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What Is a Henna Tattoo?A Henna tattoo (also known as Mehndi) is a semi-permanent body modification, much like a temporary tattoo. The ink used is made from the leaves of the henna plant. It has been long used to create body art and dye clothing, skin, hair, and fingernails.
What Is in Henna Ink and How Is It Used?To make henna ink, leaves from the henna tree are crushed, which releases a molecule called lawsone. This chemical is then put on the skin using a pipette bag or other tool. As the lawsone ink dries, it gets absorbed by the skin, changing its color.
What Happens When the Ink Gets in Your Skin?As lawsone gets absorbed into the skin, a chemical reaction binds it to keratinized skin cells. This creates a darker-colored skin cell that better absorbs light energy. Because henna ink is so good at absorbing light energy, it is used in some sunscreens or tanning lotions.
Are There Different Types of Henna?There are many different types of henna commercially available. For most temporary tattoo applications, red henna is preferred. This is because other varieties are known to contain additives to change the color produced by the henna.
MehndiThis is the henna most people see in pictures of semi-permanent tattoos. As described in the process above, red henna is sourced from the leaves of the henna plant. Producing pure henna commercially requires a lengthy process, so small batch creators often mix crushed leaves with tea, lemon juice, or sugar water to create the pigment.
Red Henna/Natural Henna.Red henna is not made from the same plant as mehndi type henna. It is commonly sourced from the Senna or Cassia plant. When red henna is applied to the skin, designs made will grow darker as time passes (up to two weeks on average). The designs used will have a red tint, hence the red henna name.
Black HennaBlack henna is not from the same family of plants as traditional red henna. It comes from the indigo plant. Reports have shown that these henna types are often mixed with a chemical called PPD (p-Phenylenediamine). While these dyes are exceptional at creating a dark tone in skin and hair, they can also cause massive allergic reactions the longer they are on the skin. There are reports of people dying from the use of these dyes, so the use of black henna in a temporary tattoo should be avoided.
Be careful if you have ever had an allergic reaction to black henna. This allergy means you cannot use commercially available hair colorants and that you may even contract leukemia!
Can You Tattoo Over a Henna Tattoo?Like the introduction to the article stated: You could but shouldn’t. Henna ink can be full of impurities, and unless it is sourced directly by the artist, you can’t know what is in the henna dyes. Many contain contaminants that can make you sick, cause an allergic reaction, or even cause death! Your henna tattoo may feel fine for a few days, but allergic reactions can take up to 2 weeks to occur. Because of this, and the fact that most henna designs last for about two weeks, tattooing over a fresh design can aggravate your immune system, leading to an increased chance of reaction. Contact dermatitis can result from using henna inks and tattoo pigments. Talk to your doctor immediately if you get a henna tattoo, and it reacts like a red ink allergy.
Are Henna Inks Regulated?
What Can I Do to Get My Henna Tattoo as a Real Tattoo?Rather than tattooing over the design, you should take a few photos and have an artist recreate the design on paper or digitally. Then, take that recreated design and make a stencil for the tattoo.
Some tattoo artists are well-versed in photo-replication or creating custom henna-styled tattoos. This means that the tattoo artist can recreate the design you already have without going over the fresh henna inks.
For more information about the safety and efficacy of henna pigments, follow this link to the FDA website, where it talks about henna tattoo safety: FDA Fact Sheet on safety issues and regulations related to temporary tattoos, henna/mehndi, and “black henna.” https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/temporary-tattoos-hennamehndi-and-black-henna-fact-sheetSee a doctor immediately if you are having a reaction to a henna tattoo.