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The Truth About Henna Tattoos

Updated on August 24, 2014
My henna tattoo. Read more about my experience  at
My henna tattoo. Read more about my experience at | Source

What is Henna?

Also known as “Mendhi” or “Hene”, Henna derives from the henna plant which is crushed and made into a paste for application to the skin. The plant can be found in most South Asian and North African countries of the world. A strong historical tie, the application of henna has many spiritual, cultural and religious meanings. Over the years it has become westernized as it is on pregnant women and celebrations such as engagement and weddings.

The henna plant. By Cesinha X (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The henna plant. By Cesinha X (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source
Source: Flicker, cc Anisa C
Source: Flicker, cc Anisa C | Source

Application and Care of Henna

A lot of the times henna is applied to the skin, leaving a darkish maroon color that will stay on the skin for about 2 weeks. Henna usually comes in the form of a paste which is applied to the skin or hair. It also comes in the form of powder which can then be mixed with water to form a paste. There are several tools that can be used to apply henna to the skin:

  • funnel (pictured)
  • brush
  • nozzle
  • spatula with stencil

Once the henna is applied to the skin, it will leave a paste like material that dries up after a few minutes. The longer this dry paste is left on the darker the ink may be on the skin, making it last longer if desired. After about 15 minutes, a mixture of lemon juice and sugar can be sprayed on the paste to “flatten” it on the skin. At this point the paste can be left on for several hours (approximately 8 hours), or even overnight if it was applied late in the day. The paste can then be picked off revealing the temporary tattoo. If you’re washing the paste off, be sure to let the water do the washing so the ink underneath doesn’t become smeared.

Want your tattoo to last longer? Be sure to keep the are moisturized with oil or body lotion. Naturally the skin will flake off and dry, making the tattoo fade. Stay away from chlorine and keep the area moisturized.

Henna paste Source: Flickr, Luz Bratcher
Henna paste Source: Flickr, Luz Bratcher | Source

Warning about black henna

With the rising popularity of temporary tattoos, unsafe methods have developed for the sake of making a quick dollar. Black henna consists of a much darker ink or paste that is used to make tattoos. The normal color of henna on the skin is a dark orange or maroon color. Black henna is much darker often causing the following skin conditions:

  • scarring
  • blistering
  • open sores

Authentic henna vs. hair dye/indigo

This type of henna is usually darker because of the chemicals added to it; this includes black hair die that contains para phenylendiamine – also known as PPD. It’s applied to the skin and hair rich can result in serious health problems in addition to the ones listed above. Indigo is often used to make the tattoo darker. The appearance of the powder and paste is often black, while the hair dye usually comes in a dark brown or black color with a strong chemical smell. Be sure you’re aware of these ingredients before getting a tattoo.

Black henna is not needed for darker tattoos

The normal type of henna paste can be used to make a darker color on the skin. If this is the preference, make sure the tattooed area is exposed to heat, especially while the paste is still on. Keeping the body warm can also make a difference; drink a hot beverage or stay in a warm area to have a darker effect from the henna.

My tattoo with paste (before taking it off)
My tattoo with paste (before taking it off) | Source

Other health recommendations

  • If you have certain skin allergies or blood deficiencies, it's best you consult with a physician before getting a henna tattoo. The same goes if you want to apply it to your hair.
  • Although it's a natural based ingredient, chemicals or preservatives can be added to it and can cause reaction.
  • Also be careful with applying henna to young children as health risk may also be involved.

My experience

I recently had a very pleasant experience with getting a henna tattoo. Read more about it here.


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    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Your welcome, teaches12345. They have all kinds of interesting designs, even to represent where you are or where you want to go in life. Very interesting!

      Thanks, Ms. Dora. A temporary tattoo is as far as I'll go - I won't be stuck with it forever. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      I would go with henna if I ever wanted a temporary tattoo. THank you for the warnings and advice on how best to proceed.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 years ago from The Caribbean

      My interest was mainly in the use of the henna, since I'm not into tattoos. However, your article is an education in itself. Thank you.

    • Zainab Tarawali profile imageAUTHOR

      Musu Bangura 

      4 years ago from Nation's Capital

      Thanks, FlourishAnyway. I never thought about getting any type of tattoo until I went to a recent Diversity Day event. It was really interesting, but that's the most I'll ever do as far as tattoos. LOL

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Although I am not in line to get this, if I were I would definitely be asking the type of questions you raise in this hub. Excellent information here!


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