People are often discouraged to find that many products used for dyeing hair, fabrics, and skin contain harsh chemicals. Henna dyes, which are natural and made from the leaves of the henna plant, are less likely to harm the hair and skin. In fact, many experts assert that henna helps moisturize the hair and make it stronger. Some people also appreciate the fact that henna allows them to change their hair color or get a tattoo without committing to these changes forever. Additionally, there are some potential health benefits of henna.
The benefits of henna, also called Lawsonia inermis, include those that involve temporarily coloring hair or tattooing skin. Within just a few weeks of regularly washing one's hair, the henna color will fade and a person can start new with a fresh color. Henna tattoos usually fade within four weeks as well.
A molecule found in henna dye, called the lawsone molecule, also has a conditioning, strengthening effect that may contribute to hair's overall health. It binds with a protein called keratin in hair to produce this effect. Also among the benefits of henna is that it helps smooth the hair, which can contribute to an appealing appearance.
With traditional hair dyes, clothing dyes, and tattoos, a person faces the risk of developing an allergic reaction to the chemicals used, and in some cases, suffering severe irritation and burns because of them. In general, henna dyes are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, and all-natural henna dyes do not contain chemicals. As such, a person is unlikely to experience burning and irritation because of it.
Some people add chemicals to dyes made from henna in order to achieve certain colors, such as black. The added chemicals, however, can increase a person's risk of having an adverse reaction to the dye. For example, an ingredient called para-Phenylendiamine can be added to henna to produce a jet-black color but has been associated with chemical burns and allergic reactions. To avoid such problems, a person can mix his or her own henna dyes, using powder made from the henna plant, natural liquids like lemon juice, and essential oils. Additionally, he or she can look for products certified as all-natural and only patronize henna artists and hair stylists willing to share their ingredient lists.
There may be some health benefits of henna as well. For example, it is sometimes used in alternative medicine for treating such problems as stomach pain, burns, and headaches. Some people even assert that it can help treat individuals with cancer. A person may do well to seek the advice of a doctor, however, before using henna for these purposes. Many treatments involve making a paste from the leaves of the plant and applying it to the skin in the affected area; it is not safe for ingestion.