- What is henna?
The henna plant is a shrub with small, dark green, scented leaves. The leaves are dried and ground down into a powder. After adding liquids to loosen the mix, it is piped or painted on to the body in elaborate patterns. Pure natural henna gives a chocolate brown or deep red stain on hands and feet – on other parts of the body the stain is the colour of tea.
- What kinds are there?
Pure henna: This is used by accredited henna artists. It contains only henna, lemon juice and essential oils or tea.
Black henna: The problem with black henna is not the henna dye itself but the chemical para-phenylene diamine (PPD) which is sometimes added to make the tattoo darker. PPD is black hair dye. It is also a carcinogen, and trans dermal toxin (it penetrates your skin and then travels through your bloodstream and can cause damage).
- How to tell the difference
Black henna does not have an odour, whereas pure henna will smell of the essential oils that have been added, such as menthol or lemon or tea tree. The artist using pure henna tends to have orange-stained fingers, proof of his work. Additionally, he will readily show you what is in his henna mix. When the henna design is being applied, black henna will actually dye the arm hairs black; pure henna will simply mark the skin. Most professional salons in Europe, Australia and the U.S. use pure henna, which rarely causes allergies. Black henna tends to be used by street traders. Both black and pure henna tattoos can take just a few minutes to several hours, depending on the size and design of tattoo. Pure henna should be left on for at least two hours and preferably overnight. When the paste flakes off, the stain should be orange which will darken to red-brown or dark brown. Black henna artists will tell you to leave the design on for no more than an hour.