What is a Henna Tattoo? Everything You Need to know…

what is a henna tattoo
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Have you seen the beautiful and intricate designs that cascade over the hands and arms of women at an Indian wedding? Wondered how they were made and what is a Henna Tattoo? We are about to open up the world of this beautiful art form to you.

Henna tattoos have been created since ancient times. Today, henna tattoos are often associated with festivals and celebrations. They are created from a paste made from a plant-based ink that stains the skin. Henna tattoo designs are painless, non-permanent but can last for 2 or 3 weeks on the skin.


Henna Designs are a great way to get a decorative look without the commitment or pain of a permanent tattoo. They are also inexpensive and you can even learn to create them yourself.

Read on to find out more about this beautiful art form and how you can experience it safely.

What are Henna Tattoos?

Henna tattoo is a traditional eastern art form that creates temporary decorative red stain patterns on the skin by using Henna paste. The paste is made from ground henna leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis plant and will stain the skin when it dries. It’s temporary and will last for several weeks.

This staining power makes it useful for various things, including dyeing the hair or decorating surfaces. It can even be used to colour eyebrow hair.

To make decorations on the skin, the powder from the henna plant is mixed with either water, lemon juice, olive oil or a variety of tea depending on the tradition of the practitioner.

Essential oils such as Nilgiri and Clove may also be added which can help the stain develop and also smell nice.

The paste is then applied to the skin using fingers, hands, brushes or other tools.

Portraits of the bride and groom in Bridal Mehndi

This process is called ‘Mehndi’ {Mehendi, Mehandi or Mylanchi} in Hindi. It is very popular in Indian Culture and across Eastern cultures. It goes by many different names, depending on the location.

Often the paste is piped out of a little rolled-up plastic cone. By snipping off the end to create a fine point, the artist can make tiny thin lines of paste and thereby create intricate and delicate lace-like designs.

The recipient then has to sit carefully still for about two hours until the paste has dried to avoid smudging the design. After the dried paste is brushed off, the design will be revealed stained into the skin.

The colour continues to develop over a day or so until it is dark brown.

Such designs are very popular as decoration at Indian weddings. The paste may be applied to the palms of the hands and fingers before the wedding day to create an elegant and beautiful look.

A skilled artist can create amazing and complex designs which take hours to complete.

However, you can also easily experiment with Henna yourself to create your own works of art.

It’s important to note that a Henna Tattoo isn’t really classed as a tattoo. It’s temporary and will fade away unlike a normal permanent Tattoo. It’s purely decorative.

Temporary Henna Tattoos are a great way to experiment with body art without the commitment or pain. Henna also gives you a lot more creative freedom than normal temporary tattoos which are pre-printed.

It’s a beautiful and accessible art form that can be easily done at home.

However, you do have to be aware of some safety issues though which we will also cover in this post.

If you are wondering, is Henna a religious thing? Can I do it without offending someone or going against my own religion, you can find answers in this post below.

Are Henna Tattoos Permanent?

Henna Tattoos are not permanent. They typically last around 2 weeks or so. Skin areas that often come into contact with soap and water, such as hands will fade quicker. You can make it last longer by exfoliating before you receive the Henna. There are also ways to remove it if you don’t like it.

Are Henna Tattoos Painful?

Henna tattoos are not painful. They do not break the skin or make use of any sharp instruments. They are just made from paste lying on the skin. There is no damage to skin from good quality brown henna paste which is a gentle natural substance. You need to avoid black henna which can cause damage.

The only time that there could be pain is from dangerous black henna. This contains additives that can burn the skin and cause damage and scarring. You need to make sure you avoid this type of henna at all costs.

We will cover Henna safety further on.

How long do Henna Tattoos Last?

Henna Tattoos usually last around 2 to 3 weeks before fading away. Designs on places that you wash often will fade more quickly. For this reason, designs on your hands may fade quicker than a design on your leg or back. Exfoliating the area before application can make the tattoo last longer.

Can Henna Tattoos get wet?

It’s OK for Henna Tattoos to get wet once finished. The design is stained into your skin and will not wash off in the shower. However, the more you wash or scrub the tattoo area the quicker the henna Tattoo Design will fade.

Traditions of Henna as Body Decoration

Henna has been used for thousands of years as a natural dye. It’s an ancient tradition. The ancient Egyptians used it to color their hair and nails. Roman women also used it to decorate themselves and their homes.

It has been historically used throughout West Asia (including the Arabian Peninsular) and in Carthage, North Africa; West Africa; Central Africa; the Horn of Africa and India.

It’s used both for staining the skin and dyeing hair. It was mostly used by women and represented youth and fertility.

