17 July 2009

How to darken Henna/Mehndi with natural body heat

Over the last 36 hours I've been experimenting with henna, specifically with how much it can darken on my skin.

Henna is dye from a natural plant substance used to decorate skin or dye hair. It's mostly used on the hands and feet, and in Middle Eastern or Indian traditions it is used for special occasions like Eid or most commonly Weddings. In other cultures it is used as a kind of body art or tattoo.

Depending on the quality of the henna and the type of skin it is used on, it dyes various shades of orange, brown, red or even burgundy. On my skin it dyes dark brown, looks almost like dried blood.
I used henna from a cone that I bought from an Indian store.

The cones look something like this. It definitely takes some getting used to since it can be awkward to hold steadily, especially when making intricate designs. I made some designs on my left hand and on both feet, and that almost gave me muscle cramps everywhere.

Henna must be used on clean, dry skin. Once the paste is applied it is best to leave to dry overnight so it wouldn't feel like you have to wait too long. It can be left on for 2 hours, but the best would be at least 6 hours. Some people prefer to wrap the the designs when they go to sleep but I didn't. It was of course impossible to sleep like a log, so I kept waking up and making sure that I don't make any sudden movements or else my bedsheets get henna-ed too.

The dried paste after leaving it on for 8 hours.

1100 hours: What it looks like immediately after scraping it all off.
Genuine Henna will always stain somewhat orange initially. I didn't use water to wash it with because Henna needs at least 24 hours to further darken, and water will stop that process from happening.

Some people apply lime juice, essential oils, or steam to help the henna darken but I relied only on my natural body heat. So I slipped on a glove and carried on with the day, only taking it off to take pictures.

At 1400, after 5 hours:
The first sign the henna's darkening. I was motivated to wear my glove even longer, lol.

At 1800, after 9 hours:
It darkened even further and it's starting to turn brown.

At 2200, after 11 hours:
I had to use the flash for this image because it was dark. And at this point the henna was almost red.

At 1300, this afternoon, after 34 hours:
I woke up, with a glove on my left hand (haha), but I was excited to take it off for the last time. This is the final outcome and the darkest that the henna could turn out on my skin. It sets into a very dark brown colour. Pretty :)

The henna designs on my feet turned out the same way:
Just before scraping it off.

6 hours after removing the henna. For my feet I kept a pair of ankle socks on.

34 hours after removal.

It has been a very interesting 36 hours, and it was well worth it.
Henna lasts between a couple of days to a few weeks. Since skin exfoliates, the colour will fade over time. The only way to remove henna is to remove your skin, but I don't think anyone wants to know that.



  1. nice designs u should do freelancing for bridal too!

  2. :D Didn't think I was that good for bridal. But you can call me when you naik pelamin? hehe.

  3. Ira, nice design..pls do it for me too..

  4. this is wayyy too cool ira! i totally love how dark the colour became. i don't think i'll try it though. i can't stand the feeling of the henna on my hands haha

  5. Hola, D! So good to hear from you, haha.
    Yep, I know what you mean.
    The irritating pinching and the itching.

    The good thing is that I managed to get henna from a totally random cone at Mustafa Centre and see it stain this much. Didn't believe that it could darken so I decided to try it myself. And it works! LOL.