All About Indigo - Achieving Brown & Black Colors
Indigo is the super bean (fine, we’re just using the leaves, but it IS in the legume family) that can transform coppery red henna into an array of browns and even deep raven’s wing black.
Remember, you can always darken your hair by adding more indigo to your mix the next time you dye, but you can’t go lighter again. Start at least a shade or two lighter than you want to go, or better yet, do some strand tests to determine the exact mix for the color you want. Henna and indigo are not as easily lifted out of the hair as traditional chemical dyes and particularly when indigo is used, trying to bleach it out will result in green hair.
One of the most common mistakes that people make using indigo is mixing it too early and not using it fast enough. Without getting into the molecular science of it, think of indigo as a sprint compared to the cross-country running that is henna. Indigo powder will always come in a separate packet from your henna, and should be kept sealed and dry in a cool/dark location until it’s ready to be used.
Only mix up as much indigo as you feel you can use in 20-30 minutes. The reason goes back to how quickly the dye molecule in indigo oxidizes. If it takes longer than 30 minutes to apply your dye, it's worth it to split the henna mix up so that you can make smaller batches to apply in order to get the most uniform color.
The same applies to the two-step process to dye your hair black. Only mix as much indigo as you can apply within 20 minutes, keeping the rest of the powder dry until you’re ready to mix and apply.
Creating brunette shades – one step process
Some common mixes for brunette and dark brown shades:
- 90% henna and10% indigo = cool auburn
- 75% henna and 25% indigo = brownish auburn
- 50% henna and 50% indigo = medium brunette
- 75% indigo and 25% henna = dark brunette
- 10% henna and 90% indigo = nearly black
We make this easy by providing kits to match your color goals, but also by selling indigo and henna separately so that you can create your own personal blend.
Mix your henna in a bowl with something a little acidic. There’s a whole post about it here and let the dye release. If you’re looking for a cooler brown tone, use amla as your acidic ingredient. Keep your indigo packet sealed, you don't need it just yet.
While your dye is releasing, wash your hair with Morrocco Method Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo or another clarifying shampoo. Avoid conditioner. If your hair is fully unmanageable without conditioner, use an apple cider vinegar rinse to untangle your hair. Clean, dry hair presents the best conditions for dye uptake.
After your henna has achieved dye release, you can open your indigo and mix it separately from the henna. Indigo should only be mixed with distilled water--adding any acidic liquids can ruin your dye. Add water a little at a time until you get a thick yogurt consistency. Do not add the indigo powder straight into the henna mix. Only mix and add the indigo immediately before you are ready to apply the henna.
After you’ve applied your henna/indigo mix, wrap your hair in plastic wrap and cover for 2-3 hours. Leaving in your henna/indigo mix for too long can cause your hair to start becoming redder as the indigo dye molecules oxidize completely while the henna dye molecules continue dyeing.
Rinse your hair with cool-to-lukewarm water until it runs clear. Conditioner can help loosen the mix in your hair to rinse it out more easily. Our Citrus Silk Conditioner Bar is a great conditioner to help loosen and remove the paste, plus the citrus scent will soften that 'freshly hennaed' scent AND make your hair extra silky. Do not wash your hair for the first 24 hours. Your hair will achieve its final color after 72 hours.
Creating Black – 2 step process
This process is best done in the same day; however, it can be done in two days as long as the indigo is applied to the hair within 48 hours after rinsing out the henna. If you’re going to do this in two days, we do recommend washing your hennaed hair before applying the indigo so that the hair is free of any oils that would hinder uptake.
Our Black Henna kit comes with 4oz of henna and 4oz of indigo. Mix your henna with the acid of your choice and allow to dye release for 8-12 hours. Apply your henna and let the paste rest for 4 hours in your hair.
Rinse the henna out of your hair (don't use shampoo or conditioner at this point).
Indigo should be applied to towel-dried hair. Mix your indigo packet with distilled water. Only mix as much indigo as you can use in about 20-30 minutes, apply all of that to your hair and then mix another batch if your hair is long or thick enough that you can’t apply it all at once. This will ensure even coloring throughout since the indigo dye molecule oxidizes so much faster than henna.
After the indigo is applied, wrap the hair in plastic and cover for 2-3 hours. Rinse with cool-to-lukewarm water until the water runs clear. Your hair will achieve its final color 72 hours after the first henna dye, as the henna continues to oxidize for a full 72 hours.