Black vs Brown Henna – Which One Better?

Mehndi Designs

It is no wonder that the popularity of henna is soaring on a global level. Generally speaking, Asians use it more often, but now, everyone is praising the beauty of temporary henna tattoos.

Henna and Its Types

Natural henna is a herbal powder made from the leaves of the plant Lawsonia inermis. People have been using it from the beginning of time and if this organic product remains adulterants-free, it will surely go on for centuries to come.

However, two types of henna are mainly in focus nowadays; black henna and brown henna.

A new, completely synthetic, white henna is also getting hype these days. Let’s clear it here, white henna is not henna! It is just white body paint and there is nothing natural in it. So, let’s exclude white henna from the list.

What Is Brown Henna?

When we say that the use of henna dates back centuries, we are actually talking about this specific product. Brown henna or natural henna is the most organic form of henna. It is free from all kinds of chemicals, pesticides, or preservatives.

You can use natural henna on hair, skin, and nails. Red-brown henna tattoos are also getting much popularity for their semi-permanent effect.

What Is Black Henna?

Black henna does not occur naturally. Brown henna is mixed with chemicals, mainly PPD, to give it a darker, stronger, and more permanent dye. This darker product is termed black henna and consists of harmful industrial agents like Paraphenylenediamine (PPD).

Its use is incrasing rapidly in younger individuals residing in western countries. The reason is pretty obvious, those who don’t want to commit to a permanent body tattoo use it for a semi-permanent effect.

Drawbacks of Black Henna

The use of black henna has been associated with many skin issues. Several studies indicate the presence of PPD in black henna as the chief causative agent of skin allergies. Its amount varies in different products. Low concentration may only cause skin irritation but if used in high amounts, may do permanent skin burn or scarring.

But why is PPD added?

For several industrial reasons like:

  • To increase the product shelf life
  • To reduce the application time
  • To have a better, strong color
  • And to make the tattoo last much longer

When used as a hair dye, the ratio of its side effects is comparatively low. However, it can cause scalp dermatitis in severe cases. Besides, it can also irritate the neck and the skin near the hairline.

How to Know if Your Henna Is Black or Brown?

To know the difference between a black and a brown henna product, you need to check several factors.

●      Odour

Natural brown henna has a strong, earthy odour. Wet henna has such a strong odour that you can even smell it from across the room.

Black henna, on the other hand, is usually odourless. This is the easiest way to differentiate between the two. Some black henna may produce a chemical-like odor, but it’s not that strong.

●      Color

As the name suggests, black henna gives a dark maroon or close to black stain. This dark color is basically what PPD is used for. While natural henna gives a reddish-brown color. It gives a stronger dye in some people and varies from skin to skin but is not as dark as black henna.

●      Checking how fast it dries

Due to its heavy consistency, brown henna remains on the skin for hours before completely drying off. Generally speaking, it can take from 2 to 6 hours. While black henna, being lighter, is readily absorbed in minutes (maximum 60 minutes).

●      Shelf life

Like every other product, the henna also has a shelf-life. When you store a natural henna paste, it can last a maximum of 7 days.

In the process of its conversion to black henna, the shelf life of brown henna extends. Now it has become black henna which has a shelf life of up to 3 months.

●      Ingredients list

The most obvious thing you can do to differentiate between the two types of henna is to look at the pack’s ingredient list. If you see any kind of chemicals or additives listed, abandon it right away, cause that’s black henna for sure.

Which One Is Better, Black or Brown Henna?

If you ask me, brown/red henna is a hundred times better than black henna. The phrase you have been hearing from your childhood about all those glitters not being gold, know that it’s true!

Black henna may seem trendier, but its benefits are merely on the surface. Deep down, its application can be dangerous medically. The chemicals present in black henna can irritate your skin or scalp. For people with sensitive skin, it can even result in permanent skin damage.

Whereas, the adverse effects of 100% natural brown henna are negligible. It is free of synthetics and may have healing and nourishing properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.     Which henna would I use on my hair?

Whether you’re using it on hair or skin, organic brown henna is the best. Chemicals in black henna can damage your hair and irritate your scalp.

2.     Who should not use brown henna?

Those who developed allergies to henna some time in their lives. Else, people with extra sensitive skin should use it with caution. A should test by applying a patch first.


3.     Which henna is permanent, black or brown?

If you’re using henna as a nail or hair dye, then both black and brown henna will remain there permanently. However, after a couple of months, they both start to fade away.

When you use it as a skin tattoo, then brown henna fades in a few days while black henna can last as long as 3 weeks.


With this knowledge about brown vs black henna at your disposal, I hope it will be easier for you to decide between the two of them. As black henna is not pure, it should not be used anywhere on your body. You can safely use brown henna as a skin tattoo or even have a glamorous hair dye with it. Choose for yourself!


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