How to Naturally Darken Your Hair – Successfully!

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For these photos, my hair was dried straight so you can see the color differences.

I used to color my hair regularly, and for about 20 years (egads!) it’s been varying shades of red.  For the past 3 years, I’ve switched to more natural hair color from my health food store, but still I knew there were chemicals in there I’d rather not deal with.  Since I went no ‘poo  8 months ago, I’ve colored my  hair once – with what I’d consider disastrous results.  My hair went back to the way it was on shampoo.  It straightened.  It flattened.  It lost the shine and softness I had come to expect from being no ‘poo .  So here I am several months later with the bottom 2/3 of my hair a faded light red and the top third dark, dark brown.  With white highlights.  (I’m young yet – they’re called highlights.)  So how was I to naturally darken my hair, and with success?  The answer may just be black walnut hull.

I’ve had a batch of black walnut hull in my cupboard waiting for me to try it for months, but I have to be honest I didn’t think it would do much.  I also have a couple bags of henna sitting around, but I really wanted to try and match my natural dark brown color.  So finally I decided to try out the walnut.  

My hair after going no 'poo for 7 months. No mousse, no gel, no hairspray, NO shampoo!


Black walnut hulls produce a very dark brown tea that easily stains everything, so it’s important to be careful when  using it.  Purchasing powdered black walnut hulls makes the process easier.  I put a couple tablespoons in a muslin drawstring bag that I reserve for this purpose.  I bring almost a full teapot full of water to a near boil, then I pour it over the drawstring bag into an old bowl.  After the tea steeps for several hours (even overnight), I remove the muslin bag and take the bowl of tea, along with a second larger bowl (preferably plastic), into the bathroom.  After washing and/or wetting my hair, I kneel down and lean over the side of the tub with the large plastic bowl in the tub beneath my head.  I then carefully pour the tea over my head, making sure to cover as much of my hair as possible.  Then I pour the tea from the large bowl back into the small one, and pour it over my hair again, as many as 15 times.  Once I’m done, I squeeze the tea from my hair, and then I wrap my head in a nearby OLD towel.  I leave my head wrapped as I rinse out the tub and bowls carefully.  

After the first tea rinse I did, I definitely noticed a difference – subtle, but my bright red hair had the dimmer switch turned down.  I’ve now done the rinse four days in a row, and I’d say the red portion of my hair is pretty much medium brown now, with the red still slightly noticeable in bright lights.  White hairs are now no longer sparkly and glowing, but dimmed.  I’m hoping the tea rinses will eventually darken them more.  They are taking to the tea slower than the rest of my hair, but I’m feeling hopeful.

The best part about these rinses, aside from the fact that it’s natural and chemical-free, is that the color doesn’t rinse down the drain the next day when I wash my hair.  It seems to be permanent, and I don’t expect to do the rinse every day for the rest of my life – just until I reach my desired shade.  There’s also no funky smells left in the hair, and the black walnut hull is cheap and lasts a long time.  

I’ll keep you updated on the powdered black walnut tea rinses.  If you want to try it for yourself, you don’t need to do the rinse every single day unless you’re as impatient as I am to reach a new shade!  You might try a few times a week.  And make sure you’re careful not to get the tea on any clothing, shower curtains, floors, carpet etc. because it does a good job of staining – including hair, thankfully.

If you want to try to naturally darken your hair yourself, you can purchase powdered black walnut hull at The Giving Essence for only $5 a 4-oz bag.  Local health food stores may carry it as well.  Just make sure it’s a simple bag of only the powdered hulls, with no additives etc.  And then come back here and tell me how it worked for you!

14 thoughts on “How to Naturally Darken Your Hair – Successfully!

  1. Pingback: dkmommy
  2. Great post…thanks for the idea! What do you mean by no ‘poo…you never shampoo. What do you do instead or do you use something else. My hair has become increasingly less curly and it is worse when I have to dye it so I really appreciate the suggestions.

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  5. Your color and hair is beautiful! Thank you for the pics, maybe I will try the black walnut hulls for dark blonde hair???? I can still see your highlights, but the color seems more natural now. Are you a natural red-head?

  6. Hi Alicia,

    Thank you! I’m glad you like the pics. Yes, the highlights show through. I’ve done about 10 rinses total now, and I’ll have to add an updated color comparison. Still the highlights show through, but it’s a lot less red than before. My hair used to be a medium brown with reddish blonde highlights during the summer. I was actually surprised when I let my natural color come through that now it’s dark brown! That’s why I’m struggling so hard to make the four inches or so of new growth match the red portion below.

    I’m not sure how walnut hull would work for dark blonde hair. I would suggest taking a small cutting of your hair from an inconspicuous place, tying it with string, and soaking it in some of the cooled tea for maybe 10 – 15 minutes to test the result. Granted, 10 – 15 minutes of soaking is a lot more than would happen after one session of rinsing, but it would give you an idea of what you might expect over a period of use. Let me know if you give it a try! I’d love to know whether or not it would work.
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Linden Flower (Tilia spp.) and its Uses =-.

  7. Hi Diane,
    I have a couple of questions I was wondering if you could answer. How long do you leave your hair wrapped in a towel? Do you rinse it with water afterwards or just let it air dry or style as usual? I did a variation of this today but used sage and rosemary because that’s what I had read elsewhere to try to cover grays and I got those ingredients before having read this. Anyways, I washed as usual- baking soda scalp massage and 1-2 T. apple cider vinegar/mug of cold water rinse- then applied the tea to my hair as you instructed above, wrapped it in a towel while I cleaned up. Then blew it dry on a low setting as usual. But it left my hair feeling dingy like it had a lot of build up. I have dark brown hair so I’m sure the powdered black walnut hulls would work much better, so maybe I won’t have any problems if I use that but just thought I’d see if you had any suggestions for my current regimen.


  8. Hi Tara! I’ve used sage and rosemary tea before also, but I didn’t experience a buildup feeling. I don’t rinse it out – I use the tea as a final rinse and then wrap my head in a towel while I clean up too. I think when I was using rosemary tea I was airdrying, but I don’t think that should make a difference as far as a buildup feeling. If I recall, I only used sage once so perhaps it’s the sage – I don’t really remember how that turned out for me. I have used rosemary tea frequently for shine, and I absolutely love it. Sounds like you’ve got a routine going with the baking soda and vinegar, so it can’t be that. Otherwise I might wonder if you’re not using enough vinegar for you. I’d try leaving out the sage to see if that’s it. It’s the only thing I can think of. Let me know if you try and that makes a difference. Otherwise, perhaps you can switch over to the walnut hulls or even a coffee rinse. While I haven’t tried that one, I hear it works too.

    I’m working on a no ‘poo eBook that will be free to subscribers. Email me at themommyspot (at) gmail (dot) com with any no ‘poo experienced you’d like to share. I’d love to hear!
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Tempflow No-VOC Memory Foam Mattress Review and Pillow Giveaway =-.

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