Are you thinking of getting inked, but not sure you’re ready for the commitment? Consider a henna tattoo. It’s the best way to avoid permanent ink with out looking like you whimped out.
The tall shrub like henna plant grows in dry, arid climates. Much of the world’s henna supply comes from Egypt, Sudan and India, but it’s cultivated in some
African and Middle Eastern countries as well. In Pakistan, the plant tends to be known as “Mendhi.” The plant is ground into powder and made into a paste that will temporarily stain the skin.
Leaves are harvested from the plant just as the pink and cream-colored buds start to bloom. The flowers are can be used for perfume, and the leaves are hung to dry. It’s important to keep them out of direct light. Allowing them to air dry in semidarkness will preserve their skin-staining qualities.
The paste consists of the powder and a substance usually referred to as a “developer.” Hot water is by far the most common developer. Some henna artists swear by additives such as lemon juice, various kinds of tea and certain essential oils. Henna will start staining the skin upon the initial contact, as well as any soft surface it comes in contact with, so it’s important to protect the work area and make sure the paste goes exactly where you mean for it to.
The paste should set on the skin for about two hours after design is fully applied. Carefully brush the dried paste off of the skin without rubbing. The design should be an orange color. Don’t panic. The color is not finished developing. It should keep evolving for the next 12 to 48 hours depending on skin type.
It’s of utmost importance that the new tattoo doesn’t get wet in the first 12 hours. The water will automatically stop the color development. Aftercare of the fresh henna tattoo is very similar to that of a regular under skin ink tattoo. Avoid soaking in the bath, and use only mild soap. Be careful to keep it clean and make sure to pat the area dry rather than rubbing.
The art of henna application is typically practiced by females, or at least there is very little documentation that proves otherwise. Henna tattoos are traditionally applied to the hands, including the fingernails, and the feet for ceremonies and celebrations such as weddings and festivals, especially religious ceremonies.
The earliest documented use of henna as body art dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Mummies uncovered in archeological digs have revealed signs of henna use, not only on the hands and feet, but as a hair dye and possibly even a conditioner. There is evidence that pharaohs were often hennaed and that specifically hennaed hands may have been perceived as a status symbol among the ancients, signifying prosperity. In other parts of the world where henna application is popular, it’s used without respect to social or economic boundaries. Peasants are just as likely to be tattooed as royals.
Henna crosses many diverse cultural boundaries, but application techniques have stayed pretty much the same. The artwork may vary depending on the formality of the event. Tattoos worn for every-day decoration won’t be as ordinate as those for special occasions. The popularity of various designs changes from one geographical region to the next.
For example, the dominant style in Arabia is large, flowery design covering the palm, in addition to the back of the hand. This design tends to leave more unadorned skin showing than some alternative styles. Fine-lined, intricate paisley patterns are popular in northern India. These designs usually only cover the palm and leave very little skin uncovered.
Henna is a permanent dye. It only fades because of the natural regeneration of the skin. The typically tattoo lasts about 10 to 15 days. The fading process is affected by the tattoos placement on the skin and the lifestyle of its wearer.