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Hand Experiment: Henna

Need an idea of what to do during lockdown?

Henna is a plant that grows in the tropical climates of Africa, northern Australia, and southern Asia. It contains a pigment called ‘lawsone’ which can cause staining. This property is a reason why Henna has been used either for dyeing hair or creating body art designs. Henna is not permanent w

Photo by Ayah Khan

hich is why many people prefer it to a traditional tattoo. It doesn’t involve needles, doesn’t hurt too bad and there is less chances of adverse reactions. I prefer temporary over permanent as I can change designs. And I get bored if I see the same design over and over again. So henna was perfect for me to experiment on my hands during this long lockdown. And if the design fails no one can see it!

Perfect combination!

There are two ways to start experimenting. Either buy a henna cone with the power already made and wrapped in a cone ready or buy the henna powder and then turn it into a paste. The henna powder needs to be sifted well to remove small fibers. Then a small amount of henna powder is mixed with an acidic liquid such as lemon juice until a thick paste is formed. This mixture should be allowed to sit for several hours until it turns brown and the liquid begins to separate. This paste can then be pushed through a fine mesh then transferred to a Ziploc bag which acts as an applicator when the tip of a corner is cut off. Or just use a paint brush like I did as I could not find any bags to put the henna in. But be warned your brushes will be ruined and it will take a while to completely wash the henna off the brush.

Now comes the fun part. One can either freehand the drawing by using the Ziploc bag. The broad strokes can be made using the makeshift Ziploc bag cone. Small intricate strokes can be made with a toothpick. Or simply cheat. Have a stencil with the design you want and carefully apply the paste on top. In both cases, wait for the paste to dry on your hand. If you start to feel a burn, wash immediately. I still have a leaf shaped burn on my wrist for not following my own advice….

Warning: Sometimes henna can irritate the skin so before use test how your skin handles the henna. Use a tiny amount of henna on your thumb or any body part and wait for it to dry. If it hurts or get a burning sensation, then immediately wash them.

A couple of hours is all it takes for the paste to draw. The longer you wait, the darker the color of the design will be and the longer it will take to fade away. A henna tattoo that is properly taken care of can last for a few weeks. Avoid getting the tattoo wet for the first day after it is applied and do not get oil, detergents, or bleach on it at any time to prolong its life.

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