Now a days almost everyone knows about a henna tattoo. It is a pretty form of body art that stains your skin for 5-10 days or more depending on many factors such as body temperature, weather, application duration, aftercare etc, But often get this question asked at almost all of my henna appointments usually being the FIRST question “What is henna?” . So lets try to know a little more about it.
I grew up in a region where henna had been so frequently used that we never cared about knowing about it in detail. My earliest memories of henna are when we got our palms stained with henna for celebrating Eid. My mom used to take a big paste blob and place it on the palms of sleeping kids at night tying our hands with an old piece of cloth to keep it intact to the skin for at least 4-5 hours as it is mandatory for getting a good stain. In the morning, it would just be a big blob of red stain, no pretty designs but the joy of getting that bright and beautiful stain on our palms in the morning was so great that i can still remember it as one of my many pleasant childhood memories. To me henna means happiness.
So what actually is henna? Why and how does henna STAIN? And is it SAFE to use on skin and specially for kids?
Henna is a plant that is grown in the warmest weather conditions in various parts of the world. The henna plant has leaves and twigs. The leaves are separated from the twigs, dried and ground into fine powder and then sifted for the finest powder outcome to make the 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.
Dry henna powder can not stain you. To get the stain out of it, it needs to be mixed into a paste. Henna powder can be mixed with water, lemon juice or chai (tea water) to make a paste consistency. It can then be applied on the body Â with different tools such as plastic cone, bottle with fine tip or a syringe depending on the artists preference and comfort zone.
Henna designs or patterns also differ depending their cultural origins. Is interesting to find the same elements in that specific cultures other artifacts such as pottery, drapery, decorations etc.
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 for longer period of time by keeping the pattern away from water to avoid a quick exfoliation and keeping the henna patterned skin moisturized with aftercare henna balms 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.
Featured image henna design by Nehal @nehal.henna (instagram)- Photography: Nehal