How to make henna stain darker

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According to Indian folklore, the darker the henna stain worn by the bride on her wedding day, the greater the love of her husband. Whether you are wearing henna for your wedding or another special occasion, the darker the stain the greater the impact.

To achieve a beautiful dark henna stain, all you need is fresh henna and a lot of patience.

Buy good quality henna powder from a reputable shop. Most Indian grocery shops and beauty shops sell it for around £2. If you decide to buy it online, read reviews of the website and the product first to be as sure as you can be of its quality. Avoid "Black Henna", which is not genuine henna at all, but a highly concentrated black hair dye with high levels of petrochemicals. Known as Para-phenylenediamine (PPD), it can result in chemical burns and permanent scars. Doing your research will help you obtain safe, natural henna that is free of toxic chemicals. Good quality, fresh henna powder should have a spinach-like smell and be khaki green in colour.

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Mix your henna 24 hours before you intend to apply it. Transfer 20 grams of henna powder into your bowl. Stir 1/4 cup of lemon juice into the powder until they are entirely blended. Check there are no lumps. Stir constantly until the paste is thick, with a consistency like mashed potato.

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Add 1.5 tsp sugar to the paste. Add 1.5 tsp of an essential oil of your choice. Good options are cajeput, tea tree and lavender. Avoid clove, mustard and mehndi oil, as these can harm your skin. Stir the mixture well until it is smooth and silky.

Cover the bowl with cling film, making sure it is tightly sealed. Leave it in a warm place for 24 hours to give the dye time to be extracted from the henna leaves. This is really important for a dark stain.

Check your paste. It should have the consistency of smooth yoghurt. Add more lemon juice, 1/4 tsp at a time, if necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Transfer your paste to your applicator bottle.

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Clean the area of skin you intend to stain and make sure it is free from skin care products. Avoid applying oils, lotions and creams for a week before applying henna, if possible. The coarser and drier your skin is, the darker a stain you will achieve. Most women stain their hands and feet, because henna does not stain hairy skin as well. Stick to hands and feet for the darkest stain.

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Apply the henna paste to your skin. If you are not confident enough to do it freehand, draw a design on your skin with a water based pen and use this as a guide. Hold your applicator bottle just above your skin and squeeze it gently to apply the paste.

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Wrap your stained skin in a layer of absorbent tissue, followed by cling film. Leave it on overnight to give the paste plenty of time to create a dark stain.

Remove the cling film and tissue and carefully peel off the paste. Rub stubborn areas gently with a paper towel. Avoid water for the next 12 hours, to achieve a beautiful dark stain. Henna darkens as it is exposed to oxygen, so over the next 24 hours it will continue to darken.