Does Henna Get Darker Over Time?

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Henna is a plant-sourced dye obtained from henna trees, also known as mignonette trees and Egyptian privet. Leaves from these henna plants contain some natural coloring pigments that are useful in hair coloring, skin dying, temporary body art, fingernail, and other fabrics like wool, silk, and leather painting.

However, henna art does not last forever.

So, what happens to it with time? Does henna get darker over time?

Yes, henna gets darker during the several-hour setting period. Typically it starts out orangey-brown and then gets darker as it oxidizes and is exposed to chemicals like lemon juice.

In this article, we’ll explain the procession of henna from application to completion.


Does Henna Get Darker Over Time?

A common question you probably have is whether Henna will darken with time. Yes, the henna stains are medium/dark orangey-brown after application. But in the following 48 to 60 hours, the stain begins to darken gradually. 

Yes, the henna stains are medium/dark orangey-brown after application. But in the following 48 to 60 hours, the stain begins to darken gradually. 

Henna is different from boxed dyes in that it does not fade. However, its color will darken by continuing to apply it and exposing it to mineral buildup or heat. If the color outcome is too bright, you could consider darkening using heat appliances or subsequent applications to adjust the color.

Henna’s color will darken by continuing to apply it and exposing it to mineral buildup or heat.

But if you love the color and want to maintain it, this could frustrate you. You can brighten your hennaed hair that is dulled and deepened. In some instances, the only solution is chemical lightening. However, if your henna looks amazing and wish to keep it from changing color, you’re going to have to be proactive to keep it looking good.

Why Henna Darkens Over Time

On the question of why Henna darkens with time, it is primarily because of oxidation. When you remove dry Henna from your hand, it initially has a light color that darkens after a day. If you have dark skin, it may take a day to really see the henna.

This is because air oxidizes Henna’s color, making it darker.

1. Saturation

Among the standout characteristics of Henna is its permanence for hair. Here, fading is minimal to non-existent. You will also rarely need touch-ups.

However, one common mistake is treating Henna like your regular dye and applying it from hair root to ends on each application.

Once you’ve got your desired color on your hair’s full length, do not continue to dye the length of it.

If you are likely the majority of henna users, you dye the roots after every three to six weeks, as your natural roots begin to show.

You probably also opt for a complete head treatment a couple of times yearly.

However, root-only applications not only prevent darkening but also lead to reduced effectiveness. A bit of overlap is okay and almost unavoidable if you have short hair. 

2. Hard Water

Did you know that water quality from your tap will vary from place to place? If your water is hard, minerals present in the water can accumulate on your hair during hair wash.

The minerals then lead to hennaed hair becoming dull and dark.

Likewise, if your tap water has a sulfur smell or taste or a metallic taste, or if you see white buildups on the teapot or faucets, these are the minerals that go on to attach to your hair and make the color dull.

Additionally, the minerals also lead to the hair feeling unmanageably dry.

3. Oxidation

Henna is readily oxidized. The most significant henna oxidation takes place over the first week following dyeing. It has a bright color when you first rinse it that then deepens over the next few days. 

You will probably get ‘orange panic’ on rinsing Henna for the first time since the initial henna color after an application is often bright copper. However, the brightness is normal.

Within one week, the dye is settled and oxidized like when you expose an apple slice to air.  

At times, oxidation continues and leads to further darkening of the color. This typically happens in highly acidic mixes. Using lemon juice, you can pull out a brighter copper shade when you rinse for the first time.

Through oxidation, this color then turns into deep auburn. 

Nonetheless, lemon juice is drying and thus harsh to your scalp and hair. By mixing it with apple cider vinegar, you could also end up having the same issues.

But if you use either acidic liquids after diluting distilled water, undesirable brightening, dryness, and over-oxidation will reduce. 

4. Heat

When exposed to heat, the oxidation process in Henna is much quicker and more permanent. However, occasional blow-dry should not worry you, though styling tools like flat irons and curlers have a notable darkening effect after several uses.

You could consider air-drying or using curling or straightening options with gentle heat.

Tips for Darkening Your Henna Stain

1. Apply Oils and Balms

Upon scraping off the Henna, you will see that a deep orange shade is left behind. Relax. The next day the stain will have darkened, more so after application of mustard oil, Tiger balm, or Vicks vapor. 

The balms contain menthol that darkens the stain over the next few days. Mainly, mustard oil not only darkens your stain shade thanks to its heating attributes, but also eliminates sugar and lemon mixture traces.

2. Let It Stay On Longer

Prior to your henna session, make sure that you have clean legs and hands and do not use oil or any form of lotion.

When your artist completes the session, let the Henna stay for about 12 hours and make sure you avoid using soap or water for an extra 24 to 48 hours.

The stains darken the longer you let it stay on. 

Prior to your henna session, make sure that you have clean legs and hands and do not use oil or any form of lotion. 

The next day during your shower, cover your legs and hands using plastic to prevent water from getting to the Henna. Then, once your waiting period has elapsed, scrap it off gently using fingernails, tissue paper, or a blunt knife. 

3. Apply a Lemon and Sugar Mixture

Upon drying up your Henna, you will be have to apply a stain-darkening solution that serves to increase acidity levels, keeping it sufficiently wet to penetrate the skin. Add three tablespoonfuls of sugar to water and boil. 

Allow the solution to cool, then mix an equal lemon juice amount for a thick syrup consistency. You can carefully dub this on using cotton balls or spray using a spray bottle.

Ensure that the Henna is dry before applying the mixture; otherwise, you will smear your stunning henna designs.

4. Use Cloves and Heat

On applying the sugar and lemon mixture, you have the option of using either of two techniques. Using the first technique, you will heat water in a pan, add some cloves, and then use the steam from the water to further darken henna stains. 

Steam for approximately 40 seconds, take a break, then continue steaming for 40 more seconds – avoid overdoing it.


Henna will darken over time as it is exposed to oxygen and other chemicals like lemon. If your henna is unusually light, you may have used expired henna, or product that has been mixed with other chemical adulterants.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).