The art of henna (known as mehndi in Hindi & Urdu) has been practiced for over 5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. There is some documentation it’s over 9000 years old. Because henna has natural cooling properties, individuals of the desert, for a long time, are using henna to cool their bodies down. They make a paste of henna and soak their hands and soles of the feet inside to get an air conditioning effect. They feel that its cooling sensation throughout the body for as long as the henna stain stays on their skin. Initially, as the blot faded away, it abandoned patterns on the skin surface which contributed to ideas to produce designs for cosmetic purposes. In the early Egyptian times, mummies wore henna designs and it is reported that Cleopatra herself utilized for cosmetic purposes.Henna wasn’t only a popular adornment for the rich but the poor, who couldn’t afford jewelry, used it to decorate their bodies also.
Henna in the West
Today people around the world have embraced the early traditions of adorning their bodies with the gorgeous natural art created in the henna plant. It became a remarkably popular kind of temporary body decoration from the 90’s in the united states and is now a growing trend ever since. Celebrities such as Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Yasmine Bleeth, Liv Tyler, Xena, and lots of others decorate their bodies with henna and show them off in public, movies, videos, etc.. People throughout the west have embraced the eastern tradition in their own lives by having their feet and hands painted for weddings, bellies painted while in pregnancy, heads adorned with henna while going through chemotherapy, and scars camouflaged to make them unnoticeable, etc..
Henna is used for many reasons such as self-expression; a celebration of special events like weddings, holidays & birthdays; inspiration; reminders; attractiveness; cosmetic treatments; medicinal applications; blessings & well-being; to function as part of an ancient tradition; and an alternative or conducive to a tattoo.
The Henna Plant
Henna (Lawsonia inermis, also known as Hina, henna shrub, mignonette tree, Egyptian privet) is a flowering plant that grows 12-15 ft high and comes in the sole species of the Lawsonia genus. The name henna also refers to the dye prepared from the henna plant along with the art of temporary tattooing predicated on these dyes. Henna has been used for centuries to dye hair, skin, and fingernails, as well as fabrics such as wool, silk, and leather.
It may be located in several other hot climates such as Pakistan, India, and Australia. The plant grows best in heat up to 120F levels and comprises more dye in these temperatures. Additionally, it develops better in the dry dirt than moist soil. The leaves are in opposite decussate pairs and vary in sizes from around 2-4 cm. long. The fruit is a dry capsule 68-millimeter diameter, including numerous 12.5-millimeter seeds.
The henna plant contains lawsone which is a reddish-orange dye that binds to the keratin (a protein) in our skin and firmly stains skin. The blot can be from pale orange to nearly black depending on the caliber of the henna and how nicely one’s skin chooses it. A fantastic henna, fresh from hot & dry climates, will blot the darkest.
For body decorations, the leaves of the henna plant are dried, crushed into a fine powder, also forced to a creamy paste with a variety of techniques. This glue is then applied to the skin, staining the top layer of skin only. In its natural state, it will dye the skin an orange or brown color. Although it seems dark green (or dark brown depending upon the henna) when implemented, this green paste will flake off showing an orange stain. The stain becomes a reddish-brown color after 1-3 days of application. The palms and the soles of the feet blot the darkest since the epidermis is the thickest in these regions & comprise the most keratin. The further away from hands and feet, the henna is used, the lower the color. The face area usually places the lightest. The designs normally last from 1-4 weeks on skin surface based upon the henna, maintenance, and skin type.
It seems just as beautiful on dark skin as light skin but because some people skin can take the dye better than many others, it may look more prominent on one and much less on a different (even milder skin). But nevertheless, henna is a symbol of beauty, art, and happiness and is meant for EVERYONE!
Because henna acts as a sunblock, there’s an added advantage to getting henna designs in the summer. For those who like to get a tan, It leaves tan lines! In order to gain from this, it’s ideal to find a blossom design, let its natural color remain on for 3-5 days and then go and get a tan. This way you can enjoy the pure henna color in your body, the henna color together with the tan, and then tan lines from the contours of the design (once the henna fades off)! The tan lines continue so long as the actual tan!
Henna is known as an herb, also has long been known to have healing qualities. It’s used topically and usually not inhaled or ingested. In ancient times it has been applied to the skin for such ailments as headaches, stomach pains, burns (including sunburns), open wounds, as a fever reducer, athlete’s foot and even the avoidance of hair loss. It’s also a sunblock also has been utilized on the noses of animals to reduce sunburn. Another usage of henna would be to apply it to goatskin bags after they have been salt-cured. It “insect-proof” or “moth-proofs” the totes by making the skin poisoned or inedible.
The night is full of games, music and dance performances which may have been rehearsed for months before the event by those closest to the bride while the bride becomes extensive henna patterns done on her hands and feet that go to her elbows and sometimes, knees. The bridal designs can take hours and are often done by multiple henna artists. The guests will typically get modest layouts (tattoos) on the backs of the hands as well. Today, brides prefer to have their henna done ahead of this mehndi night so that they may enjoy the festivities and have a deeper stain on the wedding day.
Tradition holds that for so long as the henna stain appears on the bride, she does not need to do some housework! Additionally, the darker the stain that the better the marriage and the better the mother-in-law will be! So you can imagine why the bride would want the stain to come dark and continue as long as possible!