Some of you may be new to the henna game and aren't really sure what henna even is! I am here to tell you all about safe henna, the dangers of 'fake' henna tattoos, and how you can easily tell the difference.
What is a henna tattoo?
Let's set one thing straight, a henna tattoo and henna are two different things. A henna tattoo is actually a stain on the skin that lasts for a few weeks, that stain is made by henna. Henna is a type of plant, which naturally dyes the hair and skin a deep orange brown color.
Let's break this down:
Henna is a plant. The leaves are ground into a fine powder so that it can be easily mixed with a carrier. This mixture allows it to become a paste that can be laid on top of the skin. Once that paste has dried and cracked off, it leaves a stain on the skin. That stain is what a lot of people call a Henna Tattoo. So since the henna plant itself is all natural, it's completely safe for the skin. What you have to watch out for is the carrier that people mix with the henna!
The 'black henna' trend - NOT SAFE!
Many people mix a hair dye called PPD into their henna mixture to create what they call "black henna". I want you to know that this 'black henna' is not safe, it is very harmful. PPD can cause incredible allergic reactions, so far as to cause ER visits from already asthmatic patients. What is even sneakier about this chemical, is that overtime you can develop an allergic reaction to it. So even if you use this 'black henna' once and see no reaction, it is a safe practice to simply never use this mixture again. Black henna is not real henna, as it is mostly gels, the PPD chemical dye, and very little actual henna powder.
The reactions people have seen from this mixture are horrific, and can cause PERMANENT scaring or blisters. Imagine permanent henna tattoo pattern on your hand, that you wanted just for a few weeks. I met a lady who had gotten a butterfly on her hip as a kid on vacation... she's now 34 and still has that tattoo pattern as a scar.
In the small middle photo here, you can see that the adult got the same 'black henna' tattoo as the child. In the left photo, they have had the tattoos for a while, as mom's is now gone, and the girls has developed open sores. At this point it is typically itchy, but if you itch it you will certainly scar. The second large photo looks like the beginning of the blistering, so taken somewhere after the middle photo and before the left photo.
A great way to spot this unsafe 'black henna' is to look at the cone or tool the artist is using to apply the material. If the cone looks like these below (a prepackaged, shiny cone that looks to be sold in bulk) then it is %100 unsafe.
Another great way to test is by smelling the mixture. Smells like chemicals? It is chemicals. Natural henna always smells delicious, and often time like the essential oil that goes into an all natural mixture.
And lastly, if the cone is not kept in a freezer or freezer bag when not in use, then the mixture has a preservative or other chemicals in it to keep it from going bad. As henna is a plant, it is only natural that it goes bad overtime. When a safe and natural henna cone is not in use, we keep it in our freezer so that it delays the process in which it goes bad. You can only keep an all natural henna cone out of the freezer for less that 20 hours before it will no longer produce a dark stain.
All Natural henna - COMPLETELY SAFE!
When a dedicated and professional artist makes their own henna, we use only all natural ingredients to get the darkest stain possible, without compromising anyones health. Every artist has their own mix they prefer, all largely similar.
My mix includes:
THAT'S IT! And most henna artists, including myself, sell their henna mixture in ready to go cones for those that want to learn, practice, or just enjoy making henna tattoos themselves. You can find my cones here for purchase if you'd like to try for yourself!
Natural henna will go on like a soothing paste, and leave your skin with a cooling maybe tingling feeling while it dries. After it has dried it crusts and falls off the skin, leaving behind a beautiful pumpkin orange color. That orange will slowly turn into a deep dark brown over the next two days and will last up to 2 weeks, depending on placement.
So if you are ever wondering if your henna artist is using safe henna for their tattoos, just ask them! Most artists are proud to use all natural henna and will have immediate respect for you in knowing you practice safe henna (;
If you're looking to learn all about the jagua fruit, and how it can be used as body art, you are in the right place! This post will give you information about jagua's history, how its used today, and what ways it has been used traditionally.
What is Jagua?
Traditional Jagua Uses
Jagua is used for many medicinal purposes as well as the body adornment of many indigenous tribes in the Americas. Most societies use jagua on top of the skin for a temporary marking, however, the Matses Indians and a few other tribes of Peru also insert the fruit under the skin to create a permanent marking.
