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Black Walnuts And Other Natural Dyes To Naturally Darken Your Tresses

I've tried just about every natural hair treatment imaginable since the late 1980s when I started growing my hair.  I was especially determined to find a natural hair lightener so I could keep my beautiful golden highlights without the damage hair lightening products bring.  I even went so far as to try rhubarb as a natural lightener.

Did it work?  That would be a big no although I managed to completely trash my kitchen with pots and pans as well as chopped up rhubarb.

(Image of walnuts - Haap Media Ltd - All Rights Reserved)

One of my brunette tressed friends, Eva,  has had much better luck than me.  Her hair is naturally dark brown but it tends to pull a reddish tint throughout the edges.

In the past she has experimented with a range of natural treatments with mixed results.  Yes, she's worked with a professional hair colorist who combed a slightly darker temporary color through her strands.  I remember that because I rode home in the car with her hair wrapped up in a special color cap and a thin line of dark brunette color streaking down her cheeks.

While the temporary color did a great job, she still continues to experiment with natural darkening treatments which enhance her natural brunette, but covers the slight tinge of red which pops out throughout the ends.   Black Walnut Shells

My brunette friend swear by black walnuts as the most effective treatment.  It's very messy and the black walnut mixture can stain all kinds of towels, counters, hands, skin and anything else you may not want to stain.  However, it will stain the ends of her hair and I have been amazed at the results when she takes the time to do the black walnut home hair color technique.

Warning: Black Walnut Shell Dye makes a very strong dye which can stain just about everything.  When it stains the skin it can take several days for the stain to completely fade.

Starting with six to eight authentic black walnuts (or more to make more dye) she cracks the walnuts and puts the entire walnut in boiling water.   She boils the walnuts at a full rolling boil for up to 30 minutes.  My friend said the longer she boils the walnuts, the darker the finished mixture.

She lets the walnut water cool enough so that she doesn't burn her fingers and then strains the liquid to remove the walnuts and the shells.  After all the walnut pieces are completely removed she pulls on a pair of plastic gloves and then pours a small amount into dark colored bowl that will not stain.  She uses cotton balls to apply to the target hair sections being careful not to drip on anything which can get stained and

Once she has dabbed the dark liquid on her hair, she wraps it in a disposable plastic shower cap and then wraps the cap with a dark towel to prevent her hair from dripping.  She lets the dark walnut soak into her hair for up to 60 minutes and then rinses out the black walnut dye with plain cool water at the sink to avoid getting the dye on her skin in the shower.  She applies a gentle shampoo but advises against using hot water which can remove the newly applied walnut dye.

Note: For a darker look let the dye sit for longer then 60 minutes, but do not let the hair dry with the Black Walnut dye on it.  Be sure to check on your hair every few minutes to achieve desired darkness.

If your hair is not as dark as you would like, repeat the process until you achieve your desired result.

Coffee Or Tea

Although many people recommend brewing up coffee and applying it the same way the black walnut dye to target strands, Eva has not experienced the best results with coffee.  She claims the coffee if not dark enough to really darken the hints of red throughout the perimeter of her tresses.  Eva feels that black tea actually creates a better stain then coffee.

If you're inclined to try, brew up coffee or a black tea and experiment with those two natural hair dyes.

Coffee or tea can either be used as a final rinse in the shower after shampoo treatments and allowed to dry into the hair or they can be applied to the hair in a fashion similar to the Black Walnut mix.


Freshly ground sage can also be used to naturally darken hair.  Add a 1/2 cup of freshly ground sage into a double boiler with water.  Bind the water to a full boil and let boil for 10 - 15 minutes.  Pour the sage into a strainer keeping the water and disposing of the actual sage.  Allow the water to cool and pout into a heat proof container.  Close the container and let the sage water age for up to 24 hours.

Wear vinyl gloves to protect hands and skin from stains.  Like the Black Walnut Dye the sage dye can easily stain hands, skin, countertops and towels.

Wash hair and towel blot to remove excess moisture.  Use a very light detangling rinse to avoid coating hair which might block the absorption of the sage dye.  Completely detangle hair from roots to ends.  Create 2-3" equally spaced sections of hair all over your head.  Use a cotton balls or a clean pastry style brush.  Working around your head from side to side apply the sage water to your strands from roots to the ends.

Let the hair completely air dry. Comb and style hair as usual.  Sage treatments often last up to a few weeks.  Because sage is all natural this treatment can be repeated after every shampoo session.   The more often you apply the sage, the deeper the color will become over time.


Henna can be great for some people and disastrous for others.  If you are already using Henna and like the results, it can be utilized to naturally darken tresses.  However, there are some challenges to using Henna and if you're not well versed on the pros and cons be sure to discuss using Henna with your hairstylist before you proceed.

Powdered Gooseberry

A popular ayurvedic hair conditioning treatment is powdered gooseberry which is also known as Amla.  Many use gooseberry to address premature greying of hair by naturally darkening the gray strands.

Gooseberry is a popular home remedy known to enhance hair pigmentation meaning that over time gooseberry will naturally darken hair.  Will the hair darken enough to remove traces of red?  Maybe but then again, maybe not.

This natural dye is made by adding the fresh juice of gooseberries to pure coconut oil.  The oil is then boiled until all of the gooseberry powder is absorbed into the coconut oil.  Once the oil cools enough to be handled without burning the fingers, it is applied to the target hair sections.  The resulting oil from mixing the gooseberries with the coconut oil is Amla Hair Oil.  This oil can often be purchased pre-mixed.

There is also concern about using gooseberry too often which may cause more harm then good.  Most people believe you can use the powdered gooseberry more than once a month but how much is too much?


Another recommended home remedy for natural darkening and preventing premature graying is application of the fresh juice of the leaves of this vegetable.


Some people swear by utilizing curry leaves.  When curry leaves are boiled in coconut oil, the boiled oil forms an excellent hair tonic which is thought to slowly darken hair and strengthen hair roots.


Although there are many options for experimenting with natural ingredients to darken hair and remove natural red tints, if all else fails there are lots of all natural semi-permanent and temporary hair colors which are relatively gentle and will do the hair darkening trick.

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