The Beauty of Henna Tattoos
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on September 22, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
A Brief History of Henna Tattoos
The henna plant is a small flowering tree or shrub. Originally, it grows in northern Africa, Asia and Australia. Henna ink is made of powdered henna leaves. Henna ink for henna tattoos is the use of the henna plant to make an ink paste. Henna or Mehndi, which are art forms of temporary tattoos, were a very popular form of celebration body decoration, for women in ancient India and Egypt. It is still very popular even today.
The Rise of Popularity of Henna Tattoos
Henna is symbolic of joy, blessings, love, fertility, birth, beauty, luck, life and other means of celebrating. Today this type of body art is increasing in popularity due to the trends of various celebrities and others who are interested in temporarily enhancing their creative and fun-loving sense and style of personal beauty. Henna tattoos seem to be very popular with the younger crowd who want to express themselves while having fun in a popular way.
The Benefits of a Henna Tattoo verses an Ink Tattoo
When you want the look and feel of a more natural form of body decoration that is temporary, the benefits of a henna tattoo will outweigh that of a permanent ink tattoo. Many individuals are only interested in temporary tattoos and henna provides an attractive alternative. A henna tattoo does not require the use of needles and is totally painless, which is another benefit of this type of creative body art. A henna tattoo will fade away within a few weeks depending on the application, the condition of the skin and its natural revitalizing properties. However, when you choose an ink tattoo, you are stuck with the selection for a lifetime. Many individuals choose henna tattoos as a means of having fun and staying fashionable.
Henna Tattoo Warnings
No information on henna tattoos is complete without the warning of steering clear of what some call Black Henna. There really is no such thing as black henna, which is fast staining. This type of product may contain a toxic dye, para-phenylenediamine or PPD. This can cause allergic reactions such as burning and blistering as well as scarring.
Last month a 4 year old boy from the UK, Charlie Latimer, suffered burns and blisters on his skin after receiving a red flower shaped Henna tattoo from a street artist in Lagos, Portugal, whilst on holiday with his family. However, Charlie’s upper arm started to bleed and blister within days of having the tattoo done, after his body reacted to the dye.
The tattoo artist had used Henna that had been mixed with a cheap hair dye, paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, which can burn the skin.
Upon the family’s return to the UK, Charlie’s skin began peeling and he was placed on a course of antibiotics, but when his condition did not improve, his parents took him to Bath’s Royal United Hospital where he was kept overnight.
A dermatologist at the hospital, Dr Chris Lovell, warned people about the possible dangers of Henna that is used by some unscrupulous artists in Europe:
‘Under European rules, it is illegal to use PPD in henna tattoos and most professional salons use pure henna, which rarely causes allergies. But these rules are not always enforced and people getting their tattoos on beaches and in some developing countries, where the controls are less strict, are at greater risk.’
Regarding Charlie’s Henna tattoo, his mother explains:
‘He will have to live with this now for the rest of his life, although we are keeping our fingers crossed that it could one day disappear. Charlie has been told he can never have a tattoo or dye his hair for the rest of his life due to the seriousness of his reaction.’
Any time you choose to have a henna tattoo, make sure you find an experienced Henna tattoo artist who knows what the ingredients are in their Henna paste. You should also consider doing a skin test to check for any allergic reactions, especially when you have sensitive skin.
Overall, henna tattoos have a long and beautiful ancient history of adorning the beauty of women for celebrations and social occasions. For a while, it seemed to fall into the background, however today it is increasing in popularity all over the world, especially with the younger generations. You can get a henna tattoo without the fear of permanency or the fear of needles. Henna tattoos are a pain-free and temporary alternative to that of permanent ink tattoos. When you want to creatively express the inner you, choosing a henna tattoo is a beautiful option.
Photo Credit: MiiiSH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan