It’s coming to the season where I would like to refresh you with the facts about Fresh Natural Henna. While most of you are probably well aware of what fresh henna is and how it is different from the store-bought, on-the-shelf “henna cones” from your friendly local general store, every summer I am reminded that there are still a lot of people who are unaware of the dangers of “black henna” and chemicalised “henna” cones, so I’ve put together this blog post with all the relevant information for you to share amongst your friends and loved ones.
Here’s an informative article to start:
[excerpt] An analysis of various popular mehndi and black mehndi brands revealed the presence of toxic chemicals, metals, organic solvents and textile dyes, most of which are carcinogenic in nature. Despite the fact that hospitals report a large number of cases in which people’s skins have been damaged or scarred after using adulterated mehndi, the market continues to thrive. This can be traced not only to public ignorance, but the fact that there is a legal vacuum given that no section of the Drugs Act 1976 deals specifically with the use of chemicals in cosmetic products. As a result, all sorts of hazardous chemicals continue to be sold openly at Jodia bazaar, including dangerously adulterated mehndi.
An example of what a chemicalised “henna” cone may look like, courtesy of Joey Anderson:
Or also from Joey:
So, what is natural, fresh henna & how will I know if the cone I just bought is natural or chemical?
Here’s what we know about fresh henna:
It’s a plant – a tropical leafy shrub. This plant only comes in one form – with no other colours. The plant is green, and when it is dried and ground down into a powder, it is also green or maybe khaki in colour. It does not and cannot come in any colour other than green (original plant colour) or reddish brown (the resulting stain colour).
It’s perishable – like fresh food/fruit. If you leave it in your fridge – it stays good for a few days. If you freeze it, it’s good for a few months. If you leave it on the table/shopfloor/crate-on-a-shipping-container-from-India then it will get pretty gross in a day or two.
It smells like grass/trimmed foliage – When you dry and grind a plant down, it smells pretty much like leaves. When you make a paste from henna powder, it only needs 3 or 4 ingredients – maximum. My ingredients are henna powder plus WATER, SUGAR and LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL. The henna paste should smell like a grass paste with essential oil added to it. The smell should reach your noise a bit like the aroma from an oil burner – it’s there, in the air, slowly and subtley filling the space with a pleasant fragrance. Other common essential oils used are: Cajeput, Tea Tree and Eucalyptus which are generally pleasant and identifiable aromas.
It has a natural cooling effect on the skin – When you apply fresh henna to the body, it cools the surface of the skin, causing the localised area to feel colder. You can apply warmth to your skin to help the stain of your henna through hot water bottles or heatpads – or even just holding your cup of tea. It should not tingle, or burn or make your skin feel itchy.
Here’s another excerpt from the above article:
[excerpt] Pure mehndi, or henna, is entirely natural and is extracted from the henna plant. According to Dharamdas Rajani, the president of the Sindh Abadgar Board, Dadu, natural mehndi has to be soaked in liquid for two to three hours before it can be used. Depending on the weather conditions, the drying period can vary from half an hour to two hours.
“No natural mehndi can give instant colour in five minutes, or any colour other than chocolate-brown or orange-red. There is no natural black mehndi,” he said. “Any product that claims such fast colouring action or different colours is bound to be mixed with strong chemicals.”
If you prefer a video format, here’s 2.5min clip covering the facts of natural henna:
If the henna cone you are considering buying/using does NOT comply with the above FACTS about fresh henna, even if the packaging has “100% natural henna” printed on it, then you need to think about WHY it doesn’t comply:
??? Is there ANY way in which this “fresh henna” cone could *stay* fresh if it was shipped over internationally (average 4-5 days shipping)?
??? Is there ANY way in which this “fresh henna” cone could sit in the local Asian store on the shelf for x number of days, and *stay* fresh?
??? Is there any way in which this “fresh henna cone” could be fresh when the smell is over-powering all other fragrances and inducing some discomfort/nausea?
??? Is there any way in which this “fresh henna cone” could be fresh when my skin feels tingly and itchy with it on?
Ok, so maybe this isn’t “fresh henna” – but where can I buy fresh henna from?
In alphabetical order, here is a list of my top recommended UK based fresh henna cone suppliers and their general location (which is particularly helpful if you want to arrange a possible local collection with them in time for Eid celebrations). Each of these suppliers personally and painstakingly mixes and prepares each and every single henna cone that they supply. Please note that I do not take henna cone orders and you will need to communicate directly with the suppliers for their terms and conditions. Thank you!
- Bharathi Sanghani – Derby (TO ORDER: 07734321481)
- Kirti Sharma – Leeds (Currently closed)
Always feel free to ask your henna supplier what they have added to their henna paste. Check if they are insured for business selling purposes. Clarify the aftercare and storage instructions with them. Most of all, whether you apply your own henna or hire a professional for your henna this season – please enjoy the art of henna safely!
And finally, here is a clear, concise and informative video from ‘Mehndi by Farrah‘ – Thanks Farrah!