This is a simple recipe for mixing henna. Its simplicity is one of the reasons we use it. Except for the henna powder, all the tools and materials needed to mix the recipe and apply the paste can be found in most kitchens, or at almost any grocery store. Also. because it's simple, it's an easy recipe to teach and for others to learn and remember.
If you are new to henna painting, this recipe is a good start, but look around at what other practicioners are doing too. Keep in mind that no recipe is a guarantee of immediate success because there are a great many variables that affect the results you get, so you have to be willing to inquire and experiment until you find a combination of materials and techniques that works for you.
To prepare a batch of henna paste, you'll need:
A general rule in mixing henna is that the more acidic the mixture, the darker the stain. If the paste doesn't give a dark enough stain, add lemon or lime juice to the paste.
Mixing the henna paste...
|Use the strainer to sift the henna powder into a bowl.|
|Strain the juice from one lemon or lime into the bowl with the henna powder, and stir the mixture, adding just enough lemon or lime juice to make the henna form a paste as thick as cookie dough. Save at least one more lemon or lime for the next day.|
|Add just enough very hot, very strong tea or coffee to make the henna paste a little softer than tooth paste, then stir the paste until it is very smooth. Cover the henna paste and leave it over night for the dye to develop.|
Decorating with henna...
I don't do any special skin preparation before applying henna. My experience has been that if the skin is clean and dry, and free of residues from lotions and oils, and if the henna paste is acidic enough, the henna paste will color the skin without any other treatment.
A simple and surprisingly useful tool for applying henna is a flat toothpick. They're easy to come by, cheap, durable, and they are the right size and give the right amount of control for doing fine and complex patterns. And, for the tradition-minded among you, a sliver of wood or bone is commonly used as a henna application tool in some places in the world. You can use the broad end of the toothpick like a tiny spatula for laying on the henna paste, and the edges for shaping the lines and removing any excess. The pointed end works well for applying small amounts of henna paste in tight spaces.
A toothpick is also a better tool than a brush if you use unsifted henna powder, because the unsifted henna can quickly clog up a brush and make it difficult to control.
If you prefer brushes, we recommend you make your paste with finely sifted henna powder and use a small, fine brush such as a fine oil painting or lip liner brush. You might also want to soften the paste with more lemon juice to make it flow more easily from the bristles.
The dye in the henna will be most effective on the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet. The henna will usually show less strongly on other parts of the body.
Heat and perspiration will make the dye darker on the skin. Also, the henna will dye more strongly if it is kept moist and left on the skin for at least six hours. Wrapping is a good way to hold the henna in place and keep it from drying so the dye will make a dark stain on the skin.
How to make a squeeze applicator...
Well-sifted henna can be used to make the lace-like patterns seen in traditional Pakistani henna decoration. A cone made of a piece of plastic cut out of a freezer bag is a good tool for applying fine and intricate decorations. However if you have bought one of our Henna Kits, you get a few ready-to-use applicator cones and you can simply put a tablespoon full of the henna paste into the cone and proceed with instructions below.
|Cut a square 5"x5" out of a plastic freezer bag. Have 10 1" to 2" pieces of tape ready. Put a tablespoon of henna paste on the center of the plastic square. The henna should be about the consistency of toothpaste.|
|Fold up one side, then the other to make a cone shape.|
|Roll the tip of the cone between your thumb and forefinger until the hole at the tip of the cone is about the diameter of a sewing needle, then wrap the plastic around the sides of the cone around smoothly and neatly.|
|Secure the sides and firm the cone tip with tape. Fold down the top and tape it. Tape every spot that is likely to ooze henna all over your hands when you squeeze the cone. Also, wrap tape around the tip of the cone to hold its shape. A tapestry needle is a handy tool for keeping the tip clear so the henna paste flows smoothly.|
|Use the cone as you would a cake decorator to make fine lines by gently squeezing the henna paste out of the tip.|
Wrapping it up...
I've been experimenting with different ways of wrapping henna work for a couple of years. I first heard about wrapped henna work in articles about the Tuareg, a desert people who traditionally henna both the bride and groom before a wedding. To conserve water, they will use leaves, rags, or even plastic bags to wrap the couple's feet and hands after the henna is applied. Other people use wrapping with henna as well, especially groups that live in dry climates. Even in a less arid climate, wrapping can be helpful. The henna has to stay in place for several hours to leave a dark stain, and wrapping can keep an intricate design from being spoiled by accidental rubbing.
If you want to try wrapping, here's what you'll need:
|Allow the henna to dry on your skin, but not to flake off! I've been using a liquid bandage compound called "New Skin" as a fixative to help hold the henna in place. It also seems to promote the henna's reaction with the skin and make a darker stain. You can find New Skin in pharmacies in the first aid section). It's is not absolutely necessary to use New Skin, but I think it's helpful. Try it and see if it works for you.|
|Carefully wrap your dry henna patterns to your skin with unrolled cotton balls, toilet paper or paper tape. It is important not to dislodge any of your henna!|
|Then, wrap the tissue with a layer of plastic wrap, This will make your skin warmer, and make it perspire a little. Your perspiration will make the henna slightly damp again, and increase its reaction with your skin.|
|To hold everything in place. wrap the layers of tissue and plastic with packing tape. Your wrap should be very firm, so the henna is held securely in place on the skin.|
|A good wrap will make your henna much darker! A careful wrap will keep your henna exactly in place all night as you sleep, too.|