I get asked this a lot. Like, A LOT.
What is Henna, anyways?
Henna is a plant. It is grown all over the world, mostly in dry, arid countries such as Pakistan.
They take this plant, dry it, and grind it into a fine powder. They sell this powder as henna powder. Henna artists like myself then purchase the powder and mix it with other ingredients to make henna paste (I like to use lemon juice, lavender essential oil, and sugar). This paste is then applied topically to the skin, where it dyes the the uppermost layer of the skin (the epidermis). The paste will dry, and anywhere from 4-12 hours later, the paste is flaked/peeled off to reveal the dyed skin underneath. Now you have a henna tattoo!
Henna is originally from India, and was considered holy in ancient India. In ancient India, they were afraid of the 'Evil Eye', whose gaze caused bad things to happen. The Evil Eye especially loves events like births and marriages. Henna, because it is holy, was said to hide you from the Evil Eye's gaze. For this reason, women get henna on their hands (called mehndi) before weddings, and some women practice a Henna Belly Blessing.
Henna Tattoo guidelines
-It is best to leave the henna on as long as possible. Sometimes this may mean keeping it damp so it doesn't flake off early, or plastic wrapping your tattoo so it can set overnight. (Be careful- if it's too damp, the tattoo will run. Likewise if you sweat at night, the tattoo may run as well).
-If you have a cut and the henna is allowed into the dermis layer of your skin, you will have a PERMANENT tattoo. The epidermis is constantly shedding skin cells, which is why your henna tattoo is only temporary and will be gone sooner if you exfoliate. The dermis is never replaced, which is why the tattoo will be permanent if allowed to reach it.
-Because henna stains the epidermis, tattoos are darkest where the epidermis is thickest. This typically means that stains are darkest on the extremities (fingers and toes) and lightest in the middle of the body.
-First and foremost, henna is a dye. If you give it to your children, be sure they won't accidentally brush their tattoo on the drapes or couch before it is dry.