Particularly, there is the Kayapo people who use jagua mixed with charcoal to create full body suites of temporary tattoos. In the picture below see how the little one has a very dark color. This is freshly applied jagua and charcoal mixed. The others have various progression of stains, these are solely jagua stain at this point, with the charcoal washed off.
Jagua Gel - Temporary Tattoo
Today jagua gel has been used across other cultures as well. We tend to use jagua with the same stylings as a henna tattoo, however, it has so many more style uses. Jagua gel is great for shading and drawing very fine lines, since it's so potent and stains so darkly with the littlest of product. With this and the jagua coming out similar to a permanent tattoo color, it is great for tattoo testing.
Do be careful when seeking out jagua gel as a temporary tattoo. A very common product called "Black Henna" tries to mimic the jagua stain. This black henna isn't really henna at all, and is mostly made of PPD and other dyes to create the dark, long lasting stain. These dyes can also cause blisters and permanent scaring, even trouble with the respiratory system.
For the jagua fruit however, it's safe for everyone without a fruit allergy. Since jagua is a fruit, if you do have an allergy to fruits (particularly berries or citrus), the skin will show some itchy red bumps along the design after day 3 or 4.
For most people, Jagua is the perfect remedy for wanting a real tattoo, but is unable decide what to get. Or maybe you wish to avoid the pain, or just want some cool body art! Whatever the case, jagua is definitely a fan favorite. And since the product I use comes from the Kayapo and harvested by them, your purchase benefits the tribe and their ability to continue their way of life into the modern age. They also have a site for their beaded bracelets and necklaces that are insanely cost friendly at Kayapo Art
If you've never heard of henna tattoos, or are new to the wonderful henna plant, this is the place to be! Here we will touch on the history of henna, henna tattoos, when and how it is used in modern day, and a basic understanding of how henna works.
Henna has first been recorded as dye for the hair and cloth. People as far back as Egyptian (17th Dynasty, 1574 BCE) died their hair, eyebrows, and beards with henna for a bright red look. The prophet Mohammad is said to have had his beard dyed red with henna and put black kohl under his eyes. Along with this, the henna helps produce a rich red for fabrics and clothing. The popularity of henna is still on the rise with characters like Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy who referred to her red hair as a "henna rinse". Still now, even commercial dyeing companies use henna for their reds or red undertones for hairs and fabrics.
Henna Tattoos Today
Henna today has continued with tradition and has transformed. Today henna can be applied simply as a fashion statement or fun vacation memory to take back home with you. People even test out permanent tattoos by first getting a henna tattoo to see if they like the placement and idea for their tattoo. In addition to these more modern uses for the henna plant, there are many that keep the more original traditions alive. During weddings for many cultures, the bride, her mother, and the bridal party are adorned with henna tattoos This shows that traditional celebration, and also allows for creativity in what people might depict in their wedding henna. Even some grooms and men at the wedding receive a henna tattoo also!
In my opinion, the beautiful art of henna is for anyone and everyone to enjoy. Children, women, men, and all the rest. The great thing about henna is how safe for the skin it is, and makes it so accessible for anyone!
Because of these ingredients, we also have to keep henna tattoo paste refrigerated or frozen to keep it from going bad. Do watch out for any henna cones that are kept on a store shelf. Even if the label says all natural, there is at least a natural preservative included or worse; a dye called PPD. Preservatives and PPD can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage to human skin, especially for those with sensitive skin. A great way to tell if your henna paste is good and natural is to smell it! If it smells faintly of chemicals, thats not an organic paste. If the henna smells over the top strongly of an essential oil, it might be natural henna that has gone bad by being in the heat or sun. A good smell for henna is a simple and pleasant smell of essential oil and some leafy or earthy smells mixed together. Very light on the nose and just smells good!
I hope you can now understand some of the magical properties of henna. Henna has brought me and many I know a great amount of healing and good into our lives. I am blessed to share this art and culture with you! If you're looking for more information about henna, come back soon. Posts on henna, jagua, graphic design, social media management, and tricks to running a business will be in the near future!
I am first + foremost, a creative. I love to take an idea and create it into something tangible. To build + organize a design, an idea, or a goal + see it actually materialize by my hands is something hard to describe. I will always cherish + cultivate my ability to do this. Here is a little about what I have learned + maybe peeks at my artistic life journey so far.