About Henna

What is Henna?
Henna is the Persian name for a shrub known as Lawsonia inermis.  Originally used by the Ancient Egyptians, the use of henna spread throughout the East and has been used cosmetically and medicinally for thousands of years. Henna is a natural dye plant and medicinal herb that has been used for centuries to safely stain the skin (and hair). Henna has been worn on the hands and feet of women in North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia to celebrate special occasions and rites of passage.Its leaves are dried and ground into a powder which produces a red dye, which is used to dye hair red and for the ancient eastern art of mehndi.

Who Uses Henna?
People all over the world and of different religious beliefs and ethnicities use henna. Though henna and mehndi are used in some religious practises and customs it is not sacred or religious in nature, and mainly used for the beautification of the body.

What is Mehndi?
Mehndi (pronounced meh-hend-dee) is the Hindu word for the painting of intricate and often symbolic designs onto the skin with a paste made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant.  Also known as Heena in arabic, and Henna in the west.

The purpose of tattooing is sometimes credited with an evil-averting, magical function. Especially in animist societies, the tattoo acts to repel the forces of evil believed to be constantly active and attempting to gain advantage over the unwary, unprotected individual, causing misfortune, illness, or even death. In some cultures is believed that an auspicious occasion like childbirth or a marriage requires an extra protection against evil forces. This is because such occasions are celebrated amidst a high profile, making the probability of their being noticed by negative forces very high. The application of henna is thus an attempted safeguard against any such dark influences.

Certain traditional designs are said to invoke particular properties: A fish indicates fertility, water indicates prosperity, a bird indicates a message to heaven and an eagle indicates power. Sometimes the placement of the design is as significant as the design itself. In reality, any protection the women may receive probably has to do with the antibiotic properties of the plant that are infused into the blood and skin of the person wearing the henna.

What Colour is it and How Long Does it Last?

Traditionally, ingredients such as lye, urea, yak or camel urine may be added to deepen the colour. Rest assured, at Hennamaste none of these substances are used to make the henna paste.

The paste is left to soak into the skin for 2-6 hours; the longer the paste is in contact with the skin the deeper, darker and longer lasting the stain will be. Heat helps to drive the dye into the skin and cause it to become dark. Once the paste is removed, the yellow-orange stain will begin to oxidize and deepen to a reddish-brown over the next 48 hours.

Natural henna will always leave a stain in the range of orange/red/brown, however, the exact shade can vary. Darkness varies with each persons body chemistry, the area of body chosen, and the length of time the paste remained in contact with the skin. Body temperature can also affect the final colour of the henna stain.

The longer the paste is in contact with your skin, the darker the colour and the longer lasting it will be. It will last the longest (1-2 weeks) on thicker, dry skin such as hands and feet, and will fade more quickly (3-10 days) on thinner skinned areas such as arms, chest, and back. As your skin exfoliates and regenerates your mehndi will completely disappear. To obtain the best possible stain apply the paste to hands and feet, keep the area very warm, and leave the paste on at least 8 hours.

Natural henna will never dye your skin purple, pink, blue, or black. Any henna that dyes your skin a color other than reddish-brown has chemicals added that are not clearly healthy or safe. Please use only safe and natural brown henna.

(Tattoos appearing black in images on these pages still have the henna paste on.)

Does it Hurt?

Mehndi is completely temporary and pain free since the skin is not broken as in traditional tattooing. When the paste is applied to the skin it feels cool, this is due to the natural cooling properties of the henna plant. You may feel tingling or tickling which is caused by the essential oils which are used in the mix. Henna feels much like lotion and does not hurt at all. Application of henna paste can be quite relaxing and enjoyable, especially in the warm summer months as it’s cooling and soothing to the skin.

Is it Safe?

The henna plant is one of the oldest cosmetics ever used and is extremely safe.

Natural henna, when applied to the skin rarely causes any adverse reactions, if you are concerned you should do a small patch test first. Natural henna is generally safe for use on children as it contains no dangerous chemical dyes or harsh additives.

WARNING: Henna is NOT black! There is no such thing as “black henna” and any product called this should be avoided. 'Black henna' may have dangerous dyes or chemicals added that can cause permanent scarring or internal damage. “Black henna” is usually found in certain tourist areas, most of which are outside Europe.