A DIY hair rinse that darkens your hair – naturally!


I’m going gray.

Ok, maybe that’s not worthy of a headline.  It happens to all of us at some point (if you’re lucky enough to keep your hair!)

Although only in my early 30s, I’ve been coloring my hair to hide these ‘natural highlights’ since my mid-20s.  And just recently I stopped.

I can’t say that I’ll never go back to hair color – but I got really tired of the monthly application of toxic chemicals to my head, especially when the rest of my beauty routine is so clean!

Plus my mother has gorgeous silvery hair, and has always gotten lots of compliments – so why not me too?

So, I’m letting it go au naturel for the moment, and just waiting to see if I like the results.

BUT that’s not to say I’m ignoring my hair altogether.  Oh no.  It turns out there is a natural way to gently darken your hair.  I’m hoping it might ease the transition (or at least blend in the difference between my colored hair and my natural color!)

This is one for the natural brunettes – whether you want to darken you hair because of age, or sun-fading – or just to keep your hair looking deep and rich.

What about using a natural hair dye?

When I started feeling uncomfortable using chemical-filled hair color, my first stop was to search for a natural hair dye.

Henna was the first thought that came to mind – although natural henna has a bold reddish-brown color and can give really vibrant results, especially on lighter (ahem, gray) hair!

There are ways to darken henna’s effect – by mixing it with coffee or other additives.  But henna is messy and time-consuming.  It seemed like a better outdoor summer project than something to attempt in my small shower.

I also read about using Black Walnut Hulls as a natural hair color, although I haven’t tested this one myself.   I was put off by the scary warnings that Black Walnut Hulls dye everything, including your skin and hands, so it sounded like a messy (and easily botched) option.   With visions of scrubbing wildly at black stains on my scalp and forehead, I put this one aside…

I finally did end up  trying this natural hair color (affiliate link) which worked pretty well!  Honestly, if I go back to coloring, this brand will be my first stop.  But it still took a couple of hours to process, and only gently the lighter bits into my natural color.

There’s just no way I’ve found to get permanent hair color coverage, from a natural product.  (If you know one, please do share your experiences in the comments!)


But what about “natural” permanent hair colors?

Oh, and before we move on, let’s just talk about these supposedly natural haircolors with names containing ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’.

Whenever I mention natural hair dye, people say ‘Well what about xyz brand that says it’s all-natural?’   In my opinion, having ‘natural’ in the name and being ammonia-free is not enough.  PPD is the chemical ingredient in permanent haircolors which can cause severe allergic reactions – and unfortunately it’s in every single box of ‘natural’ permanent haircolor that I’ve found.

(Please feel free to prove me wrong!  I’d love to discover a truly all-natural hair color)

After much research, I have to say I’m really disappointed in the natural hair color options – so I started looking at a different approach.


Darken your hair – naturally

If you’re not looking for 100% coverage, then the natural hair color world becomes much more interesting!

Right now I’m testing an herbal infused hair rinse, which I really like because it’s easy to make and use.  No special process, just pour it through your hair after shampooing.  Simple!

I’ve previously shared my rosemary and nettle hair rinse, which is traditionally used for for stimulating hair growth.

But to darken your hair naturally, the herb you want to include is sage.

Sage has been used traditionally to darken the hair for centuries.  In fact, Culpeper mentions this use in his Complete Herbal from 1653.  (Yes, you read that right!)  He says sage “causes the hair to become black.”

For extra darkening power, I’ve added black tea.   (Black tea stains everything else – so why not your hair?)


I’ve made two versions of this hair rinse, to use depending on my mood: an infused apple cider vinegar rinse, and a regular sage-tea infusion.

The key with these rinses, is that you need to use them regularly, because the hair darkens gradually over time.

I’m only a couple of weeks into trying this rinse, so stay tuned for the results.

In the meantime, here are my 2 very simple recipes:


Naturally Dark Cider Vinegar Rinse

Simply put dried sage and 2 black tea bags in a jar.  Cover with apple cider vinegar.  Let sit for 3-4 weeks.  Strain off the vinegar into a nice bottle and label.  Find out how to use apple cider vinegar rinse here.

Will keep indefinitely, at least a year.


Naturally Dark Sage + Tea Hair Rinse

Put 1 Tb dried sage and 1 black tea bag in a heatproof container, pour over 1 cup of water.  Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.  Strain, and pour this liquid through your hair after shampooing as a final rinse.  I applied a little of the infusion directly to my roots, and then poured the rest through my hair.

Rinse off any reside in your shower/bath and from your skin, to avoid tea stains.

You’ll need to use this regularly to see a gradual darkening effect.

Keep any leftover infusion in the fridge, and use within 2-3 days.


Will you try a natural hair rinse? Let me know your results, and share your natural hair coloring advice and adventures in the comments below! 

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16 Responses to A DIY hair rinse that darkens your hair – naturally!

