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Thread: Henna Removal

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Denver, CO

    Default Henna Removal

    Hi everyone!!

    From what I gather, there are several threads that catalog several individuals' successes and failures in the attempts to remove henna.

    As we all know, henna is delightfully permanent and the decision to apply henna should not be taken lightly. There should never be an "impulsive" henna application. Anyone that applies henna should be committed to being a redhead FOREVER.


    I thought I would make a thread that would help people have a SINGLE POINT of reference from which they can gather information regarding products, techniques, treatments, etc. that can help the complete removal of henna from hair as well as dealing with it afterwards.

    Several people have tried progressively lightening/removing the henna with ColorB4 or ColorFix with mixed results:

    And others who have bitten the bullet, delving into bleaching, followed by toning or dying:

    And some people simply tried EVERYTHING:

    And even more complicated is the removal of anything in combination with indigo:

    So here’s what I know about both my own experience and from the things I’ve learned after reading up on it as much as I could.

    There are several methods for lightening henna (sun-in treatments, ColorFix, ColorB4, various honey/yogurt/cinnamon/clarifying/baking soda/kitchen sink treatments), but the only way to REMOVE henna is to bleach it out. It’s not LHC-friendly. It’s not hair friendly. If you decide to do it, you WILL deal with damage consequences afterward. So why am I doing this? Because I've read too many "I am in tears right now because my hair is _____" after attempts to remove henna. This is heart-wrenching and painful. So this is my attempt at elucidating the bleach/tone/dye process for the removal of henna. Anyone venturing into doing it should do so ONLY once they are INFORMED.

    So how do you go about doing so? Most professional hair stylists shy away from henna-treated hair. There are horror stories of the application of peroxide/bleach based products on henna hair which was applied with henna containing metallic salts. If you used BAQ henna, you should not have this issue, but stylists are fearful of touching henna-heads nonetheless. You can either bludgeon your stylist into doing it anyway (encourage strand tests, bring in the henna you used, etc), or you can do it yourself.

    In either case, the process will be nearly the same.
    1) Application of peroxide/bleach
    2) Tone (optional, most likely for those wanting to be blonde)
    3) Dye (optional)

    Getting my drift? Bleach it. Then deal with it (by either toning/dying to make the resulting orange-yellow hair more manageable, or by just accepting the uneven neon highlighter color of your hair post-bleach). So here’s what imma do. I’m going to tell you about bleaching, dying, and toning at home.

    Like I mentioned, these are not hair friendly things to do. They are last resort measures. You will have consequences such as sacrificing the health of your hair (and potentially your scalp) and stalls in the growth of your hair due to damage/breakage. This damage is EVEN MORE PERMANENT than the process of putting henna in your hair. If that's too scary for you, then do not even THINK about trying this process.

    So what would you need to bleach at home?
    Peroxide developer.
    A bowl for mixing them. THIS BOWL CANNOT BE METAL. Plastic is recommended.
    A brush for application (optional, but HIGHLY recommended).
    Gloves. Lots of 'em. (one for application, one for when you are washing for each step).
    Saran wrap or a bag for wrapping up the hair.
    Running water (for rinsing. Duh.)
    A well ventilated area.
    Courage (but not alcohol assisted, please. This is serious business here).
    INFORMATION. Read up on everything you can before you put these harsh chemicals on your pretty head.

    Bleach is sold in powder form. It can be purchased in a box dye kit, or you can buy it from a beauty supply source. If it comes in a box dye kit, the box will also contain the peroxide developer. However, if you have long hair or if you will need multiple bleaching applications, it will be more cost effective to buy both the developer and bleach from a beauty supply store (like Sally’s in the US).

    Some bleaches will be “tonal.” This means that the bleach contains a violet or blue tone to it. The reason for this is to combat orange and yellow tones in the hair (often referred to as “brassiness”). This is based on color theory (yellow is opposite to purple on the color wheel, orange is the opposite of blue. Google “color theory” to see what I mean). Quick Blue and Kaleidoscope make bleaches of this type and can be useful in the removal of henna coloring.

