Henna tattoos, an artform that once was only available in certain cultures, is now something you can find at the county fair, on the main streets of large cities and other mainstream locations. If you are curious about how to do henna tattoos or need henna tattoo ideas, we have some basics here for you. Learn what henna tattoos are exactly and how the new modern ways of doing things are vastly different from the traditional practice that is over 5,000 years old.
What is a Henna Tattoo?
Henna tattoos is the layman’s term for the art of mehndi. This art form has been around for centuries and is closely tied to many cultures, though most closely tied to the Indian culture where historians believe its common use was pioneered. The designs painted on the skin, primarily that of the hands, in mehndi have the nickname of a henna tattoo because henna is the main ingredient that stains or dyes the skin in the mehndi gel. Once the henna product is applied to the skin it essentially stains it and the design placed may be seen for up to two weeks depending on the henna used and the skin it was placed on. The length of time the product lasts is what gave it the popular nickname of a henna tattoo because even other temporary tattoos do no last as long as a mehndi design can.
What is Used in a Henna Tattoo
There are commercially available henna tattoo kits that come with all the supplies you need to have your own personal mehndi party. They come with either powder that you mix with liquid to create the paste, or some kits have the paste already mixed for you. You also receive plastic cones that you use like an icing bag or cone, by snipping the very tip off and using it to place the product on your skin. The powder in the paste can be the natural red/auburn shade of henna or can be darkened to black with other additives.
Where Henna is Used
The true traditional use of mehndi is to decorate the hands of a bride. The designs often cover all of the bride’s hands, including both sides. The intricate designs are painstakingly applied by someone in the bride’s community who is expert at it, making her hands a piece of art that she wears on her wedding day and gets to showcase for many days after her wedding. The popularity of henna tattoos in North America has been to put on any sort of design, for any reason. Not just brides wear henna tattoos now and henna tattoo kits are found relatively easily at specialty stores with the mehndi and plastic cones to put it into to make application simpler. Henna on hair will also dye or stain it, providing a much longer lasting color than many more commercial preparations.
How to Do Henna Tattoos
The best way to learn how to do henna tattoos is by observation. Here is a good video explaining the process for beginners.
Henna Tattoo Ideas
Ideas for henna tattoos are as varied as ideas for typical tattoos, now that the use of henna is not strictly for weddings or spiritual celebrations. Things like birds, flowers, and geographic designs are very popular among designs for henna tattoos. Mehndi artists well versed in common and popular designs will often freehand designs integrating all of these elements and more into henna tattoo ideas. While you can design whatever type of henna tattoo you want, the most common types of designs are those that still have a bit of the traditional type of mehndi mixed with a bit of a modern twist.
Caring for Henna Tattoos
When the mehndi is applied to your skin, you will notice it looks like a cross between a gel and a lotion. It stays on the skin as applied looking almost like puffy paints, but thinner. The longer you keep this pseudo henna puffy paint on the skin, the longer it has to penetrate deeper into the skin layer. This means if you keep your henna application on for just an hour or two, the design left behind may only last a couple days on your skin. If you want your henna design to last as long as possible, you need to keep the design application on your skin for 8-12 hours. During that time, as the design paste dries up it will start to flake off of your skin. You can choose to flake it off yourself before this time, however, if you need to remove the design paste.
When the paste is off your skin, smooth some oil over the design to keep the skin hydrated. Drier skin will fade the design faster than well-hydrated skin. You can hydrate your skin with oils or lotions depending on your preferences. If you think of drawing on your skin with a marker it is similar to mehndi in some ways because both products stain your skin, but mehndi has the ability to stain deeper because you leave the paste on the skin for hours after application. To keep your design on your skin longer, apply oil two to four times a day to the design, massaging it in gently. Do not scratch the skin around the design if possible.
If you need to remove your mehndi before it has faded away naturally, the only sure bets are to scrub and exfoliate after you have dried your skin. Rubbing alcohol dries the skin well, but keep in mind drying then skin then exfoliating it away may leave you with raw sensitive skin underneath. Some henna tattoo artists have luck with soaking the skin in salt water for 10-20 minutes before using an exfoliator on the colored skin. While the henna tattoos are not permanent, plan for them to last at least two weeks so you do not have to damage your skin in an effort to remove it. Sweat also helps the skin exfoliate, so if you sweat in the areas where the mehndi is when you do regular exercise increase your workouts to fade the design faster.