For some of us, henna was our very first hair colouring experience. And it sure was messy back then. The powder was mixed with water to make a rather gritty, lumpy, smelly paste, which was then applied to the hair.
Thankfully, henna has come a long way, but it is still something best applied in a salon. Whilst not as popular these days for hair, we are seeing many salons offering amazing henna body art, especially for weddings.
Henna is made from a flowering plant called Lawsonia inermis, which tends to grow in the subtropical regions of Asia and Africa. And it has been used forever to dye hair, nails, skin, and fabric. It can also be mixed with other natural dyes to create different hues.
Using henna for body art began in the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean, and is depicted in many artworks. It was used to mark special occasions and events, such as births, weddings, birthdays, and victory. This was probably due to the belief that henna was considered to deliver blessings and good luck.
In some cultures, it would take many days to decorate a bride with henna, as it was classed as a sacred ceremony. This is referred to as Mehndi, and you will see this listed as a service at many of our Bookwell salons.
You may also see it listed as Henna Body Art, Henna Hand Art, temporary Henna Tattoos, or Henna Eyebrow Tattoo.
Mehndi is something quite spectacular, and the designs are very intricate. They are also indicative of their land of origin. Some of the most beautiful designs come from India and Pakistan.
However, it's most likely that the art form originated in Egypt, and evidence has been found on Egyptian mummies. It's likely the plant, Lawsonia inermis, grew naturally in Egypt, and was carried to India.
Of course, henna body art is not actually a tattoo, as it is not permanent. And it is only applied to the surface of the skin, not injected below. This is one of the reasons why it has become so popular.
This is how it works. First, a paste is made with the henna powder, and used to apply the design. This can be done with a plastic cone, stick or paint brush. The paste is allowed to dry, which usually takes 15-20 minutes.
As the paste dries, it will begin to crack. Often a solution, such as lemon juice and sugar, is applied at this stage, to remoisten the paste and darken the stain. The decorated area may be wrapped to keep in body heat, and this will intensify the colour.
When the wrapping is removed, the design will continue to darken over the next day or two. The 'tattoo' will last one to three weeks, depending on how it was applied, the quality of the henna, and where it is on the body. Applying a natural oil moisturiser will help protect it.
If you are considering getting a henna tattoo, it's worth putting some thought into your choice of design. This is particularly true for wedding Mehndi. For example, do you want the design to be symbolic, or just decorative?
If you want your hands decorated, try and avoid going for very large designs. The smaller and more intricate, the greater the effect. This is a statement piece, so you want it to look professional and eye-catching.
And do go to a salon that specialises in the art. They will use good quality henna, and will have plenty of design ideas to show you.
Mehndi really is very beautiful, and well worth considering for your special day.