dripping out. Use the old washcloth to wipe away the pigment around your hairline and its drippings. You can also wipe away the balm that you have previously applied around your hairline.

Step 6

If you aim for more prominent red highlights, you can use the blow dryer to heat these hair sections for about 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the hair strands. The heat will cause the paste to penetrate deeper into the hair shafts.

Step 7

If there is still some remaining henna paste after dyeing your hair, put it in a suitable container, label it and store it in the fridge. You can even use it later.

how long to leave henna on natural hair

Perform the Finishing Touches

You are not yet finished after dyeing your hair. There are some more things that you need to do to be able to enjoy your exciting new hair. Here are the finishing touches that you need to do in your freshly tinted hair.

Step 1

Rinse the henna gently out of your hair. This step will take time, so be patient. It will take at least 10 minutes of rinsing if your hair is long, curly, or thick. Don’t tug the henna through the hair because it is still fragile.

Step 2

You can use a hair conditioner that is sulfate-free to soften thicker or longer hair once you have rinsed the larger pieces of paste. Don’t use shampoo.

Step 3

Once the more significant pieces of grit and paste have been rinsed away, start combing your hair. Don’t use a brush. This will help the remaining small paste pieces to rinse out thoroughly. Use cool or cold water to rinse your hair continuously. Stop when the water runs clear. Use an old towel that you don’t mind staining to absorb the excess water from your newly colored hair.

Step 4

Allow your hair to dry on its own. Your hair may feel heavy and dry but resist washing it for a day. It will eventually oxidize, and its final color will reveal itself the next day.

Step 5

Wait for at least 12 hours before washing your hair. Shampoo and rinse your hair until the water runs clear. Then style it the way you want. There is still residual color remaining on the hair so use a dark towel to dry your hair after your first shampoo.

We’ve answered the question, “how long to leave henna on hair?” and “how long to leave henna on natural hair?”; next, let’s look at tips for using henna.

Tips for Using Henna

Follow the below tips whenever you are using henna to color your hair.

1. Avoid Pre-mixed Henna Pastes and Liquids

Avoid using henna pre-mixed pastes and liquids, and buy only from reputable stores and not from beauty shops or grocery stores.

2. Do Not Use Metal Containers or Spoons in Preparing Mehndi

Henna and metal don’t go together well. Avoid using plastic as well because it will be stained.

3. Reserve at Least 4 Days for the Whole Process

Henna’s preparation takes time. The application of the color also takes time. For instance, prepare the paste on Thursday. Apply it the next day. Let it stand for the whole of Saturday. Then wash it on Sunday. You will have a new hair look at the office on Monday.

4. Allow the Paste to Soak for at Least One Hour

For grey hair, it may take from 6 to 10 hours. Then rinse well without using any shampoo. Wait for two days. This is the time the color will oxidize.

5. Before Coloring the Entirety of Your Hair, Perform a Strand Test First

This step will make you realize how long you can leave the henna on your hair before you can get your desired results.

Henna Precautions

The FDA considers 100% pure henna as safe for hair. They have exempted this substance from regulation. That means it can rarely cause any problem on the skin of a healthy individual. It is the compound henna and duplicates that can cause health issues.

I mentioned earlier the risk of leaving henna in your hair for longer than 2 to 6 hours is that it could dry out your hair and scalp. Aside from this, there are some other precautions to be aware of:

  • Compound henna may cause your hair to be brittle. The color of your hair may also turn to sewage black or frog green.
  • Do not use henna on infants and children with G6PD deficiency.
  • Henna is safe for most adults, but it can also cause skin irritations such as itching, scaling, redness, and other similar conditions. Therefore, you should not allow it to stay on your hair or your skin for too long.
  • It would be best if you did not ingest henna. It can cause stomach problems and related issues.
  • Beware of imitation hennas because they contain unsafe ingredients like benzene, lighter fluid, kerosene, gasoline, paint thinner, among others.

Conclusion: How Long to Leave Henna In Hair?

So, to recap, how long to leave henna in hair? You should leave henna in your hair for about 2 to 6 hours. If you leave it in your hair for longer, it could make your hair and scalp dry.

It takes about 2 to 6 hours before your hair and hair roots can properly absorb henna. If you use natural henna and don’t add any other chemical compound, you can leave it on your hair for 6 hours. The more time you leave it on your hair, the darker the color will be.

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How Long to Leave Dye in Hair for Best Results?

How Long to Leave Bleach in Hair? Plus Proper Steps

Can You Leave Conditioner in Your Hair?

Can You Dye Your Hair When It’s Greasy – Plus Tips

How to Dye Blue Hair Red

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