Henna Application & Preparation: Oxidation - Acidification - YES or NO?

Today I want to take on one of the most discussed topics on the internet  regarding henna application and preparation: do we have to oxidize - acidify our mix of henna and herbal hair colors or not?

As I mentioned in the blog post where I deepen the henna preparation and application there are 2 schools of thought. There are persons that use the herbal hair colors oxidizing and acidifying them and there are persons that just add some warm water to their mix applying it directly & immediately on the hair.

After having learnt in the previous blog post how long we should keep the herbal hair colors on and how often we may apply them without incurring into scalp irritation, now I would like to make sure that we know what it means to oxidize the herbal hair colors and what it means to acidify the henna. I noticed there is a slight confusion about these two terms.

Henna Application Preparation Oxidation Acidification YES NO

Henna Oxidation

is the chemical reaction between the plant powder and the oxygen in the air.

There is a school of thought that says that henna has to oxidize for at least 12 hours before applying it on the hair. These 12 hours would be necessary to release the dyeing molecule, the lawsone. 

And then there is a different school of thought that promotes the application of the henna mix as soon as it is prepared, without letting it oxidize for all those hours.

Is it ok to apply the henna mix without letting oxidize the mix? 

YES! It makes no difference in the color release and it is even better if the oxidizing process occurs directly on the hair and not in the ceramic bowl. Remember that the oxidizing process keeps going on even after you washed away henna and the herbal hair colors. You will be able to see the final color only 3-4 days after the application when the herbal hair dyes finish their oxidation process. 

Henna acidification

occurs when you add an acidic ingredient (as yogurt, vinegar, lemon) to your mix of herbal hair colors. There is a school of thought that says that henna only releases its dyeing molecule in acidic ambients hence in order to facilitate an acidic ambient some people add an acidic ingredient to their mix.

But what happens as soon as one adds an acidic ingredients? A chemical reaction called acid hydrolysis takes place. During this chemical reaction the molecules of red henna - lawsonia are divided in several parts. Usually this reaction occurs when an acidic catalyst is used, but here comes the good news: we don't need any acidic ingredient in order to make this chemical reaction happen as lawsonia by itself makes it happen. How's that?

The pH of the lawsonia is acidic and the fact that the chemical reaction occurs without having to add an acidic ingredient is the proof. 


Moreover the intrinsic acidity of the lawsonia helps closing the hair shafts  leaving them shiny. When the hair shafts are closed, the light is being reflected on the hair making the hair shiny. 

The yoghurt is one of the most used ingredients to acidify the mix of herbal hair powders. I am the first one using it in my hair masks for my lengths as I love its conditioning and shiny effect on my hair, but I would never use it in my herbal hair powder mix. Why?

First, because its greasy part could prevent the color from binding with the keratin. Secondly, keeping it on for a long time might result in getting dandruff. 

Therefore should we create an acidic ambient or not?

It all depends on the final result you might want to achieve!

The video tutorials are in Italian, but English subtitles are available!

The acidification of the herbal hair colors should be used by those of you whom desire to obtain a slightly lighter color (this is possible only if you have a light brown or dark blonde color). When it comes to lawsonia some people acidifying it say they achieve a darker, cooler red and others say they achieve a warmer, coppery like red...hence, as you see, it is all subjective and you will find what works for you by simply experimenting on your hair (always on a hidden strand of hair !)

We cannot foresee precise results using herbal hair colors. The thing that makes henna & herbal hair colors unique is the fact that the results you achieve are unique and always different from hair to hair. 

Also remember that katam and indigo don't love the acidic ingredients and that they release their dyeing molecule in alkaline ambients. Some people add a bit of baking soda to create the alkaline ambient, but, personally, I have never done that and the results were always sattisfying. 

Therefore, to answer the question of this blog post: according to my own experience, warm (not at a boiling temperature) water, is the only fundamental ingredient required in our mix of henna & herbal hair colors.

I obviously don't expect / want you to take my word for granted! On the contrary, as I always do, I encourage you to always experiment on yourself as practice is the best teacher. 

What about you? To which school of thought do you give credit? Have you tried applying henna & herbal hair colors without oxidizing / acidifying them? Have you noticed any difference?  Let me know in the comments area down below.

 ©Beautilicious Delights 

Take care of your skin and hair consciously. You'll find everything you need (even herbal hair colors) on our online shop. Click HERE to visit it!


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