Here's a run-through of a typical henna tattoo application:
2. I will apply the henna design to your skin with henna paste (it looks like dark puff-paint, has a mild but pleasant smell and is made from natural ingredients). I squeeze the paste out of a tiny cone (it looks like a mini frosting-bag) which allows me to apply fine lines with the paste. The application is completely pain-free and feels cool and refreshing on the skin.
3. Let the paste dry (generally takes 15 minutes). Try to keep the henna'd area still as it dries - this is sometimes the hardest part, but it avoids a smudge!
4. Continue to let the paste stay on your skin for as long as possible (at least a couple hours, but longer is always better). This phase is very important. The henna stain (which is the lasting tattoo) is sinking into your skin and needs adequate time to do so. It will not smudge (so you don't have to be quite as careful as step 3), but it will flake with friction or dissolve in water, so try to avoid those things as much as possible.
5. The paste will start to flake and fall off. It's best to let the henna completely fall off on it's own, but to remove the paste, DO NOT wash it off. Instead, pick it off with your fingernail or the edge of a credit card. It is fine to remove the henna paste before going to bed at night (I usually do!), but if you want to try to get an extra-dark stain you can seal and wrap your henna for bedtime.
6. When first removing the paste, the henna tattoo will be light orange. Within 48 hours, the henna will oxidize and will turn a darker red/brown color (see oxidation process below).
And that's it! You will have a beautiful henna tattoo to enjoy for generally a week (sometimes longer) before it exfoliates away, leaving nothing behind.
Some additional tips to make the stain dark and long-lasting:
- After removing the paste, it is recommended you apply Vaseline, olive oil, or a natural butter/cream to protect your tattoo. Some store-bought moisturizers contain chemicals that can prematurely lighten the stain, so it's best to use something natural.
- Try not to get the area wet for at least 6-12 hours after paste removal, although waiting a full 24 hours is best. It’s also good to wear gloves when washing dishes if the design is on your hand.
- Avoid friction as much as possible. Exfoliation of the skin is what causes henna to fade. Excess washing of skin and friction from clothing will make the stain fade faster.