Excavations of the amazingly detailed frescoes at Akrotiri on Santorini, Greece (dated from around 1680 BCE), seem to show women with reddish marks on their hands and palms which looked remarkably similar to Henna.

It’s clear that the knowledge and use of this substance were widespread across the ancient world.

The fact that there are so many different words and traditions for Henna imply that it had more than one point of origin.

It’s beautiful that such an ancient art form is still popular and contemporary today.

How Do You Get a Henna Tattoo?

Now you understand more about Henna you may be wanting to give it a try.

There are two ways to do this. Either go to a professional Artist or try it out yourself at home.

Depending on where you live in the world you may be able to find a Mehndi artist near you. You are more likely to be able to find a specialist if you live in a multicultural area or city. A quick internet search should help you locate an artist.

If you can’t find a local artist you may need to purchase the pre-made cones yourself and develop your skills. Going down this route is cheaper but will entail some practice.

How Much Do Henna Tattoos Cost?

Henna tattoos are generally much less expensive than a permanent tattoo. A. small design may cost $5 at a craft fair. However, an intricate set of bridal tattoos may cost between $200 to $1000 depending on the time they take to complete and the skill and popularity of the artist

For example. A traditional Bridal package often includes Mehndi on both sides of the arms and hands extending above the elbow. You would also get intricate designs on both legs and feet. It may also include portraits of the bride and groom.

A package like this would cost around $500 with many artists. If the Mehndi artist is popular on Instagram, they can charge more and this cost could rise to about $1000.

Buy Your Own Henna Tattoo Kit

If you want to give it a go yourself you can easily order the supplies you need and try it at home. 

This is much cheaper than going to an artist and is a really fun thing to do, especially if you try it with a bunch of friends.

You can buy a box of natural Mehndi cones for a reasonable price on Amazon. This is all you need to get started with creating your own designs.

Buy Your Own Henna and Try It At Home

Neeta Mehendi Cone Temporary Tattoos [No PPD]

  • Natural Henna Paste
  • Ready to use in a cone
  • 100% Natural

VIEW PRICE ON AMAZON

You can also buy stencils which you apply the henna through from the cone. These make it easy to get a decent result without practice.

18 Sheets – Henna Tattoo Stencil Kit

Easy Henna application. Stick the stencil on your skin and then paste the henna into the spaces to create perfect designs.

  • A Total of 18 x Henna Tattoo Stencil.
  • 8 sheets for tattoo on hands.
  • 8 rectangle flower pattern sheets.
  • 2 small pattern sheets.
  • Total 97 different patterns.
  • Makes it easy to apply perfect designs.

VIEW PRICE ON AMAZON

However, I think it’s more fun to learn how to do the designs freehand. It could even be the start of a new side hustle for you.

[IMPORTANT NOTE. Don’t buy black Henna as I will explain below]

How to Learn to Create Henna Tattoos

if you are interested in Mehndi and want to get good at it, the key is practice. You need to familiarise yourself with the art form and start to understand the key symbols and patterns involved.

You can also buy stencils which you apply the henna through from the cone. These make it easy to get a decent result without practice.

Teach Yourself Henna Tattoo:
Making Mehndi Art with Easy-to-Follow Instructions, Patterns, and Projects.

By Brenda Abdoyan

  • 60 plus designs to try.
  • Henna recipes to make your own paste.
  • Exercises and step-by-step instructions.
  • Simplified shapes and simple designs.
  • Great way to learn.

VIEW PRICE ON AMAZON

Start by practising on paper. Then move on to working on yourself. It’s easy to practice on your own feet.

Then, once you have developed your skill you can find volunteers within your family and friends. Many people like to receive Mehndi and because it fades away there is no commitment or worry about messing it up.

You don’t have to confine your designs to the body. Henna also stains wood so you could decorate boxes, jewellery and other items all of which could be the start of a new business.

Henna can easily be bought online

1 – Buy Henna cones to use at home.

Pre-prepared Henna Cones are easy to use.

2 – Pre-prepared Henna Cones are easy to use.

Create your henna design

3 – Create your henna design

Wait for the henna to dry and then flake it off your skin

4 – Wait for the henna to dry and then flake it off your skin

The design will appear pale at first.

5 – The design will appear pale at first.

The design will develop and darken within 24 hours.

6 – The design will develop and darken within 24 hours.

Are Henna Tattoos Safe?

Designs made with traditional brown or red real henna are safe. The ingredients are natural and won’t harm the skin. HOWEVER, Black Henna is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. It contains non-natural chemical additives which can cause serious and permanent skin burns.

The normal effects of henna are harmless and it’s very rare or unheard of for people to have allergic reactions. They are not a danger to health.

However, black Henna is definitely something to be avoided.

