Henna is a plant, used in both the Middle East and India for thousands of years to create beautiful, temporary skin art. Have you ever had an ink or paint stain on your hands that seemed to take weeks to fade? Henna works by much the same principle. Applied to the surface of the skin, it stains down through the outer layer, leaving marks that can last for the better part of a month. Since skin is always growing, the henna will gradually fade and then wear off completely. This same ground plant powder will give you a brassy red tone when applied to your hair.
Fresh henna, sometimes called mehandi, is pretty strong and depending on your skin type and care regime, a design done with it can last four to six weeks for most people. Many stores sell a pre-made paste which often lasts more like a week or so due to uncertain age of the henna preparation. If you do skin-rubbing or skin-cleansing activities things like swimming, putting on lotions, or soaking in the bathtub, the color will fade away more quickly. When bathing, try to wash the stained skin as gently as possible so as not to encourage the skin to slough off more quickly.
Henna doesn't hurt. You´re not injecting anything into your skin. A vegetable dye is being painted on top of it. When people react badly to henna body painting, it is most often to an essential oil in the henna paste rather than to the henna itself. If you have any fragrance or essential oil sensitivities, please consult your henna artist as to the exact recipe used, or specifically mention what substances you are allergic to. The most common side effect from henna applications is a contact dermatitis, usually manifesting as a brief rash with itching. As this is a stain on and in the skin, there are no good methods for henna removal. If only applied for minutes or a few hours, washing the paste off leaves a paler stain, which is often gone in a few days. However if you've worn the paste on your skin it for many hours or overnight, you may have to wait for up to four weeks for the orange-brown stain to leave your skin. It takes this long for the skin layer containing the skin to grow out and be sloughed off completely.
Traditionally henna was applied to the hair, hands and feet, but modern henna body painting can be done fairly well on any non-bending area of the skin surface. At street fairs you will find artists painting armbands, swirls around belly buttons and tribal tattoo designs down people’s backs. And if you’ve always wanted to try a tattoo, but were afraid of the permanence of it, try your design in henna first. You can see how much you enjoy the artwork in that location for a few weeks before taking the next step.