Why henna?

Why don’t you do real tattoos?

That’s a question I get fairly often, and my standard response is, “I’m scared of needles.”

And that is true.  Poking people with needles is incomprehensibly terrifying.  But the other truth is, I love henna.

The first thing I love about henna is that it is made from a plant.  Henna powder is simply ground up henna leaves and it is up to me to transform that powder into a powerful staining paste.  I mix in lemon juice and let the paste sit overnight to allow the dye to begin its release.  The next day I add in molasses (to help the paste stick to the skin and also for a silky smooth texture) and essential oils. Lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils all have monoterpenes which help make the dye easier for human skin to absorb.  And the other essential oils I add such as geranium, vetiver, and ylang-ylang have aromatherapy benefits.  As I mix the paste, strain it, and pack it into cones, I feel like an alchemist, creating something that will not only stain the skin a beautiful color, but also improve your mood just by smelling the fragrance.

Next, I love to draw.  And more specifically, I love drawing the kinds of designs you can draw with henna.  I love lines, and henna is all about lines.  I also love the challenge of drawing on people where the surface is always a bit different — I love making designs work with the contours of human arms, hands, shoulders… each design is new and fresh because each canvas is unique and wonderful.

And third, I love how henna has a process, a lifespan.  The paste is only the first step.  After that flakes off, the bright orange stain is left behind — and that mixes with the body chemistry and oxidizes with the air to create a highly personal color.  The color that I get with henna may not be the same color that you get — even if I use the same batch.

I love how henna deepens in color, then gradually fades and all the shades in between.

henna, persian design, orange
Henna is bright orange at first
persian henna design, temporary henna tattoo, brown
The next day, the design has deepened in color

It’s magic.

OK.  There are concrete scientfic reasons why henna works.  But I embrace them as magic.

Henna is beautiful.  It lifts your mood (both with fragrance and design) and it lasts long enough to appreciate it, but doesn’t outstay its welcome.

No needles required.

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2 Responses to Why henna?

  1. Amit says:

    A few notes:I now recommend using capjeut essential oil. It’s waaaaay better. You can get it at ArtisticAdornment.Yup, henna looks like baby poo or mud. But wouldn’t any ground up powdered plant leaves mixed with liquid? We’re basically just making very purposeful, specialized, fancy mud here.Nope, there’s no sugar in my henna. It’s humid as all heck in New England and it makes it take waaaay too long to dry if you mix sugar in there (which makes it suck up moisture from the air).

    • admin says:

      Cajeput is a fine essential oil that also contains monoterpene alcohols that help make the henna molecule more available to dye the skin. Tea tree oil and niaouli are also in the same family. I just happen to like the lavender/eucalyptus combo and it works for me. The weather is a huge factor in my mix. San Diego has low humidity and never really gets hot, so my mix has a high percentage of sugars and essential oils. When I lived in Texas, the weather was hot and humid, perfect for henna so I just used water in my mix and didn’t have to coax the henna at all.

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