Everything you need to know about henna

How do I prepare for my Henna Lounge appointment?

  • Reserve your appointment by clicking the "book now" button for a private henna session in Oakland, California. Or email us for information on your destination wedding wedding in Mexico, Costa Rica and Hawaii.
  • Make sure that the area to be hennaed is freshly clean and free of any lotion or oil. Remember you won't be able to shower for 24 hours after application.
  • Manicures and waxing should be done in advance.
  • Spray tans can inhibit the henna stain and are not recommended.
  • Wear loose or comfortable clothing that doesn't cover the area to be hennaed.
  • For body pieces we can tape up your design with medical tape (Hypafix) if you wish to put your clothes back over it. For feet, flip flops, or bare feet are advisable.

How is henna applied?

  • Henna is applied to clean, dry skin. This can take anywhere from a few minutes for a simple design to 4 or 5+ hours for a heavy bridal mehndi.
  • Once dry, it will be sealed with a sugar solution, or taped with medical tape (for body pieces).
  • Let henna paste set for 8 hours, though overnight is traditional and guarantees the best color.
  • After 8 hours, the paste is gently removed by picking it off or removing the medical tape. NEVER WASH IT OFF!
  • You should avoid water for 24 hours after removing the paste for best color results. You should also avoid detergents, exfoliants, manual labor, weight-lifting, yoga, or swimming in chlorinated water, as these things will fade the henna faster.
  • Applying a natural vegetable or beeswax based oil/balm before bathing can help prolong the life of your henna design. You can do this several times a day to keep skin supple.
  • For best results, henna should be applied 2-3 days prior to your important event (such as wedding or photoshoot) so that the stain is at its peak on your special occasion.

Pro Tip - If you use sunscreen, use a physical barrier type of sunscreen (zinc or titanium dioxide) as chemical sunscreens accelerate henna fading. 

Clockwise henna stain progression

Clockwise henna stain progression

While henna on the palms of the hands can get extremely dark, as shown above, other body parts usually yield a fainter stain. Here is a typical example of the color you can expect on the belly. Face and chest stain extremely lightly, if at all. 

What is henna and where is henna from?

Henna is a plant, Lawsonia Inermis, thought to be indigenous to Egypt and in use for at least 5000 years. Useful both as a folk medicine and as a decorative cosmetic, the henna plant was eventually spread around the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf, finally reaching the Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia. The leaves of the plant contain a dye molecule, lawsone, which is responsible for coloring the skin. At Henna Lounge, we use an organically farmed henna from the Sojat region of Rajasthan. This henna has superior staining ability and a fine sift, which is essential for doing detailed work. 

Is henna safe?

Henna is safe for use on the skin and hair. Although it has been taken internally as a folk remedy for various stomach ailments, we do not recommend eating it! It tastes disgusting, and for those with the condition known as G6PD, it would be toxic (as would Fava Beans). Henna is also effective in treating athlete's foot and dandruff, due to its anti-fungal properties. Some people report henna to be soothing for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, though it should never be applied to broken skin. Henna has also been used to reduce some of the painful side effects of Xeloda (a cancer drug). 

Is henna safe for pregnant women? 

Pregnant belly henna in Tulum, Mexico

Pregnant belly henna in Tulum, Mexico

Natural Henna is widely recognized by the medical community to be safe for pregnant women and is even recommended as an alternative to chemical hair dyes during pregnancy. However, you should always be sure that henna is 100% natural and has no chemical additives whether you intend to use it on hair or body.  Henna is a beautiful way to celebrate pregnancy. Because of henna's cooling effects, it is traditionally used on the feet during pregnancy to reduce swelling especially in warm climates. The hennaing of the belly is a modern tradition, but we think it's just as beautiful and meaningful as doing the hands or feet. Henna has a way of being integrated into each culture that it visits and is used for ceremonial purposes across the globe.

How long does henna last?

Henna works by staining your dead skin cells. You have 7-10 layers of them on you. Right now. Even if you exfoliated this morning! Henna can last 1-4 weeks, but usually it looks fresh for about a week and fades after that, depending on how fast your skin is renewing itself.

How do I remove henna? 

Swimming in chlorinated water such as pool-water, soaking in a Jacuzzi, washing dishes, and doing housework or strenuous activity like rock-climbing or yoga can accelerate the fading process. Exposure to household detergents and bleaches will also fade it, but you should never apply these strong chemicals directly to the skin. Your best bet is to soak in a Jacuzzi and gently exfoliate your skin once or twice a day, using a loofah or other scrubbing cloth. Henna is permanent on the hair and nails until they grow out.

Does it show up on darker skin tones?

Henna stains all skin types, but the hands and feet stain best (where the skin is most calloused) and the stain is fainter on other body parts, or almost invisible on the face or neck. On darker skin tones it is always recommended to henna the hands/feet for optimal visibility as other body parts such as the back or chest may not have enough contrast. Hands and feet are traditional for a reason!

Natural henna is an option!

Natural henna is an option!

What about henna for chemotherapy patients?

Henna is a wonderful way to "dare to go bare" during your chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Maybe you don't want to wear an itchy wig, or swelter under a wooly hat in the middle of summer. Or maybe you'djust like to express yourself with beautiful artwork for everyone to see.

Henna is natural, safe, and promotes positive conversations and interactions during a challenging time. Henna Lounge was one of the first to offer "Henna Crowns", and was the inspiration for the internet sensation  Henna Heals.

What is Black henna?

Technically, "black henna" is a misnomer. Sometimes, the herb Indigo will be labeled as black henna, because of it's ability to maintain black hair (Indigo actually yields a blue dye, the same dye that colors your jeans). Indigo doesn't stain the skin more than a day or two.

Another plant, Genipa Americana, also known as jagua or huito is gaining popularity. It is a traditional fruit-based dye from South and Central America, which leaves a blueish stain on the skin that lasts 7-10 days. Due to its high cost, it is currently available mainly in the USA, Canada, and Europe. Like fresh henna, it needs to be kept frozen to avoid spoiling. Beware of fake jagua! If it seems like a good price, it's most likely fake. Real jagua is very costly.

But most often Black Henna is made of Coal Tar Dyes known as Paraphenyladiamine, or PPD for short. Recently it's referred to as "Para" or "kali mehndi". By any name, PPD is not safe for skin or internal organs, and is banned by the FDA for use on skin. It can cause blisters, liver damage, fetal damage, and is known to be carcinogenic. Say no to "black henna", which is often found in tourist destinations like Mexico, Venice Beach, and even in India, Thailand, and Africa.

Adding to the confusion, it is possible to get a nearly black stain on the palms from natural henna, when cared for properly. However, with a natural stain, the color starts out orange and darkens over 24-48 hours. Natural henna also needs to be left on for several hours to overnight. With "black henna", a jet black stain is achieved in just 20 minutes.