Henna is not only used for decorative tattoos and to symbolize celebration. It has also been used for centuries to help treat seborrheic dermatitis, ringworm, athletes foot and other fungal infections.
Even though Henna has not been proven effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis, there are anecdotal reports of henna helping to alleviate symptoms like itching and scaling. Lab studies also show that henna has antifungal activity against Malassezia.
Despite this, there are risks of side effects and some people may find that coloring their hair can exacerbate their seborrheic dermatitis symptoms. Topical use of henna may also cause haemolytic anaemia if you have G6PD deficiency. In this case, it’s best to avoid henna altogether.
Let’s take a deep dive:
Is henna safe for seborrheic dermatitis?
The short answer to this is yes. Henna can be used as a safe dye for those with seborrheic dermatitis. Henna is a natural dye derived from the plant Lawsonia inermis (henna tree) and can safely be used even if you have dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. In fact, it may help.
Henna has natural properties that are cooling, antifungal and antimicrobial which can help to soothe your itchy scalp and reduce dandruff scales. As a bonus, henna may also help improve hair health and prevent premature graying.
Is henna an antifungal?
Many lab studies have found that henna has antifungal activity. Many of these are on Candida but there is a lab study showing that henna can also kill Malassezia. There was even a study on the positive effect of henna on goats infected with ringworm!
As far as I can see, no one has taken henna to human or animal trials for seborrheic dermatitis yet. This doesn’t stop people with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis from using henna as a treatment.
Henna is still widely used in some countries and has many scalp and hair benefits. I personally have a few jars of henna powder and love its effect on my hair. The main thing stopping me from using henna regularly is sheer laziness and lack of time to clean up the mess.
Benefits of using henna for seborrheic dermatitis
1. Soothes the skin
Henna is an all-natural herbal treatment that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to help reduce redness, itchiness, and dryness of the scalp. Henna can also help to restore moisture and improve circulation.
2. Balances pH and oil production
Henna helps to balance the pH levels of the scalp, restoring the skin barrier which is affected in seb derm. Henna can also help control oil production and prevent your scalp from getting too oily or too dry.
3. Repairs damage and strengthens hair
An added bonus is that henna can strengthen the hair and repair damage to keratin proteins, keeping hair strong. It does this by creating a protective shield for your hair against pollutants.
4. Promotes hair growth and curbs hair loss
Scalp seb derm can cause hair loss and anti-dandruff shampoos can cause you to lose hair. Not only does it make hair soft and shiny, henna also promotes hair growth and reduces hair loss. .
How do you dye hair with henna?
Step 1: Choose the right henna dye for you
Choose a henna dye in the color that you want. Commercial henna doesn’t only come in red, it can range from auburn to dark brown. Plus, not all henna dyes are natural as some may contain added chemicals. Make sure you choose a ‘clean’ dye with pure henna powder.
I’m sure there are other good brands out there but I use the Rainbow brand of Henna because it’s 100% pure:
Step 2: Prepare the henna hair dye
Before you even go near henna, make sure you’re wearing a t-shirt or towel that you would be happy to throw away if it gets stained. Check your surroundings and remove anything that can absorb color.
Henna stains. Everything.
To prepare to dye your hair, you’ll need a non-plastic bowl, and the henna dye mixture. If you have dry hair, you can heat up MCT oil or any other oil that is safe for seb derm and stir it into the mix.
Step 3: Apply the henna hair dye
When applying henna, make sure the paste is mixed thoroughly and applied evenly over the hair. After covering your head completely, it should be left on for three to four hours before washing out.
I recommend using a shower cap and using a hairdryer on warm setting to heat up your hair, allowing the henna to penetrate better.
The other reason for using a shower cap is to catch henna flakes. As the henna dries out, it can get flaky.
Step 4: Rinse out the hair dye
Once you’re bored of sitting around in your bathroom, rinse the dye out with a mild sulfate-free shampoo and cool or lukewarm water. You may have to rinse it out a few times as it has a tendency to stick onto your scalp.
Follow up with a conditioning treatment. This seals in essential nutrients and helps your hair feel softer and look shinier.
Can you apply henna if you have seborrheic dermatitis sores?
I don’t recommend applying henna when you have seb derm sores due to the potential for serious side effects in some cases. If you choose to use henna, it should only be used externally and on healthy skin.
Potential side effects of henna
There are potential risks of contact sensitivity or irritation from certain ingredients found in natural or synthetic henna products.
Some people may experience skin redness, itchiness, or a burning sensation when using henna. Allergic reactions are rare, but can occur. Do a patch test before applying henna on your skin or hair to avoid the risk of an allergic reaction.
There is also a risk of hemolytic anemia if someone consumes henna, especially when you have G6PD deficiency. The British Medical Journal reported 4 cases of infants and children who had haemolytic anaemia (your body breaks down your red blood cells) after using topical henna.
My personal experience
While I liked the softness and silkiness of henna, I didn’t like the mess I made when I used it. I also found that it was really hard to wash out and I found henna flakes on my pillow for days after. I’m sure if I managed to wash it all out, it would not have made my dandruff worse. However, the residual flakes actually irritated my scalp more.
Even though I think henna has promise as a treatment for seborrheic dermatitis, I find it too much of a hassle to do consistently. Mixing a few drops of tea tree oil in my regular shampoo is my go-to.
What’s your experience with henna? Would love to hear how you make it work without too much mess.