Dying skin with henna leads to a variety of colours from orange through to very very dark brown (almost black) depending on the part of the body decorated. The colour result will depend on:

  • The user’s original skin colour (The lighter the skin, the more obvious the henna colour will be)
  • The freshness of the henna (Lawsone content may diminish over time, unless henna is stored correctly)
  • The country / region where the henna is grown (Like wine, henna takes characteristics from the environment it is grown in)
  • The amount of amount of time the henna is left in contact with the skin (the longer the henna is left on, the more saturated with dye the hair will become)
  • How warm the user is during the dying process (The warmer the skin of the person using the henna, the more saturated with dye the skin will become)
  • Medication may affect the skin and therefore may affect the henna stain

The top layer of skin which naturally sloughs off the body, is the part of the skin which is dyed with henna. Therefore, skin dyed with henna usually fades over a period of 1 to 3 weeks depending on the natural turnover of skin cells of the individual.

Henna paste can be applied with traditional and contemporary applicators. Cones made from rolled thin plastic, small bottles with fine tipped nibs (often called ‘Jaq bottles’) and syringes are all popular applicators.

Other techniques include ‘resist’ where patterns are created on the body with material that henna does not penetrate, and then henna applied over the whole design. The ‘resist’ keeps the colour of the users skin the same, whereas the areas not treated by the resist take on the henna colour.

Henna stains are bright orange soon after application, but darken over the following two days to a mahogany brown colour.

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