    Peroxide developer contains varying percentages of peroxide by volume. So you will see 10vol, 20vol, 30vol, and 40vol peroxides. With increasing peroxide, comes increasing effectiveness in the lifting of color, as well as increasing damage. Unless you are experienced, do NOT use 40vol peroxide.
    Here’s my guideline:
    If you’re wanting to lift to blonde (either light or dark blonde), go for 30vol.
    If you just want to be rid of the red/orange and then have brown hair, go for 20vol.

    Mix the bleach and developer of your choice in a bowl using a non-metal implement (like the application brush I mentioned earlier) while wearing gloves. How much bleach? How much peroxide? The consistency of the mix should be about that of toothpaste. Thick enough that it doesn’t slop around or drip. Thin enough that it is NOT crumbly and is easily spread on the hair. Again, how much? Enough to cover your hair. For reference, my thick, between shoulder-and-APL required two packets of bleach (the developer comes in large bottles, so you will not likely run out of that, so long as you don’t buy the teensy bottles). Please be careful when mixing and when pouring/measuring out the bleach powder. It fluffs up into the air easily and is unpleasant to breathe in. Mix up these two until they are extremely smooth and well combined. And then mix them for one more minute, just to be sure.

    If you have applied henna, applying bleach will be easier than that. Apply the mix to small sections of hair starting at the ends and work up.

    ARE YOU SURE? Yes.
    BUT WHY?!??!? Because I said so.
    No seriously. Why?

    Bleach lifts color. It is likely that the roots/hair near your roots has been colored/henna’ed fewer times than your ends. The color will lift more quickly and efficiently from your roots than from your ends.

    Also, there is a chemical reaction going on between the mix and your hair. This particular chemical reaction (like most) is ACCELERATED BY HEAT. The area closer to your head is hotter than your ends, even if you smoosh all the hair into a helmet on your head, the roots will still lift faster than the ends). This is commonly called “hot roots.” There are more complicated ways to deal with hot roots than this, but for the at home-hair color-adventurist, what I recommend is: Apply less product at the roots than at the ends. Do NOT apply this mix directly to your scalp. The first reason not to do so is hot roots. The second one is because it hurts. The third is because you later want your scalp to produce long pretty hairs, so don’t hurt its feelings, okay?

    Once you have added the bleach, wrap up your head with the saran wrap to keep things moist.

    SO you’ve learned about the chemicals, you have mixed them well with all the right preparative tools, and now you have them on your head. How long do you keep them there? This is ENTIRELY UP TO YOU. You have to find the cost/benefit of the color you want to achieve and the damage you are actively doing to your hair. But hair lightens like this:

    I do not recommend lifting the color to pale yellow or white (in fact, I’d say levels 8, 9, and 10 are all in the “danger zone). At that point, the damage is immense. I am not using the word “immense” lightly. And that chart shows the colors, but let me tell you this: your hair will be a neon version of those colors. NEON.

    So when to stop? Level 5 can be dyed over with brown (hopefully “cool” or “neutral”brown, we’ll get to that later), but it will often still flash some orange color in the sun. Levels 5, 6, and 7 are the easiest to deal with. If you need to “spot bleach” (that is, apply bleach to the most uneven parts) later, do so. It’s better to wash out the color when the lightest parts are where you want them and then spot bleach the darkest parts, rather than waiting around for the darkest bits to lighten while the lighter parts fry to high heaven.

    Rinse your hair with cool running water. Oh, did I say rinse? I meant REMOVE ALL THE CHEMICALS FROM YOUR HEAD. “Rinse” isn’t a strong enough word for what you need to do. I’m not saying to be rough with your hair. Baby it and be very gentle. But I’m saying that all traces of the mix you just had on your head need to be GONE. Don’t stop rinsing until then.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Denver, CO

    Default Re: Henna Removal

    After bleach (particularly if you’ve overdone it), your hair will need protein. Aphogee 2 step or Nexxus Emergencee are nice. What I recommend is applying some sort of DEEP TREATMENT conditioner to your hair to let it soften and make it less tangly and more manageable. After this, do the protein treatment. And then maybe another deep conditioner treatment. Do not subject your hair to mechanical or heat damage at this stage. Fingercombing, blotting gently with towels, etc.