  1. Dario says:

    Hello , I tried just the sage rinse in the past and it really worked very well, Im 53 and I had grey hair since I was 30, everybody noticed the change, unfortunately I couldn’t find a good quality sage anymore and the regular one that you can get it is not good, it has the be black sage, cooking grade organic. I know it works, just be patient until you find a good quality sage

  2. Anu Sanchi says:

    so does it for you sage and tea infusion???????

  3. I have been letting my hair grow out for 5-6you months. My problem is I used henna for a while previously “not knowing then that henna seeped into hair follicle instead of covering it like chemical dye. Is there anyway besides cutting hair (I feel that your hair is your crowning glory). I would just like to know if there is anyway to hurry this process up. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND HENNA DYE UNLESS YOU DO RESEARCH ON THIS!! Thanks for any advice on this matter.

  4. Stephanie Allen says:

    I just cut all of my hair off a few months ago, well the bleached out part. I have a lot of white hair for 45 years but I think I like it. Just letting it grow a bit for now. Studies have shown a link to cancer and permanent hair dye. No more for me. I would like to find a way to darken my hair without covering the gray.

  5. Margaret says:

    I agree with you ladies about going silver. I’m fifty an I’m getting tired of coloring my roots every couple of weeks. I think women look awesome with grey hair. Look at Paula dean an Meryl Streep
    Jamie Curtis just to name a few. They look great an i see other women that also look great with it. I want to grow mine out as well . Right now I’m in that waiting pattern to switch to a henna or grow it out. Growing it out is a long process an it does make you look unappealing so people will think that your letting your self go while going through the process. The herbal rinse is a nice option but it really did work for me. So its something we need to get use to an take the plunge an go grey or put up with the long process with a henna.

  6. Tally says:

    Now that some time has passed, I was wondering if this solution for darkening gray hair worked or not.

  7. How about hair rinses that make one’s hair red? Hair rinse with just herbs wouldn’t bother me, but hair dyes scare me with all of my allergies. I’m not terribly worried about gray, but I would like to see if the herbal rinses could help me keep my red color for just a little bit longer.

  8. Tyler says:

    Good point about PPD in permanent hair colors. Sage sounds an interesting option. @aleah Thank you for pointing out that hair with henna can not be lightened.

  9. aleah says:

    Hi im a hairdresser….farouk chi has a color line ive used for 5 yrs and it’s ammonia free and ppd free. Other than the ppd its the developer, hydrogenperioxide, that bothers people also. All those methods of color you talked about are fine….you just better not be planning on going to a salon to get it professionally colored bc unless you are going darker we cannot lift hair that has henna in it…..it will break off!!!!

  10. […] A DIY Herbal Hair Rinse that Darkens your Hair – Naturally! […]

  11. Lily says:

    Hi Amanda,
    We have black walnut trees where I live now. I decided to make my first attempt at hulling some. It is true the tincture is a very effective dye. It will dye anything it comes in contact with and usually takes 3 or more days to fade off. I got some on my hands because it managed to seep through the gloves I was wearing. Plus some splashed just outside of my eye, which actually stung a bit. I was slightly tinted for a good week before it faded away. The tincture is great stuff and is rumored to have healing properties. That being said, I would not try to dye my hair with it unless I was painting it on. It will dye your scalp and anywhere else it drips onto. ~Lily

  12. Halia says:

    Hi, Amanda! I like your ideas about sage and tea hair color. I’m 54 but look younger than my age. I wish wemon could embrace their gray hair. But, our Western society focuses on the eternal youth look when it comes to WEMON! Men can easily be accepted as gray and feel “distinguished”. Kate Middleton is under attack for her gray hairs. All Western wemon are viewed as “washed up” if we show our grays. Amanda, is there anyway you could start a new revolution in becoming silver? Everytime we “dye, we LIE”! We lie to ourselves and everyone we know! Youth must be expressed outwardly AT ALL COSTS, yes, even if we physically suffer for it as wemon. Hair dye keeps up the facade. I would not feel SO ALONE if you could get wemon to go all natural gray as a “ladies group”. I’ve dyed my hair SOOOO long that if I stopped dying suddenly I would have the “white stripe skunk” strip right on top my head! It scares me and I feel I wouldn’t know my own self in the mirror–the lie I and millions of wemon keep! Help us who wish we could go gray do this, embrace it and be truthful letting go of this deceit and feeling empowered by WHO we are, not what color our hair turns! Start a “Silver Sister” club on line! Maybe if I had the support of other brave wemon, I would accept the “salt” and love myself NATURALLY! Thanks, Amanda! Halia

    • Alma says:

      well said! I’m with you on the Silver Sister club :-)
      I have gray hairs since my mid-20s and last year I stopped the coloring (I was using henna but it takes a lot of time). But then, every time I go to have a haircut the hairdresser ask me if I want to dye it too, and of course a lot of people make comments about why I don’t care about my appearance, is quite annoying!

    • Tina says:

      I’m with you too Halia! I’m 41, a medium brunette and recently I’ve noticed about 7-8 silver hairs hanging around my left temple. I really hope they develop into a stripe…I’d love to have a silver stripe right there.

    • Beth says:

      Women, honey

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