What is henna? Henna is a flowering plant (Lawsonia inermis), the sole species of the Lawsonia genus. The name henna also refers to the dye prepared from the plant, and the art of temporary body art (mehndi). Henna has been used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, and fingernails, as well as fabrics, including silk, wool, and leather. (This is the beginning of a long and fascinating Wikipedia article about henna – read on to learn more.)
How long does henna last? Is it permanent? Henna can last anywhere from a couple of days up to three weeks, with the average design usually lasting about two weeks. It’s not permanent. How long it lasts depends on a variety of factors: the quality of the henna, aftercare, where the design is located, the dryness of your skin, and even the weather.
Is it safe for my skin? Henna is safe for nearly everyone; while it is possible to have a sensitivity or reaction to henna, it is rare. Note that this only goes for real, natural henna – not henna that contains PPD.
How should I take care of my henna design? Let it dry, taking care not to touch it. Once dry, use a cotton ball to carefully dab it with a mixture of lemon juice and sugar, and let it dry again. Once it is completely dry, you can remove the paste. Flake it off – don’t wash it. After the henna paste has been removed, apply oil to the design, and avoid washing it area for the day if possible. It will be orange at first, then darker after about 24 hours. To keep your design looking great for as long as possible, don’t scrub, wash gently only when necessary, and regularly apply oil.
What colors of henna are there? Henna is brown. Henna is a plant, and the leaves of the plant are dried and ground, then mixed with water or lemon juice (or something acidic) to create the henna paste. The shades of brown can vary from batch to batch depending on how it was mixed and the weather conditions while the plant was growing, but it’s still brown, reddish-brown, golden-brown…but brown. Then there’s jagua! Jagua paste is made from a fruit from South America. Think of it as being almost just like henna, and it makes a beautiful blue stain. Then there’s henna/jagua: mixing the two in different amounts can create more shades or brown and make the designs really interesting. I always have henna, I try to keep jagua on hand (it’s more expensive and harder to stock), and I sometimes have gold or colored glitter that can be added; the glitter will wash off after a couple of days.
What about black henna? Some henna advertised as ‘black henna’ can be dangerous! Para-phenylenediamine (PPD), an ingredient in black hair dye, is sometimes added to henna to make it darker. But PPD applied to the skin as a temporary tattoo can cause blistering, open sores, scarring, and lifelong health problems. ‘Black henna’ = Not safe. Henna does NOT cause these problems and is safe.
What if I put henna on my nails? Henna will stain the nails, just like it stains the skin. The difference is that while the skin replaces itself constantly with new cells, causing the henna stain to fade after a couple of weeks, the henna stain on the nails will remain until the nails grow out. If you put henna on your nails, you’ll have to live with it for a long time. Interesting side note: Egyptian pharaoh mummies have been found with hennaed nails.
Where is the best place on my body for a henna design? Henna lasts longest where the skin is thickest and takes longer to shed and replace the outer layer of cells: palms of the hands and soles of the feet. A design on the palms or soles will also be darker than other locations. But who would see a design on the soles of your feet? Many have agonized over whether to go for the palm, where it will be dark and last longer, or the back or the hand, or upper arm, where it will be lighter, but easier to show off. So it depends on what YOU want!
When is the best time to get a henna design? Timing is an important consideration. When you get the henna design, you’ll need to keep it untouched for at least half an hour while it dries. That means you won’t be able to put shoes back on if the design is on your feet; you won’t be able to reach into your purse if the design is on your hands. If you get the design in the evening, and want to really make it as dark as possible, you can wrap the COMPLETELY DRY design in paper towels and cover with a sock, and sleep with the wrap on. But you might not want to go through your whole day with a sock and paper towels on your hands. Weather is also a consideration. Hot, humid weather makes for a much better stain; if it’s cold out, or if YOU are cold, the stain quality will likely not be as good.
Does it hurt to get a henna tattoo? Not at all! Henna is applied as a paste. There are no needles involved! The paste is usually in a cone with a tiny tip, sort of like decorating a cake with icing. But the ‘icing’ looks like thick mud, and has a pleasant fragrance. It may feel cool on your skin. Some people say it tickles. So not painful in any way, but you still need to hold very still.
Can guys get a henna tattoo? How about kids? Absolutely! Anyone can get a henna tattoo, and you’re welcome to bring your own design. For anyone under 18, please make sure you have your parents’ permission first. Small children need to be with a parent, be able to hold still, and be able to let the design dry.