Mehndi Henna tattoos
Beautiful and exotic, mehndi, more commonly known as henna, is the use of crushed henna plants to draw designs onto the body in intricate patterns that last two to three weeks but have been applied for centuries and promise the eternal. Henna is a great way to look outside western boundaries and add exotic flavour to your style.
Mehndi (also spelled ‘mehendhi’ or ‘mehndhi’ or ‘mehandi’), or henna ‘tattoos’, have a wealth of cultural meaning behind them. Traditionally popular in South Asia and the Middle East, the art of henna – or mehndi – was brought to mainstream awareness in the West in the 1990s and made popular by celebrities – more specifically by the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna, in various MTV appearances and her ad campaign for Ebel swiss watches.
Henna has traditionally been associated with love, romance, and eroticism. It dates back as far as the 4th and 5th centuries, where henna designs can be seen on women in ancient paintings (Bodhisattvas and deities of cave wall murals at Ajanta, and in similar cave paintings in Sri Lanka). It is traditionally worn on special occasions, particularly on brides. In South Asia and the Middle East, henna tattoos are done on the palms of the hands and on the feet. However it can also be used to paint designs on all parts of the body.
What can you expect when getting a henna tattoo?
Well, first of all it isn’t strictly speaking a ‘tattoo.’ Henna fades within about 2 – 3 weeks, depending on the henna. You don’t need to be over a particular age to get a henna tattoo.
You begin by picking the design and placement of your tattoo. Your price will fluctuate depending on the intricacy of the design, so be sure to know your price range before hand! A simple design will range anywhere from £6 to £8. A traditional tattoo might cost you upwards of £16 to £27. Extremely intricate bridal designs can range from £55 – £110.
When you’re all set with what you want, the henna will be applied through a small tube and drawn on. After the design is finished, there is a short waiting period to allow the henna to dry. The design will harden and crust. The henna will flake off, usually within an hour, and leave a deep red design on your hand.
What kind of mehndi designs are there?
Traditional Indian and Pakistani designs tend to be very intricate, with dense design and detail. These designs are most often abstract, involving paisley shapes, lines and dots. In non-Muslim wedding designs you might spot pictures of fish, peacocks, and people.
Traditional Middle Eastern mehndi art is lighter, less complicated and more abstract than its Indian counterpart with graceful floral and vine-related designs.
Northern African designs are usually equally simple and often focus on geometric shapes and designs with abstract symbols.
Non-traditional design is often a mix of all of the above with other elements thrown in (ohms, pentagrams, ankhs, astorological signs, runes…) and depends more on the taste and interests of the individual.
Protecting and maintaining your henna tattoo
It’s recommended to try to cover the design on the first day you get it done to help make it last longer – cling film works well to protect your henna tattoo on the first day, especially on the hands and feet. Rubbing Vaseline on the design and then wrapping it up also helps. Also, avoid washing the area if possible. For a glamorous and uncommon twist you can add glitter and crystals to your design.
I want a henna tattoo as black as my heart…
Henna can range in hue depending on the plant, but the usual colouring is a dark red, ochre or earth tone.
Although you might be told otherwise, there is no such thing as ‘black’ henna. Before getting any sort of henna that claims to be black, make sure to check that it doesn’t have the chemical PPD in it. Although commonly used in hair dyes, PPD is dangerous and can cause blistering on the skin.
Applying your own henna tattoo
Henna is available online through kits if you’re a DIY kinda gal.