The rich cultural traditions of southern Asian, especially India, have produced another form of temporary tattoo known as Mehndi or a henna tattoo. This form often involves elaborate designs and has become especially popular among women.
How Henna Tattoos are Made
These tattoos are made using a paste created from leaves of the Henna plant, Lawsonia Inermis, which have been ground into a powder. The dye in the powder, called Lawsone, attaches effectively to the keratin in fingernails and skin. Henna also is used frequently as a hair dye.
While other types of temporary tattoos can be made using many colors, henna tattoos create designs that are shades of red, brown and almost black. Traditionally henna tattoos are applied to hands and feet in intricate patterns, but these days henna tattoos can be drawn anywhere on the body. Henna creates a temporary tattoo by staining the skin, and can last from several days to a month, depending on how well the wearer maintains the tattoo.
It is possible to create henna tattoos at home. However, great caution should be used in choosing a henna product, as certain "fast-acting" preparations actually contain a chemical, para-phenylenediamine (PPD), that has been found to cause allergic reactions and sometimes scars the skin. Henna takes several hours to stain the skin properly, so anything that claims to work faster should be viewed with great suspicion.
How to make your own Henna
To make a henna, purchase some genuine henna powder from a cosmetics supply or Asian product store. Assemble lemon juice, a cosmetic squeeze bottle with a fine tip, a bowl, a spoon, plastic wrap, nylon trouser socks, rubber bands, some honey, and a plastic container with a lid, such as a clean, used butter tub.
First sift the powdered henna to remove any clumps. To do this easily, put the two nylon trouser socks together to make a double layer, then pour the henna powder into the sock. Knot the doubled socks to keep the henna inside. Put the sock into the container and close the lid firmly, then shake the container well.
Once the henna is shaken well, open the lidded container, take out the sock and open into the bowl. Pour in enough lemon juice so that the powder looks like runny mashed potatoes when you mix it. Add a tablespoon of honey to thicken the mixture and help it stick to skin.
Next top the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for several hours. Every hour, look at the mixture to see if the dye has released. The dye has been freed when the mixture turns brown on top, but looks dark green beneath. Transfer the mixture into the squeeze bottle using the spoon and store in a cool place.
When ready to create this type of tattoo, start by boiling some lemon juice. Set it aside to cool while applying the ink to the skin using the fine-tipped squeeze bottle. When the design is dry, cover it carefully with a mixture of boiled lemon juice and sugar. Dry this with a paper towel, then wrap the henna tattoo with plastic wrap and leave on overnight to allow the ink to stain the skin.