Yes it is Cheap, yes it is Ethnic, but no no no this is not a recipe to eat. I love doing these unusual posts here.
Did I ever tell you I am a henna freak? I have been doing it for about 5 years now. And it has become a personal right of passage into the warm season. The call of the henna resounds in me as the weather improves. Why? Less clothes and more skin showing, therefore more canvas material to show off my art. I am not a great artist but I love it and so do my friends as every year a few of them ask for a design.
Photo by mostaque
Now before I go further some of you may be saying: What is she talking about, what is henna? Henna is a plant used to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool. This shrub is native to Africa, Middle-East, Gulf and Indian sub-continent, and has been used by humans since the Bronze Age. I am sure most of you have seen henna hair dyes at one point in your life at the drug store. But henna is an age old tradition when it comes to marking temporarily the skin, usually used in ceremonies such as marriage. Brides-to-be have henna parties where the bride is adorned with intricate patterns local to the tribe or region where they are from. I once read that after the marriage the bride, who moves into her in-laws home, does not have to participate in the house work as long as there are traces of her henna bridal design.
Reduced into a super fine powder, the henna is then mixed with a few other simple ingredients and is left to mature until the dye is released. When applied the paste will stain your top skin layer. As your skin sheds the design starts to fade. A design will last anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks. Of course there are tricks to make it last longer and I will share them with you a bit lower. But rest assured it is not permanent.
Although henna paste is widely available in Middle Eastern grocery stores and ethnic decoration stores I find the quality extremely poor. That is why I learned to make my own henna paste. Also some manufacturers add very harmful chemicals to make the stain black. If you get a black stain toss it as it can be very toxic. A natural henna dye should be shades of brown, orange, burgundy, dark cherry or mahogany. I get my henna from Henna Sooq. The quality is exceptional and it was recommended to me by a friend who is a professional henna artist. It is also on this web site that I got my recipe, slightly adapted, and this site is chalk full of amazing advice like which type of henna to use and how long is the dye release time per type of henna. My favorite one is the Jamila Henna. It is the longest one to prepare but it is so worth the wait. Here is my tried and tested recipe with dye release time for Jamila Henna:
Jamila Henna Paste Recipe
– 1 tbsp fresh body art sifted henna powder
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/2 to 3/4 tsp tea tree or lavender or eucalyptus 100% pure essential oils
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– One 1/2 ounce Jacquard Bottle with a .5mm tip
- Add your henna powder and sugar in a small bowl and mix well.
- Heat your lemon juice on the stove or in your microwave. Add it slowly to your henna powder and mix. Only add enough until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. Cover your bowl and let it sit for 12 hours on the counter (not the fridge).
- Add your essential oils (just one or a mix of those mentioned) and mix well. Cover again and let it sit for another 12 hours on the counter.
- Add more lemon juice a little at a time until it is the consistency of toothpaste. Cover your bowl and let it sit for 12 hours on the counter.
- At this point we can test if your henna is ready by placing a bit of paste onto your palm and let it sit for 1 minute. Wash it off, and see if you have a bright pumpkin orange stain indicating that it is ready to use. If not then let it sit longer and check every 3-6 hours.
- Gently place your henna paste in a small zip-lock bag and cut the tip off one corner. Feed your paste into the Jacquard bottle and place the tip on the bottle. To seal I place a pin needle in the whole of the tip. This looks like a small amount but it will last a long time.
Applying a design
- Pick your design, the internet is an infinite source of ideas but keep it simple at first, and pick your body part. Wash and dry the body part.
- By holding the bottle downward at angle, gently press the paste out slowly but continuously. The tip should be held about 1/4 inch above the skin. Practice at first on a paper towel.
- Trace your entire design and let it dry COMPLETELY. A hair drier can be helpful.
- To help the paste stick to the skin I spray it with hairspray and let it dry again. A mix of sugar melted in lemon juice works too and is applied with a Q-tip.
- The longer the paste is on the darker the dye. The traditional way of doing it is sleeping overnight with the paste. I wrap the body part in toilet paper and fix it on with scotch tape. Then I wrap the body part with a medical bandage like when you sprain an ankle and wrap it. If it is a design on your back then with good medical tape tape the design down right on the skin. In the morning unwrap (or if you do not want to sleep with it overnight) and just pick and gently rub the dry paste off.
- If you find it pale do not worry as it will get darker over the next day or two. Enjoy and show off your design.
How to make a design last longer: exfoliate 24 hours before, do not wet the body part for a good 12 hours after the paste has been removed and most important moisturize twice a day so the dry skin does not flake off.
A lot of random tips that I have learned over the years…
- In between uses I keep my bottle in the freezer. I have used the same mixture for 4 years and the stain is still as deep. Just plan to defrost the bottle early enough before use.
- Shake the bottle before use and always do a first squeeze on a paper towel as liquid may have accumulated.
- The pin needle can be useful to fix little mistakes in the design, as well as moist Q-tips.
- The warmer your body is when you have the paste on the darker the stain will be. So once it is dry wrap yourself in a blanket and drink some tea.
- The darkest stains will be on the inside of your hands and the soles of your feet. These are warm, moist spots with a constant warm blood flow close to the surface.
- Art is not about perfection…art can include mistakes which can influence your pattern at times. Your not getting graded on your skill.
- Dry henna flakes off easily so don’t bend fingers or joints where the paste may be, don’t touch anything with the adorned body part.
- Feet and vines wrapping around your lower leg in the summer with sandals….AWESOME!
- Only way to speed up the process of removing a design is by soaking the body part 10 min in water and then exfoliate.
- Before a shower, bath or swim apply a thin layer of Vaseline to the stain to avoid exfoliation.
- There are 3 tip sizes but you only need the smallest unless you are a professional.
Check out more of my natural beauty recipes:
Did you make one of my recipes? I would love to see it. Take a photo and tag me on Instagram @cultureatz.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post may contain affiliate links (disclosure policy). Please support CulturEatz by clicking on the links and purchasing through them so I can keep the kitchen well stocked. It does not alter the price you pay.