The Dangers of a Black Henna Tattoo

You may have heard some of the horror stories of people receiving henna tattoos on holiday which left them with scarring and burns. This dangerous type is called black Henna and you can have a bad reaction to a black henna tattoo.

Natural henna stain is always red-brown so people wanted a black coloured Henna which looked like tribal tattoos. To achieve this, unscrupulous people added a chemical to darken it to black and make it last longer.

This chemical is P-phenylenediamine (PPD). It can cause intense skin reactions which burn into the skin and can cause permanent scarring. It can even cause death in the case of extreme allergic reactions. It can make you more sensitive to the use of permanent hair dye in the future.

The FDA doesn’t allow the use of PPD in any cosmetics which come into contact with the skin. However, this doesn’t stop it from creeping into some mixtures.

To keep yourself safe, the best advice is to avoid all black coloured henna. Just stick to the natural red or brown versions that don’t contain PPD.

Can you get a White Henna Tattoo?

White Henna is a new trend on the internet that looks beautiful on darker skin. Its made from a mix of adhesive and white body paint. It doesn’t stain the skin unlike real henna and will last for only 1 to 2 days. It’s safe but you must check the list of ingredients to avoid bleaches and chemicals.

White Henna Tattoos can be a beautiful addition if you just want to add some spectacular drama to your party outfit. However, it won’t last long so make sure you get some great photos.

How to Remove Henna Tattoos

Designs only last a couple of weeks. However, if you are in a position where you need to remove it quickly there are a few methods that you can try. Many of these remedies are anecdotal so you may need to experiment to see what works for you.

Whatever method you try, exfoliating to scrub away the stained skin generally helps.

You can try…

  • Silicone-based makeup removers
  • Micellar water
  • Hair conditioner
  • Add a cup of regular salt to your bath. Soak for 20 minutes. Then use an exfoliating pad to scrub away the design.

You need to be careful not to scrub too hard and damage your skin.

Celebrity Henna Tattoo Artists

Neha Assar is a Los Angeles based Henna artist. Her clients have included Kylie Jenner, beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina and actress Shay Mitchell.

Neha puts a modern spin on the traditional designs. She has created custom trainers and collaborations. She also has her own branded Henna product.

Other celebrities who have flirted with the look include Rihanna, Madonna and Miley Cyrus.

Beyonce sported a beautifully decorated belly when she was pregnant.

She was also seen in the video for the Coldplay song – Hymn For The Weekend, with decorated palms.

Popular Henna Tattoo Designs and Meanings.

If you want to try creating your own designs, there are some classic symbols that you may like to learn. Traditional designs combine these symbols with patterns to create intricate decoration.

  1. Sahasrara – A round lotus style symbol that represents unity and the crown chakra. 

Sahasrara or Chakra Henna Tattoo Design

  1. The Peacock – The national bird of India, the peacock represents beauty and prosperity.
Peacock Henna Tattoo Design

Peacock Henna Hand Design

  1. Butterflies and dragonflies – Representing new beginnings, rebirth and transformation.

    Butterfly Hand Design

    Butterfly Hand Design

  2. Paisley shapes. Paisley is a leaf shape design that has a deep tradition in India as well as Scotland. It symbolises fertility and luck.

    Indian Paisley Pattern Mehndi Hand Design

    Indian Paisley Pattern Mehndi Hand Design

  3. Eyes – Eyes are protective. The eye symbol reflects away evil thoughts or intentions.

    All Seeing Eye Hand Henna Tattoo Design

    All Seeing Eye Hand Henna Tattoo Design

  4. The Om Symbol – This auspicious and meditative symbol appears a lot in Henna design patterns.
Om Design

Om Design

  1. Portraits – Bridal tattoos may include miniature portraits of the bride and groom to bring good luck at Hindu weddings.

    Bride and Groom Henna Portraits

    Bride and Groom Henna Portraits for a Wedding

  2. Leaves and vines – They stand for vitality and devotion and create beautiful flowing patterns through the design
Vines on a hand and finger henna Tattoo

Vines on a hand and finger henna Tattoo

  1. Lizards and Snakes – These creatures represent the quest for enlightenment.
Snake Hand and wrist henna tattoo

Snake Hand and wrist henna tattoo

How to make Henna Tattoo Freckles

Henna tattoo freckles are a trend that has swept the internet. You can easily create the subtle appearance of freckles across the nose by using the staining power of Henna. Use purchased Henna cones to dot henna across the nose. Let it dry for 2 hours, flake off and you will have perfect freckles.

In Conclusion. What is a Henna Tattoo?

I hope you have learnt a lot about this amazing and intricate art form here. It is very accessible to everyone and is a beautiful and safe way to experiment with painless temporary body decoration.

Grab yourself some natural henna and start experimenting!.

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