Henna (Lawsonia inermis) also known as Mahindi, hina, the mignonette tree and the Egyptian privet is the sole species of the Lawsonia genus. Henna is a flowering plant, tall shrub or a small tree, it can grow 1.8 to 7.5m tall and prefers the semi-arid through tropical climates of Northern Africa & Southern Asia, the plant thrives in temperatures over 35 °C (95 °F ). Henna leaves are prized for making dye. The henna powder made by drying, crushing and filtering the leaves, into finer and finer powders, the finer sifted the better it is for making delicate designs.
The Henna artist makes the paste by mixing the sifted powder with a base liquid, artists have been known to use water, black tea, lemon juice, essential oils to create this natural skin dye. The henna must be used fresh, after mixing up a new batch, the henna must sit for a day of hours to allow the lawsone, the dyeing agent in the dried leaf matter to become active. The end result is a dark green to olive paste which may smell of the essential oil use in the recipe. Pictured here are the typical ingredients: green henna powder, lemon juice, sugar and pure eucalyptus oil, before mixing and after.
Thought to be the worlds first cosmetic, henna has healing properties in addition to dyes which surely attracted those early henna enthusiasts. Women were adorning each other with henna since the Bronze Age as part of social events and holidays. While not as well known in the western world, Algeria, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel, Somalia, Tunisia and Turkey all have active henna traditions today involving henna tattoos on the skin. Additionally, many religious ceremonies use henna including Hindus, Muslims and Sikh weddings, holidays such as Eid, Ramadan, Diwali, karva Chauthalso have henna part of the celebrations, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish women often have henna party a week before their weddings, in India it is said the darker the henna on the bride's hands, the more intensely her new husband will love her.
Henna is applied in any number of ways, it is thought the earliest henna use constituted smearing the skin with henna and scraping it off with a stick, for a relief effect. Today henna paste is applied with cones like the ones used to decorate cakes, syringe and a variety of squeeze bottles.
Henna paste is applied wet to the skin where after only a few seconds it begins to stain the skin, the longer it remains in contact with the skin, the darker it stains. Henna stains orange at first and darkens over the next 3 days to a deep brown-red to nearly black. The darkness as well as how long the stain last depends on a few basic things.
To get the most out of your Henna Tattoo:
It’s important to wash before your tattoo to remove any dirt that may be on the area to be tattooed, but avoid an excessive scrubbing - that can remove the layers of skin that the henna would have absorbed into.
Allow the Henna to remain on your skin as long as possible, the dye takes 6 hours to fully transfer into your skin.
Resist washing the tattoo (chlorinated water & soap can make henna lighter)
Cover tattoo area with edible oils (olive/coconut are good for the skin too).
The henna doesn't fade, it wears away through the process of exfoliation.
The finished Tattoo is covered with a sugar based mixture, to seal the henna against the skin. As the henna drys, it will crack and eventually flake off. When the henna reaches this state, it can be pealed with fingers or scrapped off with a credit card. Note: Even when the henna seems dry, take care wearing it to bed. More than a couple women have reported their henna tattoo pattern showing up other than where it was applied, like on their husband, sheets or on other parts of their own body.
Natural henna, derived solely from the plant, and with no added chemicals, is safe to use on your hair or on your skin. This type of henna is brown, and is harmless. It's often suggested as an alternative if you want to avoid chemical hair dyes while you're pregnant.
Henna is quite mild and has been used successfully for thousands of years and for most all of the population, it acts as a tonic, with mild health benefits and an uplifting nature. For normally healthy people over the age of 5 (or mature enough to not eat the henna or get it in the eyes) henna is normally safe for use on the skin.
Like everything in this world, there is always an exception: There is a very rare genetic issue G6DP Deficiency or favism, people with this are often allergic to fava beans.
If you have used henna before or with a past pregnancy with no problems, then it is likely you can continue using it safely. However, the G6DP Deficiency is real and very serious for pregnant women.
If you have any doubts or concerns, consult your doctor before getting henna, the G6DP Deficiency is rare but it is dangerous to both you and your new baby.
Here is a Wikipedia page on the disorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucose-6-phosphate_dehydrogenase_deficiency
The website, www.hennapage.com has a very good page on pregnancy and henna here: http://www.hennapage.com/henna/encyclopedia/pregbirth/
If you are not sure, have a bad feeling or any other question about your health and safety, it is better to be safe than sorry. Let me know before you appointment, you can come by and get a small bit of henna to see if you have a reaction prior to putting it all over your body.
Do not use henna if you suffer or have suffered from any of the following conditions or if have children who have the following conditions:
¨ G6DP Deficiency (Glucose-6 Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency)
¨ Any Chronic or acute condition which affects the your blood system.
¨ Any Chronic or acute condition which affects your immune system
STOP Hennaing and consult your GP or Midwife if you experience any of the following symptoms:
¨ Bleeding or unexpected discharge
¨ Elevated blood pressure
Beware of black henna
Black henna is not henna at all and (often) contains no henna in it, it is a toxic chemical used in black hair dye.