It’s summer time! Yaay 😀 This means it is time to give our hands and feet a little attention: time for henna tattoos!
Henna Tattoos are becoming super trendy lately and I totally understand why. They are just too pretty! 😀
Whether you just want to do a test round for a real tattoo or want to have one of those pretty designs you see in many Indian movies. Getting it done by a professional can often cost a lot, so why not make it yourself?
Let’s first take a look at what a henna tattoo actually is.
What is a henna tattoo ?
It isn’t a real tattoo! A henna tattoo is a temporary dye of your skin. This is done by applying a paste on the skin in the shape you like. The paste is made of water and dried henna leafs, which have the feature to dye hair, nails, skin or even fabric into a reddish-brown color. This is why it is called Henna Tattoo.
The original and more traditional name for it is Mehndi or Mehendi. It is mostly called this way in African and Asian cultures where women get bridal Mehndi done on their hands and feet for their wedding or generally for festive occasions. The designs are very intricate and full of swirls, loops, flowers and peacocks.
I have started doing Mehndi about 7 years ago and ran pretty much into every possible problem one might have with it 😀
I smudged it quite often, sometimes it didn’t stain well or fade really quickly. By now I know how to prevent most of those little “accidents”.
This is why I chose to make this DIY article very detailed. Don’t be scared off by the lengths though, Mehndi’s aren’t actually that complicated 😉 I want to give you all the information you need to get a great Mehndi that lasts long and stains well!
First of all, a few FAQs
How long does the Mehndi last?
1 week on hands, 2 weeks on arms, 3-4 weeks on feet and legs
Which color is possible?
Natural Henna will always be a orange/red/brown color, sometimes lighter, sometimes as dark as dark red-brown going into black.
The palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet stain the darkest (sometimes dark red-brown-blackish), second darkest will be fingers, knuckles, toes. Then the top of the feet and hands. Arms, legs and the rest of the body stain the least and are often only a light to medium dark red/brown.
How long does it take to apply?
This depends on how much practice you have. When I get a Mehndi done in India by a professional who draws frequently, it can take as little as 20-30 minutes for a simple design on both hands, top and bottom! That’s really fast!
I am much slower, because I don’t practice that often, maybe 6-10 Mehndis a year only. So it would take me at least double the time for the same design. Bridal design often take 2-3 hours.
Where can I buy henna?
Either you order it online or you check out an asian store close to you. The most expensive I have seen so far was 2-3 $ per cone. Ideally you should look for 1.5 $ per cone. I buy in bulk to get a discount and get a pack of 12 for 12 Euros (ca. 14 $). In India you get a cone for 10-20 rupees (15-30 cents). So if you know somebody taking a trip to India, maybe kindly ask him/her to get some henna cones for you 😉
Always get natural henna. No fancy colors, deep red, black, quick staining ability and whatever else they write on the package. Those are not natural and often contain chemicals that can cause really bad allergic reactions or even chemical burns!
I have never seen natural henna cause any reaction. But if you have sensitive skin or know you react to eucalyptus or clove oil, which is often in the paste, you might want to apply a little bit below the foot, cover it up with duct tape and see if you react within the next 24-48 hours, same way it is with hair dyes.
How to get a long lasting and deep color stain
Henna loves heat and humidity! This is what it thrives on. The hotter it is and the more moisture it gets, the longer it keeps staining the skin and the richer and darker the stain will be.
What does this mean for you?
If you happen to be one of those people with constant ice cold hands and feet, especially when you stop moving them for a few hours, you’ll need some support.
Apply the henna over a heater, a hot-water bottle or anything to keep the area warm.
Also keep it moisturized! As soon as the paste has dried at some place, apply a little lemon-sugar juice to keep it moist. If you naturally have very sweaty palms, you’ll automatically get a much deeper stain, lucky you! 😉
- Henna cone (Natural Henna)
- Cotton swabs
- 1 lemon
- White eyeliner (optional)
- Hot-water bottle (optional)
- Duct tape + plastic foil (optional)
- Warm socks (optional)
- Plan your day(s) ahead. Peelings, massages and the like should be avoided 2 days before. Shower, do the dishes or do anything related to water already before you start the application on that day. The Mehndi should ideally not get in contact with water for 24h after the paste comes off.
