Henna is a plant that is used in the art form of Mehndi. Henna's leaves, flowers and twigs are dried and ground up to make a fine dusty powder. Once mixed with hot water, the powder is transformed into a paste that will temporarily stain the skin. Decorative patterns are commonly painted onto hands and feet using the henna paste and tips of applicator bottles. Often referred to as an organic tattoo, a henna design fades within two to four weeks.
Use Henna that is 100 per cent natural. Premade henna paste can have chemical additives. Check the label and make sure all ingredients are listed. A common chemical that may be found is PPD, or para-phenylenediamine. PPD is commonly referred to as Black Henna. Natural henna will appear green in dry form, while PPD-based henna is black or brown. PPD can cause other health hazards such as blistering, sores and scarring. Always ask the henna artist what type of henna is being used, ingredients and source of the henna.
Apply henna on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Other areas of the body are too moist for henna to last long. The palms and soles are the driest part of the body, and have thicker skin.
Wash the application area. Avoid using cleansers that are lotion based. Apply an astringent or toner such as witch hazel to remove any additional oils from the skin. Rubbing alcohol also works well.
Applying thicker henna lines will appear darker and last longer. Thin lines tend to fade faster and appear lighter. Thicker lines also penetrate the skin longer, leaving a longer-lasting stain.
Leave the henna paste on as long as possible. The henna paste will naturally flake off, but the longer the paste remains on the skin, the longer it has to embed a stain that is richer and deeper in colour.
Seal the henna tattoo with a mixture of lemon juice and sugar. Mix equal parts and warm on stove until sugar dissolves. Once cool, pour it over the design or rub it on with a cotton ball. Make sure the solution is not too watery, as this will disturb the design. Using a blow dryer, reheat the skin every 30 minutes for two hours, then scrape off the henna paste and rub off the lemon sugar mixture. Apply a light layer of vegetable oil to seal the design.
Paint both sides of the hand to see colour variation and to compare longevity of the design.
Avoid swimming and exfoliating skin. If the henna tattoo gets moist, apply a light layer of oil.