How Henna’s Quality is Determined and Graded

How Henna’s Quality is Determined and Graded

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Since ancient times, henna has been valued as a versatile medicinal herb from nature that protects the skin, hair and health of those living in harsh environments. Henna contains lawsone, which has the medicinal effects of sterilization, reducing inflammations and stopping bleeding. Lawsone also binds with protein, making it a natural coloring for the hair and skin. These qualities are the reason why henna is one of the ten premium herbs used in Herbriller.

There are various grades of henna and only the best quality AAA-grade henna is used in Herbriller.

A Keen Eye to Assess the Quality of Henna

As more people learn about henna and its uses, it is important to be able to distinguish high quality henna from those that are not.

Henna had, at one point, suffered from a bad image. Since high quality henna takes a long time to harvest and is extremely rare, manufacturers had resorted to adding chemical additives such as paraphenylenediamine (or PPD for short) to henna hair dye in order to meet demand. Unfortunately, the PPD additive – not henna itself – caused allergic reactions among some consumers.

While henna is originally 100% natural and chemical-free, there are some henna with chemical substances that are misleadingly marketed as ‘natural henna’ or offered as ‘hair coloring’, ‘herb coloring’ or ‘vegetable hair dye’ by hair salons or at retail outlets. Consumers should beware if a henna product is cheap, or promises a short coloring process or coloring that lasts over one month. It is likely that these products contain chemical additives.

Why Top Quality Henna is Anything but Cheap

The quality and grading of henna is determined by how well the henna scores in various categories such as their region of harvest, how they are grown, harvested parts of the plant, lawsone content, production plant’s facilities, preservation method and more. Only those recognized as medicinal grade henna are ranked top quality.

Sojat, a city in the Rajasthan state of Indian, is said to be home to the highest quality henna. Due to its favorable climatic conditions and soils, henna of this region has a high content of lawsone – the coloring component in henna. The higher the lawsone content in henna powder, the better the quality.

Lawsone is only found in the leaves of the henna plant, thus top quality henna uses only the leaves of the henna plant. Lawsone attaches itself strongly to proteins and a higher lawsone content enables the hair to be dyed in a shorter amount of time.

Sand sticks to the henna leaves during harvest. As sand affects the texture of henna which makes it difficult for use, the amount of sand in top quality henna is restricted to 2% or less. To achieve this level of quality, there is the meticulous and labor-intensive process of separating henna from sand with gloves which takes approximately 3 times the labor and production time of producing regular henna.

Top quality henna is grown under conditions where no pesticide, artificial fertilizer and irrigation must be used. Since it is organically farmed, henna farmers have to battle the invasion of pests until harvest time.

What Do Those ‘A’s Stand for?

Only henna that passes the selection criteria regarding its purity, freshness and safety are rated “AAA Grade Henna”. The three ‘A’s represent the three most important factors in the screening process:

    • A-Grade: Area of production, accorded only to henna grown in Sojat city in the Rajasthan state of India;
    • AA-Grade: Factory environment to remove sand and other impurities from henna leaves; and
    • AAA-Grade: Passing of laboratory tests conducted by a specialized agency on standards established by the Indian government.

To be ranked AAA-grade, the henna should

    • Contain 1.8% or more lawsone;
    • Have less than 1% of sand;
    • Use zero pesticide and chemical fertilizer during the cultivation process; and
    • Pass laboratory tests on the levels of diamines, arsenic, picramic acid, standard bacteria, E. coli, etc.

Characteristics of Top Quality Henna

Top quality henna has light green leaves which are then made into henna powder with minimal impurities. Top quality henna has the following qualities:

Color : Beautiful light green
 Scent : Relaxing scent similar to tea
Particles : Only very fine textured particles from the leaves
Solubility : High solubility, easy to make into paste
Hair Adhesion : Good adhesion
Coloration : A large constituent of lawsone resulting in higher coloration
Color Longevity : Approximately 3 weeks

Lawsone, the coloring component of henna, is found only in the leaves. The leaves of AAA-grade henna have a beautiful light green color and contain more than 1.8% of lawsone.

AAA-grade henna powder is very fine as it goes through the meticulous and labor-intensive process of separating sand from the harvested henna leaves.

AAA-grade henna powder is very fine as it goes through the meticulous and labor-intensive process of separating sand from the harvested henna leaves.

AAA-grade henna powder is highly soluble and easily made into a paste. It adheres well to the hair for a better dye.

Henna from all farmers are usually collected and traded at the market. However, top quality henna is rarely found at these markets as most of them are exported for use in henna tattoos.


Now that you know how to distinguish top quality henna from common henna or henna with chemical additives, take a closer look at the ingredients and claims the next time you are at the hair salon or beauty store looking for a henna hair dye.