HENNA / MEHANDI
What is mehndi?
It's an all encompassing word, basically mehndi refers to the henna powder, and the paste that is made with that powder, and the art of making designs on the skin with the paste.
Is mehndi a religious custom?
No, it's a cultural one, crossing the boundaries of religious differences. It is traditionally used at times of celebration to dress up, or any time women got together and wanted to beautify themselves. Suggesting that mehndi is religious to Hindus, Muslims, or Jews, would be like suggesting that nailpolish and eyeliner is religious to Christians. If you choose to have mehndi done, it should not offend anyone's religious sensibilities.
Is mehndi just for women?
Not anymore. Traditionally, the only males who would use mehndi were children (small boys young enough to be brought along with their mothers to mehndi parties), but today anyone can wear mehndi.
Is mehndi painful?
No, mehndi is placed on the skin, not imbedded in it with a needle like a tattoo.
How long does it last?
That varies depending on many factors such as your skin type, the mehndi mixture, how long you leave the paste on, and how often you wash the decorated area. The designs should last at least a few days, possibly up to a month.
Does mehndi come in other colours?
True mehndi is done with pure henna which only comes in the orange/red/brown shades. Any other colours have other substances added.
How do I mix the paste?
Make some very dark hot tea or coffee and add it to the powder until the mixture is slightly runnier than the consistency of toothpaste (this may take some experimenting). Mix in a tiny bit of oil (clove oil is a good choice, but any will do). You will find as many recipes as there are people out there. There is no one right way; if something works for you, use it.
How do I apply the paste?
Use your imagination. I have used toothpicks, knitting needles, and paintbrushes. My favourite tool is a plastic craft bottle with a metal dispensing tip. I also like the premixed tubes that come with an applicator tip. Many of the websites on the links page provide directions on how to make your own homemade henna cones (the implement of choice of most Indian mehndi artists).
Do I need to do any other preparations?
Make sure you have lots of paper towels handy (this can be messy!). I sometimes use surgical gloves, to avoid getting mehndi stains on my hands when working on someone else. Thoroughly wash and dry the area to be decorated beforehand. If you are new to applying mehndi, try sketching in your design with eyeliner first and then filling in the lines with mehndi (this makes mistakes less costly!).
How long do I have to leave the paste on for?
As long as you can stand it. You should leave it on for at least 3 hours (however it will leave some marking after 20 minutes on some people) or up to 12 hours (that's if it doesn't drive you crazy first). Most people will start to pick at it as soon as it is dry. Try to avoid this; it really does make a difference if you leave it on longer.
How do I make it darker?
Leave the paste on longer. If the mud starts to flake off, and the colour seems too faint, try spritzing the area with lemon juice and sugar to keep it moist and sticky. When you scrape the paste off, try to avoid washing the decorated area with water for as long as possible, the design should continue to get darker.
How do I get rid of my design fast?
Think carefully before placing mehndi somewhere that is highly visible if you are not sure you will be comfortable with it being noticed. To speed up the fading process, wash the area often, with strong soap and a scrub brush. Use an exfoliating cream, or something with alpha-hydroxy. As a last resort, only if you are desperate, and you must be careful with this, you can scrub with a weak solution of bleach and water (this will take the design off right away, but it might also take your skin off, use lots of lotion after).
Where can I get supplies?
The smartest place to start is with your local Indian or Middle-eastern grocer or clothing stores (this way you won't pay shipping charges, and you can probably get some advice as well). If there are no stores like this in your area, you can . We have premixed tubes that come with an applicator tip, and unmixed mehndi powder as well as stencils and other interesting products.