Henna is a plant extract that is used in creating intricate ethnic or contemporary designs and patterns on various parts of the body, though traditionally applied to the hands and feet of women preparing for special ceremonies, men are also finding it a good replacement to permanent tattoos.
The crushed leaves of the henna plant are mixed with other natural ingredients to give it a richer and a darker look. When mixed with these ingredients it yields a thick, fragrant paste used for decorating the hands and feet. The olive green dried henna powder when mixed with ingredients such as black tea, coffee, cloves and tamarind, turns dark.
Once the paste is applied to the skin it leaves a red-orange stain on the skin of the applicant, clearing the misconception that the stain left by the henna will be green due to its appearance. The henna has to be left overnight for it to achieve a deep and dark colour.
Henna is not only a paste used for decorating the hands and the feet but is also used a skin antiseptic, as a hair conditioner and dye, it is also used a tonic and as a cloth and leather dye. The top leaves of the plant are best for mehndi, while the lower part of the plant is used for the other purposes. Henna is a cosmetic and a medicine, but most importantly, it is a marker of beauty, auspiciousness and celebration.
Henna painting is considered a woman`s art form, often marks the journey from a girl to woman, she adorns henna on her hands and feet to depict a new coming in her life. The painted bride is denoted special by the intricate, elaborate henna patterns on her hands and feet. Designs vary with each culture, and even within cultures. Generally speaking, Arabic Swahili women`s design consists of large, bold floral patterns, whereas Moroccan Berber women paint geometric, linear designs.
In India, Hindu women prefer paisleys, vines and birds such as peacocks. Muslim women do not paint figurative images due to the Islamic prohibition on representational art. This art form was traditionally used to decorate the bride on her special day; creating mystifying designs on her exposed areas such has her hands and feet. But the designs have spread to the concealed areas such her knees, which creates an intriguing thought for the husband.
Henna has become a world-renowned art form used by people not only to celebrate occasions such has marriage, but also as an art form used to beautify the body of the applicant.
It has got world recognition because of Hollywood stars such as Madonna and Demi Moore that have been sporting these designs on their body. Singer Madonna had sported a Mehndi tattoo in one of her music videos. In return exposing the mehndi tattooing art form to the world.
Henna painting has found a large number of admires in the west over the past decade. Although the ethnic communities residing in the west have always practiced henna. The recognition of it by the westerners is a relatively new phenomenon; they refer to it as "temporary tattoo". People, who are reluctant to acquire a real tattoo, test out a location and design by first having an ephemeral henna version of what will eventually become a permanent part of their skin. Also like tattoo, henna designs in the US resemble "tribal" bracelets and anklets, belts and rings. The practice of wearing henna as jewelry was born in the West.
Though henna is cited to be a painless body art with no side effects, black henna is an exception to this rule. The color produced by henna is not black but a red- maroon or a red-orange colour. But in the African countries the mehndi should produce an after effect black colour, which does not come naturally, additional additives and dyes are added which are harmful to the skin. Black henna creates very bad skin allergies and can cause sores and burns on the skin.
Black henna" is the name given to an artificial product created by the addition of Parahenylenediamine (PPD) to natural henna to create a black stain. PPD is traditionally used in black hair dye but is a sensitizer, which means that it is something that the body is naturally allergic to or can become allergic to. Black henna can cause severe reactions that can take from 5-15 days to appear, which can cause permanent scarring and may even be life threatening. Reactions to black henna frequently necessitate immediate medical attention from a doctor or allergist.
However, other dyes exist which are sometimes called "black henna," which is usually composed of a mixture of henna and indigo. These generally do not contain PPD. Henna can be used by additional ingredient to give it a different look and colours, by mixing safe and natural products. But black henna is very harmful and has horrendous side effects.
Unlike tattoos, henna does not hurt because there are no needles used and no skin is broken. Henna is applied to the top of the skin, and many people enjoy the coolness of the paste as it is painted on and the further cooling of the lemon sugar solution. Henna is a soothing mixture and conditions the skin. Designs last anywhere from one to three weeks depending on the part of the body, how frequently it is washed, as well as the type of skin of the applicant. It wears off due to the frequent use of the part where it is applied.