- Think about whether you want to let your Mehndi sit overnight. If so, then start the application 1-2 hours before going to bed. If you apply the design in the daytime, make sure not to move a lot for at least 4 hours afterwards, depending on where you apply the design. If you move too much, the dried and then brittle paste will fall off easily and not stain as deeply.
- Prepare and keep all the items required handy. Already mix the lemon sugar mixture and fill your hot-water bottle, if you chose to use one, which I highly recommend! Once you started the design, there’s a high chance of accidentally smudging it while walking across the hall to get some extra tissues 😉 Lemon Sugar Mix: mix equal amounts of sugar and lemon juice in a small cup (I use egg cups) and stir until the sugar dissolves. If your sugar doesn’t dissolve, it often helps to cook the mixture for a short amount of time or put it in a microwave for a few seconds.
- Plan on where you want to begin to apply the design. Think about where you might want to lean your hand on for steadiness. An example for this would be the problem many lefties face while writing, trying not to smudge the ink, writing from left to right and their hand gliding over what just has been written. Instead, in the case of applying the henna paste, start at the other side and work your way towards yourself, if you get what I mean.
- If you want to make sure something is symmetrical or has a certain shape, you can first draw a very thin line with a white eyeliner and follow that line afterwards with the cone. Generally always think about what to do next first, then apply. Once it is on the skin, you only have ca. half a minute to change your mind, because the paste stains very quickly.
- Finally start applying the paste! 🙂 Keep in mind not to move a lot and keep joints like the ankles or wrists in the position that they are going to stay in after application. (Once I applied henna paste on my hand + wrist and had my hand slightly bent upwards. After I was done I straightened it and all the lines cracked open on the wrist :/ )
- After the paste has dried a little bit, you can dip a cotton swab in the lemon sugar mixture and gently tab it all over. Make sure not to take too much at once as this might cause smudging. The paste should be dry enough, so that it doesn’t smudge when you slightly press on it.
In the end you should have applied the lemon-sugar mix at least once everywhere, maybe even 2 times.
In this picture you can see how the paste will look like when it has dried. It becomes dark and develops small cracks. At that point you can apply lemon-sugar juice.
- Now you have 2 options what to do next.
1. Leave it as it is for 4 hours.
2. Wrap the area up with tissues and secure it with duct tape. Then wrap it up with plastic foil and secure with duct tape again. Leave on for 4 hours or overnight, as this is enough protection for movement while sleeping.
This method will create the deepest stain. The plastic foil will make you sweat beneath it and keep the paste moist and warm. The tissues are necessary to soak up sweat so that the paste won’t become too moist and smudge.
- In the end, with either of the above mentioned methods, don’t wash the paste off! You don’t want water to come in contact with it. Simply rub it off with your hands. It’ll mostly stick to your skin quite a lot. Don’t bother and just leave on whatever doesn’t come off. It’ll come off eventually. To intensify the stains development, apply tea tree oil mixed with a carrier oil or vicks vapo rub and wear thick socks throughout the next day.
This photo shows how it looks like right after removing the dried paste. The stain will start out light orange and turn into brown-red / dark brown-blackish within the next 24-48 hours. So don’t be disappointed to see a very light orange stain after removing the paste. It’ll develop and become darker! 🙂
This photo was taken 1 day later. The stain is medium to dark now. It can certainly become darker, especially on the feet and hands, if wrapped in plastic foil overnight. For this one I haven’t done any wrapping and left it on for only 3 hours.
Taking Care of Your Mehndi
- Don’t let the Mehndi get in contact with water for the next 24h. If this isn’t at all possible, say you might need to wash your hair or shower for an event, then you can apply a thick layer of oil on the Mehndi to create a barrier. Or wash your hair over the bathtub and use the other hand to wash. Just get creative 😉
- Moisturize it, but not too often.Keeping the skin moisturized will make it look fresh. Once a day with some olive oil or jojoba oil will be sufficient. If you moisturize it several times a day, it might fade more quickly, because you enhance your skin to shed dead skin cells (the ones which have just been stained with henna) with constant massaging.
- Try not to wash the area too often. Obviously it will fade more quickly on the hands. You can try to only wash the palm of your hand and not let too much water come on the top of your hand, if that’s where you Mehndi is.
Practice, practice, practice!
It takes time to get used to holding the cones and draw clear lines.
I recommend taking a drawing book and instead of coloring the design, try to follow the lines neatly.
If you want to practice on skin, maybe start out with the legs or arms as they don’t stain as deeply.