A DIY hair rinse that darkens your hair – naturally!

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.  You can buy henna powder here.

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 cream 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 blended 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% gray 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:


How to make Naturally Dark Hair Rinse

Naturally Dark Cider Vinegar Rinse


  • dried sage
  • 2 tea bags black tea
  • apple cider vinegar
  1. Simply put dried sage and black tea in a jar. 
  2. Cover with apple cider vinegar.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 weeks.
  4. Strain off the vinegar into a nice bottle and label.
  5.  Find out how to use apple cider vinegar rinse here.
  6. Will keep indefinitely, at least a year.

Naturally Dark Sage + Tea Hair Rinse


  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tea bag black tea
  • 1 cup water
  1. 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.
  2. Rinse off any reside in your shower/bath and from your skin, to avoid tea stains.
  3. 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! 

About the author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at AmandaCook.me.

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at AmandaCook.me.

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  1. I don’t see a reference here to the Rosemary and Sage steeped mix – has anyone tried this? I tried to embrace the grey patch as both my grans looked great with theirs, but it now looks like steelwool between my thinning blonde hair. Despite intense care, the grey doesn’t curl and always seem to frizz – the rest of my hair has NO body so I look horrible within 10 mins of having styled my hair any which way.

  2. hi .my moms used to use an ayurvedic oil. she stopped using it. thats when it started greying. lots of hair in front started greying due to stress. now she started using it again and all her hair is back to black. the name of the oil is durdurapatradi kerathailam and neelabringadi. she used to combine these two. the first one is good for dandruff problems too. i am from kerala.

  3. Hello

    Can this concoction be used on graying in black hair

    Simply put HOW MANY dried sage and 2 black tea bags in a jar. ?????
    Cover with HOW MUCH 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.

  4. Even the so called natural hair dyes you get at health food stores have bad chemicals. Make sure you go to skindeep.com environmental working groups site where you can look up the toxicity of any ingredient.
    I found something amazing I have to share
    It’s called Hairprint
    I don’t work for the company or sell it.
    It’s difficult to explain but look it up
    I’m also trying the tea 🙂

  5. I have found black seed oil to be magnificent for thinning hair, also a little darkening effect too.

  6. $180 and I pay it regularly
    simply just to cover up
    the colour God gave me.
    I’m really growing tired
    of this puzzling charade.
    Maybe I’ve been missing
    a more lovely shade if greyed!

    Moved to poetry by this dilemma!

  7. So, for how long can I expect for the natural dye to stay on my hair? I am washing my hair every two days so I suppose it won’t stay long.

  8. I do not actually have a problem with my hair turning gray, but my primary problem is that my hair is thinning and gray accentuates the thin areas. Call me vain, but i do have an issue with appearing to be balding. I have recently taken to using natural hair tonics to stimulate growth and am seeing good results but until then I appreciate information on safe and natural alternatives to darkening hair!

    1. My hair also thinned tremendously. A little scary. I realized it was a menopause side effect. Started using Changease and Female Formula tinctures from Heal Marketplace. It has now all grown back thick, almost too thick. 🙂 Now Iam tackling the grey.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!!!!

  17. 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

    1. Thanks Lily! That’s what I was afraid of… will leave that one for someone braver than me to test then 🙂

      1. I made a concentrated walnut hull extract and added little bits to my (store bought) conditioner to make my own “Brunette Be Beautiful” knock-off hair colorant. It does take more time to see the effect because it is a lower concentration, but it does work and you don’t have to worry as much about staining everything in your bathroom (including yourself!)

      2. Hi KD, can you tell me your recipe for your Walnut Hull extract? What are you infusing it in??

      3. Hi KD. I’m interested in this approach, too How do you make your concentrated extract and what ratios do you use: extract:conditioner? Could you use this in a shampoo? Does it spoil?

  18. 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

    1. 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!

    2. 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.

      1. Me too.But it’s too late for me…the gray has crept all the way across the front of my heead. Only place my medium brow is left is on the back of my head. I could walk around backwards, I suppose. 🙂

    3. *women….I’m so sorry!! I’m an English teacher. Just had to say something…but I really hope this works as a subtle fix. I NEVER want to show my gray. My mom was kind enough to hand down the gene that kicked in the first gray hairs at 15 yrs old. My son had his first at 12!!! It’s so unfair. Plus, I have VERY fine hair, was which was thinning terribly 6 months ago. every time my color started to grow out, you could totally see my scalp through my hair in the front. I’m using viviscal for the thinning hair and it’s working (I have thyroid issues- total thyroidectomy ) Sooooo…. crossing my fingers!! I tried a coffee dye last night, but Did the version that you mix with conditioner and it didn’t seem to do anything. Trying a new recipe today. I can’t leave the house without a hat right now!!

    4. You know, if grey hair looks good that is one thing. But quite frankly, I have never been fond of looking washed out, what with fine/thin hair and eyebrows. Years ago I started with a little eyebrow and eye liner tattooing and felt that I liked the effect. I have colored my brown hair for years because of the gray, and in the last three years someone I had just started going to did a short cut and light streaking (I don’t know what else to call it) and I was amazed. I felt so much better about my “fading beauty”. About 6 months ago I found another person (social living) who did a bigger eyeliner and more brow (because I reasoned that some of the ink didn’t take effect as it should have the first time was because of my skin having less melanin (my reasoning) because I freckle). I love the eyeliner and the little darker brow. The only problem is that she went outside my natural brow and I wish part of the inside could be removed. But overall I like the effect. I feel like I can be seen and I like what I see. My hair gets so many compliments from people I don’t even know!

      As for us women embracing our gray hair, I say, some people look good. But DANG! some people are really ugly when they are all gray. If that’s the way you want to look, fine. I don’t. And I feel more empowered with what I have done, not when I look in the mirror and don’t like the aging and fading. It’s not society so much as it’s just a little matter of wanting to look better. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s like the saying that fat is beautiful, which it is NOT. And by the way, I AM overweight (and 63), and I don’t like it. It is ugly on me. I wish it was as easy as putting on a hair dye!! to overcome those issues.

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