Nowadays, almost everyone knows about henna tattoos. Henna is a pretty form of body art that stains your skin for 5-10 days or more depending on various factors, such as body temperature, weather, application, duration, aftercare, etc. At almost all of my henna appointments, the first question that I’m usually asked is, “What is henna?” So let’s get to know a little more about it.
I grew up in a region where henna is used so frequently that we never cared to learn about it in detail. My earliest memories of henna are when we got our palms adorned with it for celebrating Eid, a prominent Muslim holiday. My mom used to take a big blob of paste and place it on the palms of the sleeping kids at night. She would tie an old piece of cloth to our hands to keep it intact for at least 4-5 hours, as that is essential for getting a good stain. In the morning, it would just be a big red stain, with no pretty or intricate designs. To us, however, the joy of getting that bright and beautiful stain on our palms in the morning was so immense. I can still remember it as one of my fondest childhood memories. To me, henna has a nostalgic association with happiness and home, and I love that I get the opportunity to spread this integral part of my culture with people from all over the world.
So what actually is henna? Why and how does henna STAIN? Is it SAFE to use on skin, especially for kids?
Henna is a plant that is grown in the warmest weather conditions in various parts of the world, most notably northern Africa and the lush parts of South Asia. The henna plant has leaves and twigs, and leaves are separated from the twigs, dried and ground into a fine powder, and then sifted to the finest powder. This is for the optimal outcome of a creamy paste for body art application. Different regions will have different colors and textures of henna powder but the output color of natural henna is the same, bright red to dark mahogany brown. Everything else including white henna is NOT henna. They are just a form of body paint.
How to apply henna?
Dry henna powder can not stain you. To get the stain out of it, henna needs to be mixed into a paste. Henna powder can be mixed with water, lemon juice, or chai (tea water) to make a viscous paste. It can then be applied to the body with different tools such as a plastic cone, a bottle with a fine tip, or a syringe. The tool utilized usually depends on the artist’s preference and comfort zone.
Henna designs or patterns also differ depending on their cultural origins. It is quite interesting to find the same elements in that specific cultures other artifacts such as pottery, drapery, decorations etc.
Henna Staining Process
Once henna is applied to the skin, the dye molecules starts transferring to the top surface of the skin. During the process of getting the paste dried on the skin, the dye absorbs and binds itselfÂ to the keratin in the skin. A henna pattern then appears on the skin underneath the actual henna paste application. The dye color and shade depends on the skin placement, person’s body temperature, after henna henna care and more. The initial color of the pattern is light to medium orange, which oxides to dark red and mahogany tones and slowly recedes to finally disappearing completely. This whole process takes about 1-2 weeks to complete.
Henna stain can be enjoyed longer by keeping the pattern away from water and keeping it moisturized as much as possible. Natural henna is safe for skin use on all ages including kids and pregnant moms. It has become a very popular way of celebrating events such as get together, teen parties, baby showers and more.