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The artistic practice of Mehndi, also known as henna tattooing, has been used for many centuries. Traditionally, the art was used in rituals and marriage ceremonies, but since mehndi’s arrival in the west, it has provided a great temporary means of self-expression. Without the pain, or potentially regretful permanence, people are now able to explore this form of body art.

Designs can range from simplistic patterns, to richly detailed images. Colors of henna can vary greatly, from a light yellow to a dark black. A finished tattoo can last from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending upon the quality of the henna, and the way in which it was applied.

There are varying opinions on how to perform the process, but it is really fairly simple in nature. Results may vary from person to person due to the variance in skin tones and chemistries. Below is a more common process. If it does not produce the results you wish, try adjusting the amounts of lemon juice, or oil in the mixture. Try using a different type of juice such as lime. You want something that’s acidic so the henna will stain better.

Basic Mehndi Recipe:

- 1 tsp. henna powder
- 1 tsp. water
- Add a few drops of lemon juice (not too much or the mixture will be too thin)

Mix til well combined. Let mixture sit for 1-3 hours.

While mixture is sitting, wash area to be decorated with a good soap and water. Do not use an oily soap as this can coat the skin and prevent the color from setting properly. A good soap might be one with a mud base.

Once the area is cleaned, rub on a small amount of Eucalyptus oil. This helps the henna’s dye set into the skin. Some folks may even prefer to add a couple of drops into the mixture as well. Be careful not to use too much oil, or the design will run and may not set properly.

If using a stencil, now would be the time to apply it. If not, you will need to use an applicator for the henna. The simplest means of creating a cone applicator is by getting a square of a good quality plastic. You want to plastic strong enough to hold its cone shape, but soft enough to be manipulated with ease. Roll the square into a cone, trying to keep the small end as tight as possible. Secure with a small piece of tape. Place the mixture into the cone, and attempt to keep air pockets to a minimum. When ready to apply, snip off the tip just enough so the henna can flow out. Not too large of a hole should be cut, or large blobs may come out unexpectedly and ruin your design. Henna stains quickly, so take care.

Once your design is completed, let the area dry completely. Let the henna continue to sit at least one hour after it is applied. For darker, longer lasting effects, the design may be covered with a piece of plastic, and left on overnight. This usually produces the best results.

Henna can be a great means of self-expression, and can also be quite beautiful to look at. Experiment, and enjoy this ancient pain-free art.

NOTE: You will want to perform a patch test before you use henna if you have never used it before. Some people are very sensitive, if not allergic to this plant. To perform the test, place a small amount of the mix just inside your arm where it beds at your elbow. Leave on for 24 hours. If no reaction occurs, you are ready to go.