Goal #54 partly done, and how to work with henna

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For Ninja’s ninja-themed party, I also found a way to sneak in part of a 101 goal: #54 – Apply henna 5 different times. This time, I painted the Japanese kanji for ‘ninja’ on my wrist:

That was just after applying the henna. And here’s what it looked like after it had dried:

While we’re on the subject, let me share a few tips I’ve picked up along the way for working with henna:

1. Always buy the quality, natural henna paste in foil cones stopped up with a pin. It should be a green-brown paste when it first comes out. I’ve tried the kind that comes in a plastic tube with a lid, and it just doesn’t suffice. Although it looks deep red and seems like the real deal, that tube version peels off unevenly and doesn’t last as long as the genuine stuff.

2. Remember that the strength of the colour and lines you’ll achieve comes from how much paste is in contact with your skin, not how many paste you squeeze out of the cone. Thick lines of paste piled on top of each other just waste the henna. Rather apply a thin line that has direct contact with your skin, and save some paste to reapply over the design later once the first layer has dried and been scraped off.

3. If you accidentally smudge or smear a bit of paste, you have a minute or two to correct it before it stains. Keep water, earbuds (Q-tips) and a pointed object such as a toothpick handy for minor corrections. Wipe away the mistake and carefully wipe the area with water. Dab it dry with a dry earbud and reapply the henna as desired.

4. Henna looks best when it turns out very red. There are a few ways of getting this effect. In the second pic in this post, you can see the henna a few hours after I’d applied it. In this case I didn’t have time to go over the design again once it had dried, which I usually prefer to do for a lasting design. Instead, I used my number one favourite trick with henna… Once the paste had dried properly, but before it started falling off, I covered the design with a mixture of lemon juice and icing sugar. Somehow those ingredients interact with the henna and produce a very beautiful, dark result. Once the icing mix has dried, you can either cover your design in clingwrap and keep it on overnight (it must be 100% dry, or you’ll smudge it in your sleep), or just scrape off the icing mix and the henna paste to reveal the design underneath. It may be light to start with, but with each hour it will darken.

5. Henna cones can be stored for a couple of months in the fridge, as long as you’ve replaced the needle in the top of the cone to prevent it from drying out. If you look at the first pic in this post you’ll see that the paste looks almost black; it was an old cone and I hadn’t had a chance to get a fresh one for months. Yet the result you see in the second pic isn’t bad, considering 🙂

6. If the henna is squirting out of the cone in liquid form instead of oozing out as a paste, stick it in the fridge for a while. If you’re applying an intricate design, you may need to fridge the cone (or swap cones) halfway through, because the heat from your hand can start to ‘melt’ the henna. It’s much easier to apply accurately as a paste than as a liquid.

7. I prefer freehand designs that I think up myself or vaguely copy from a picture. Freehand design is more expressive, in my opinion, and it’s not too hard to get right. Just use a steady hand to draw the tip of the cone along your skin, pressing down lightly. Of course, you can also experiment with mehndi stickers, stencils and patterns available at some eastern stores.

8. And as a final note that should probably come first, never, never, NEVER use ‘black henna‘ for your skin (or hair). So-called ‘black henna’ isn’t even henna; it’s usually a mix of other chemicals that can cause serious allergic reactions. Natural henna only stains red. And whenever you use a new product, always test a small patch of skin for a reaction to the paste. Remember also that some hairdyes can cause an allergic reaction if you’ve used henna before, so read all packaging carefully!

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Time for a reality check | Sunshine Scrapbook

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