Henna or mehndi is the practice of using paste made with the powder of the henna (Lawsonia inermis) plant along with other additives to dye the skin or hair. It’s been practiced for 1000’s of years in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Africa. For a more in-depth history check out this article from Silk & Stone.
I started playing with henna when I was in middle school. I don’t have any tattoos and have never really wanted one, but every so often for years now I draw semi-permanent designs with henna on my arms and legs. I recently made a new batch of the sticky green henna paste and wanted to share the process on Zounds! In this mini-series I’ll go over the basic recipe, how to apply the henna paste to skin and then lastly design ideas! Today let’s tackle how to make your own homemade henna paste.
The process of making the paste is very simple, what you really need to worry about is the quality of your ingredients. For the henna paste to effectively dye your skin the Lawsone content of your powered henna must be high, which means it needs to be as fresh as possible. Never buy the dinky little kits at craft stores, you never know how long it has sat on the shelf, and the stain you will get will be light and fast fading. It’s also worth noting that on your search for decent henna powder, there is no such thing as black or colored henna. Most likely those products are just body paint, or some other chemical.
For my paste I purchased Organic Rajasthani Henna Powder from Beach Combers Bazaar. I found it to be of good quality, for the very reasonable price of $7.99 for 100 grams, and it shipped quickly. To give you an idea, I used about 1/4 of the powder and made designs that would have covered at least 2 square feet of space.
The other factor in the quality of your stain is the essential oils. I have written extensively before on where to purchase quality essential oils. My favorite source is Mountain Rose Herbs. There are many different oils people use in making henna paste, and it is a matter of preference really which you want to include. Read this article from The Henna Page about essential oils to decide which ones you would like to add to your recipe. I used Tea Tree, Cajeput, and Ravensara.
I adapted my recipe from Henna Caravan’s. Watch the video below or scroll down for the recipe in picture form!
1/4 cup fresh henna powder
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (STRAINED)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. of each Tea Tree, Cajeput, and Ravensara oil
Other supplies that you will need are measuring cups, a glass bowl, a spoon, and some plastic wrap. Mix the henna powder with the lemon juice. Strain your lemon juice otherwise the plant fibers will create small lumps in mixture and make it harder to apply. Then add the sugar. Finally mix in your essential oils. Stir until the mixture smooths out, you want there to be no lumps whatsoever.
Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic right up against the paste to eliminate air bubbles.
Let the henna paste sit for at least 24 hours in a warm place, to facilitate dye release. Tomorrow in part 2 I will go over the application process! Have you ever tried using henna paste, would you want to? Let me know in the comments!