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Interesting Facts about Henna That You Probably Didn't Know

Updated on May 25, 2015

Henna Works as a Natural Sunblock

If you were to Henna your skin, then go sun bathing, the area which is tattooed will stay your natural skin tone, whilst the rest of you will tan. This is because Henna increases the production of Melanin in the body.

According to the book, Henna's Secret History: The History, Mystery & Folklore of Henna written by Marie Anakee Miczak, ancient Egyptians would make salves and ointments containing henna to rub over their bodies. This would not only keep their skin supple and soft but also help protect their skin from the blistering heat of the sun.

It would be very irresponsible of me to suggest that you should skip your ordinary sunscreen in place of Henna. However, it is fascinating to think that our ancient ancestors relied so heavily on such herbs to protect themselves from the sun. Aloe Vera is yet another wonderful plant that offers natural sun protection.

Henna Is Used to Keep the Skin Cool

Applying Henna to the skin during summer months or in hot climates, not only looks beautiful on bare skin; it also has the ability to reduce body heat. This is due to the natural properties of the Henna plant - similar in the way that Eucalyptus or Peppermint cools the skin.

Even once the Henna paste has been removed, you will still notice that your body temperature remains low. The whole time that your Henna tattoo remains visible on the skin, you will receive the cooling benefits - even on the scalp if you frequently dye your hair with Henna.

According to the founder of Henna and Beyond people in India would cover their hands and feet in Henna paste in order to keep cool; long before it had any religious or spiritual significance.

Henna Can Be Used to Treat Fungal Infections

Research conducted by Informa Healthcare suggests that Henna has anti fungal properties due to the presence of a molecule called Lawsone; the molecule which is responsible for dyeing the skin and hair a red/orange colour.

If you suffer from a fungal infection either on your skin or nails, Henna could be applied as natural alternative to over the counter drugs (on the condition, you don't mind the Henna staining them)!

If you want to boost the Henna's natural antifungal properties, add a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil to the Henna mix. Tea Tree oil is not only an antifungal 'powerhouse' with extraordinary antiseptic properties but it also deepens and intensifies the colour of Henna.

Body Art Quality Henna Is More Pigmented than Henna Sold for Hair

Body Art Quality Henna (aka BAQ Henna) is pure, high quality, finely sifted Henna.

When liquid is added, it will produce a silky smooth paste - essential for painting intricate patterns onto the skin. It is also highly pigmented so that Henna Tattoos stay on the skin for as long as possible. Lets face it, there would be a lot of complaining customers if it didn't live up to expectations. Brides depend on it!

Henna specifically marketed for the use of hair dye is usually inferior quality and often requires sifting before use. Most importantly though, Hair Grade Henna contains less Lawsone; the natural pigment in Henna that is responsible for dyeing the skin and hair.

According to Hair Grade Henna contains approximately 1% Lawsone, whilst BAQ contains 3% and more. I know which kind I would rather use on my hair!

Henna Can Speed up Hair Growth, Make Hair Thicker and Cure Scalp Problems

Not only does Henna add great colour to the skin and hair, it possesses great antibacterial anti fungal properties. If you are prone to dandruff, Henna may do wonders for your scalp, especially when combined with the power of essential oils. Of course, it is advisable to do a patch test before you apply anything onto damaged skin. That goes without saying really...but I have tried it personally and have noticed a big improvement in the condition of my scalp.

If the scalp is healthy and happy, it goes without saying that it has a positive effect on hair growth. Henna is really nourishing for the scalp and hair follicles. It really stimulates the circulation.

Your hair will appear thicker because the henna coats each hair follicle in a protective film that builds up over time. This film also makes the hair look incredibly shiny.

Henna Applied to Broken Skin Is Permanent

When you apply Henna over healthy, unbroken skin, the pattern will slowly fade over a period of time when old skin cells shed and regenerate. However, if you apply Henna over cuts, scratches or damaged skin, it will stay there permanently. This is because the dye gets trapped under the top layer of skin (the layer of skin which doesn't shed), in a similar way to a permanent tattoo.

Henna should never be applied over broken skin because not only can it bleed out and create unpredictable results, it also increases your chance of getting a nasty infection because Henna powder is not a sterile substance (not to mention any other ingredients you mix it with).

Different Types of Henna Produce Different Intensities of Red

There are many different varieties of Henna, grown in different regions of the world.

Moroccan Henna is great if you are in a hurry because the pigment is released quickly. This is great if you need to make a batch of henna but you don't have enough time to leave it overnight.

Jamila is great for people who like a more orange/fire red stain to their henna. However, it is criticised in The Long Hair Community for taking a long time to release dye (about 12 hours).

Rajasthani is great for a rich, brown Henna stain which is less coppery than Jamila

Yemen is known for its rich stain that builds up to a lovely burgundy red over time.

Most importantly, the fresher the product, the better the colour pay off will be. A lot of suppliers will display the year of the crop on their Henna powder, so that customers can make an informed choice before buying.

There Is No Such Thing as Black Henna

if a product claims to be black Henna, it is not a pure product. It is either mixed with Indigo powder (Indigofera Tinctoria) or even harmful chemicals such as Para-phenylenediamine.

Make sure you read the ingredients before buying to ensure you get an all natural product.

Dyeing your hair black

If you want to dye your hair black, you would have to dye your hair with Henna first, then apply a layer of Indigo afterwards to make it pure black. Alternatively, you could mix the two herbs together for a dark brown effect.

TIP: According to Lush Cosmetics, if you want black hair with red undertones, you should apply your dye, then cover your head in clingfilm to keep in the warmth and moisture. If you want a much darker, blue/black hair, you should leave your hair to air dry without the clingfilm.

Adding Lemon Juice can effect the colour result of Henna
Adding Lemon Juice can effect the colour result of Henna | Source

Essential Oils and Other Additives Can Dramatically Change the Colour Result of Henna

Adding Cajeput or Tea Tree essential oil to your Henna, will make the stain darker. This is because these oils in particular contain high amounts of Terpenes. Black Tea is also high in 'Terps' so this could explain why it effectively makes Henna darker.

If you want to find out more about the science of 'Terps' and how they can improve your Henna mixes, I found a brilliant article, written by Niko Txilar. The article explains why some Essential Oils deepen the stain of Henna and why some don't.

You can also change the colour result of Henna by adding anything highly pigmented to the mix, such as, Red Wine, Hibuscus Tea, Turmeric, Paprika, Tea or Coffee.

Acidic liquid such as Lemon Juice will also amplify the colour result.

Henna Works Best When It Is Kept Moist and Warm

Once you apply henna to your skin or hair, cover it with clingfilm so that the moisture and warmth stays in. This will help the colour to develop more effectively. If you don't have clingfilm, gently spray lemon juice onto the henna when required, to stop it drying out


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