Here are some short form answers to some frequently asked questions about henna / mehndi application and traditons.
OK, so WHAT is in henna? Henna is another name for the Lawsonia Inermis plant grown in arid areas of countries like Pakistan, India, and UAE to name a few. Henna is also the term used for the action. "I'm getting a henna" or "I'm going to do some henna today". The leaves of this plant are dried, ground into a powder, then reconstituted to make a paste. Recipes to do this vary. My paste includes sugar, henna, lavender and Eucalyptus essential oils and lemon juice. The paste is applied to the skin in beautiful patterns to create a stain that can last anywhere from 4 days to 8 weeks depending on the person, how well it's taken care of and the part of the body the paste is applied to. It has many names as well, mehndi, mehandi, henna, hina, heena are some of the variations all meaning the same thing. Henna also has medicinal uses in controlling foot issues, parasidic pests and is a natural sunscreen. It was used frequently in many cultures for these properties.
How long does henna take to do? That is a tricky question! It depends on the size of the design. A small flower can take under a minute where a full bridal can be as long as 8 hours!! Most casual clientele choose designs that take between 4 -60 minutes - brides tend to average 4 hours.
Is it sacrilegious for me to use henna if I'm not East Indian or Muslim? Short answer is no. Henna is not 'sacred' nor is it holy or blessed by any priest. The best analogy would be it is much like a wedding dress or wedding jewelry, considered a necessary tradition, and would be almost unthinkable to get married without it, but not a holy article. It is, however, considered to be lucky or auspicious and looked upon with favor by God/ the Gods in some cultures, and it is thought to ward off the evil eye in other societies. It is often gifted to a new bride or to someone having a celebration. A very welcome presentation. It is considered extremely beautiful and we all want to be stunning on our big day. It is said that the darker your henna stains, the more your husband or mother-in-law loves you. (depends on where you are if it's mom-in-law or husband). The traditions of henna are anywhere from 5000 to 9000 years old, 60 countries and 6 major religions so it 'belongs' to no one people in particular and the folklore behind it is varied. Henna has been/still is practiced in many different cultures including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu. All it takes to have henna is the desire to be individual and beautiful. Because it's considered lucky people will wear it before a test or when they are going to try something that they want to turn out successfully.
Is henna safe? Real henna is safe for almost everyone. Natural paste consists of henna, lemon juice, essential oil and sugar with no chemicals, preservatives, benzenes, kerosene or harmful mordents. Unfortunately there are people who are practicing the art in pop up tents, salons, festivals and street corners who are using questionable ingredients or 'black henna' which is a chemical and illegal in Canada. Often this contains no henna whatsoever. Pure henna is probably one of the world's safest and oldest cosmetics. Although not every good and safe artist is certified, it isn't a bad idea to look for an artist that is certified whenever possible to be sure your getting the safest and freshest product from a professional who is actually knowledgeable in the art form. In Winnipeg right now there is no licensing, insurance or criminal background check of street / festival artists / Hair and beauty salons when it comes to the application of henna and no one inspects the products used so it's up to you to be the smart consumer.
Although 'black henna' is the worst offender, store bought cones from the local ethnic store or cones purchased off most ebay or Amazon sites are also very toxic and do not contain natural ingredient. Real henna must be stored properly when mixed in a freezer to ensure freshness. Exposure to heat demises the henna pastes and will not stain. Any henna on a store shelf WILL contain chemicals and preservatives, some very toxic and often the package is labelled with missing ingredients. If it smells like kerosene, chemicals or nothing at all, this is not good for you. If you purchase henna for fun with your friends, make sure you get it from a safe source and smell the product so you know what you are getting. Ask about the ingredients. Playing safe makes it more fun for everyone!
If you are allergic to perfumes, you should talk to your artist before getting henna done, as some individuals may be sensitive to lavender or other added oils. You should always ask what is in the mix and if they cannot or will not tell you, claim it is thier heritage or make you feel foolish for asking, you should consider avoiding that vendor. It's your body and you have every right to ask questions before letting someone embellish it with anything. (More on 'Black Henna' warnings here )
If your doctor has ever told you that you have G6PD or you are allergic to fava beans and aspirin, you should not be using henna. Children under 5 should also avoid henna.
Natural henna when correctly applied is so safe, it is used both aesthetically and medically on chemo patients in the form of henna crowns and to relieve symptoms of burning hand and feet due to some medications. (please enquire for further info)
So, how do I get colored henna? The short answer is, you don't. The colored designs seen on this site are henna embellished with zardosi (body safe glitter and gold), real Swarovski crystals and body safe skin paints. This technique is usually used on a bride one or 2 days after paste removal to make her designs even more beautiful for the big day. The patterns that appear black are designs that still have the henna paste on. It does NOT come in colors. If it is black or colored it is NOT henna and can be very harmful to your health and cause permanent scarring. The PPD black is banned by Health Canada but rampant in USA, Mexico & Greece. Most so called 'colored henna' is going to lighten your wallet of your hard earned coin and not stain at all at best, hurt you at worst. Don't be taken advantage of! For more information on "Black Henna" go here: http://www.winnipeghenna.com/black-henna-warnings.html
I heard there are medical benefits to henna...is that true? What are they? Henna has been used for centuries for its many unusual properties as well as discovering new ones! Digestion is NEVER recommended, but for foot ailments it can do wonders! Recently it has been proven very helpful for those suffering from Xeloda side effects tip for Hand-Foot Syndrome (HFS or PPE) in chemotherapy patients. Click here to find out more. Henna has also been used to deter foot fungus and lice and is a natural sunscreen. Let's not underestimate the power of self image, self esteem and personal power. Many individuals fighting cancer will often get henna crowns to proudly show off their newly imposed lack of hair instead of hiding it with a scarf, cap or wig. Instead they have a beautiful art piece created to accessorize their new look! Being bold, positive and taking charge when you feel the least like any of those things can be a powerful internal and external message!
I forgot I had a big meeting/photoshoot/granny hates henna! Can I take it off quick? Henna stains don't really wash off quickly. Once you have it, it has to fade. That being said, there are ways to help it along if you have to. This is easier if you are somewhat older as the skin starts to thin and therefore you have less layers to exfoliate through. You can try a whitening toothpaste or a soak in a hot tub or a swim in a public pool. Chlorine and henna do not get along and the chemicals will help expediate the demise of the stain as well. Doing a lot of housework with cleaning products has been shown to be the enemy of the mehndi stain.
I got one! I love it! Now how do I take care of it? This page will tell you what you need to know to take care of your new body decor. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask! You can also use the button below to check out the Aftercare page so you can extend the life of your new artwork!