    Congratulations. You have bleached your hair and it is now a frightful color. Either rejoice in that fact or use toner/dyeto manage the colors from this point.
    Best case scenario? You’ve started this process during a month when you won’t have to see anyone at all and you can hide in a cave and do each individual step a week apart and treat your hair to moisture/protein treatments in between.

    Realistically? Who has that kind of a cushy life? So what do you need to do next?

    Toners: Most salons do not bleach hair without toning it after to some extent. In this case, what I mean by toning is combating the yellow/orange tones in your hair that you’ve achieved via bleaching. So how does toner work? This is color theory again. Yellow/orange tones are neutralized by purple/blue tones respectively. That’s why “cool” or “blue” or “violet”toners are advertised to get rid of brassiness.

    Who needs to use toner? Someone who wants to have blonde hair by the end of this. If you want to go anywhere near medium/dark blonde, I'd say skip the toner and go straight for the dye step.
    Where do you get toner? A beauty supply store.
    How do you use it? Toner is either a liquid or a crème finish product that is mixed with peroxide developer and applied to the hair. The process is exactly the same as hair dye in this respect (mix, apply, wait, rinse).
    Wella makes some great toners, and I’ve had good results with them. Whichever you choose, find one that has blue/cool/violet tones to it. It will not make your hair any of these colors. It just helps neutralize the brassiness. Most toners recommend 20vol peroxide developer, but I think that 10 is best. It is less damaging, and you’re not exactly trying to do a lot of color lifting at this point.

    You may need to tone again after a few days if the color starts to deepen/go orange again.

    Dying: Just like with toners, you will want to select a color that combats brassiness by having a tone that neutralizes it. Key words to look for include “ash,” “cool,” “smoky,” “blue,” “violet,”or “neutral.” Do not select a color that claims to be “golden” or “warm.” These will accentuate any orange-gold colors that you were trying to avoid. Again, the process for dying is you mix a dye (permanent, semi-permanent) with some sort of peroxide developer (10vol or 20vol here) in the recommended ratios (indicated on the packaging of the dye), leave it on for the recommended time, and rinse rinse rinse. I used this dye with excellent results:,pd.html

    Deposit-only colors: These are dyes/colors which are non-permanent, ammonia free, and which do not require peroxide developer. There is a thread discussing them for post-henna-removal hair in this Elumen thread:
    It is far less damaging, but requires more patience, experimenting, and reapplication. Depending on what you want from your hair after henna removal, this could be a better option for you.

    Remember: Strand test. If you can, collect hairs that are “root to end” rather than nests of hair so you can see how the bleach process works in your hair. Also, if you feel that the strands go “gummy” in the bleach, don’t bother. The bleach will eat your hair up for dinner.

    This is NOT a nice thing to do to your hair or scalp. So, like I mentioned before, only do this as a last resort. Some people have reported success in dealing with henna-growth by toning it with deposit-only dyes. Please read about it in the Elumen thread I mentioned above.

    Don’t be impatient in making the decision to go through this process. Henna is permanent. And the damage you do to your hair in the bleach/dye process is equally permanent. Do as much research as you can and do not use this post as your only resource for how to bleach out henna. There are other methods that are far more gradual (VERY gradual application of gentle peroxide treatments via Sun-In as reported by NightBlooming, or with the use of ktani’s well researched honey lightening techniques). Please consider those first. Bleaching/toning/dying is scary stuff, so take it seriously. I’m just trying to provide information so you can make an informed decision about it if you decide to do it.

    Anyone else have any pointers for this process? Any additions addenda to make? I'd be happy to post my henna removal photos, but for now, this post is LONG ENOUGH. Phew.

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