Getting mehndi done can be pretty addictive. These temporary dyes prevalent in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are a great way to show off your personality especially in time for the festive season. For those of us who've grown up watching our female relatives and friends experiment with henna in traditional and religious ceremonies, mehndi body art is more of a way of life than simply just a trend. Celebrities such as Rihanna, Vanessa Hudgens, FKA Twigs and Madonna sport them in contemporary forms, bringing henna to the international stage like never before. But before you even select a design that's appropriate for the occasion, you best arm yourself with these tips for getting the perfect dye job.
Know your henna
1. Essentially, henna's a plant (lawsonia inermis) that's been ground into a fine powder that can stain your skin with a natural reddish-orange-brown dye. Any other colour is not in its natural state. There's no such thing as "white henna". While it's drawn in traditional henna patterns, the actual product used by artists such as Sara's Henna in Hong Kong and Henna Caravan are made with FDA-approved adhesives and body paints, not with the henna plant.
2. Adding black dye to the henna paste makes black henna. While visually striking, it's best to stay away from this to avoid skin problems from the P-Phenylenediamine chemical often used in black dye.
Making your own henna paste
3. Freshly-made henna lasts longer than the ones in store-bought henna cones. The standard ingredients in a good henna paste include: Henna powder, strongly-brewed tea, lemon juice and essential oils such as lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus. There's no perfect henna recipe — try and test it a few times to find one that works for you in terms of consistency. The paste can be stored for up to three months if you freeze it.
4. If you're strapped for time, we recommend getting cones from Singapore-based henna artists and providers Khair Henna, Fauzella Artistry, SyraSkins, Goddess by GG and NittraHennaDefinition.
5. Don't just start applying the paste straight onto the skin. Scrub the area intended to remove any oils, lotion or perspiration that can hinder the process of henna application.
6. Different parts of your body take to the dye in different ways. If you want your henna to last longer, apply it on areas that have thicker skin: the palms of your hands and soles of your feet make good canvases.
7. Q-tips are your best friends. If you make a mistake, lick the ends of a Q-tip before cleaning up your design — the moisture tames the cotton fibres for more accuracy and you won't be dripping water all over your hand.
8. Don't use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process as it causes the henna design to bleed. Once your henna paste has dried, dab a cotton ball soaked in a mixture of lemon and sugar all over your design. The acid in the lemon helps the skin to absorb the dye, while the sugar's stickiness helps to hold the henna on the skin.
9. Contact with water should be avoided at all costs, as well as soap or any exfoliation for the next 24 hours. It's best to leave the paste for at least three hours, and overnight if possible, for the darkest hue. Fun fact: traditional beliefs claim that the darker a bride's henna stain is, the stronger the marriage will be.
10. Never remove the dried henna paste with water. Instead, soak a cotton pad with mustard oil and remove the paste by rubbing it gently. A good bonus? The vitamin E in mustard oil also promotes circulation and boosts your immunity.