Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to make a henna tattoo: Making black and red tattoos

Henna tattoos are a simple, temporary alternative to traditional tattoos. Henna dyes the skin to create a beautiful red/brown design.

Henna tattooing, also called mehndi, is an ancient form of body art that traces its roots back over five centuries. Many ancient Asian cultures practiced this art, and the most popular mehndi is practiced in India to this day. It’s original use was ceremonial, with brides ornamenting their bodies with the exotic markings on their wedding day and the devout adorning their hands and feet for religious ceremonies. However, in western culture, where its popularity is rapidly growing, it is merely an impermanent ornament and a less painful alternative to traditional tattoos.

Henna tattoos are dark brown/red in color when unadulterated. Black henna has recently become available and is highly appealing because it takes only about an hour to set up and looks very similar to real tattoos. However, the chemicals added to make henna black can cause serious skin irritations and are very dangerous. It is advisable to avoid using this altered form of henna; the natural color of the dye is part of its beauty and appeal. Furthermore, henna in its original state rarely causes and unwanted side-effects.

Henna is actually a dye derived from the dried leaves of a bush native to arid eastern climates called Lawsonia inermis. This powdered dye is available at many health food stores and is the first ingredient you will need to make your own henna tattoo. The following is a complete list of required materials:

  • * Flour sifter
  • * Toothpick
  • * Plastic sandwich bag with zipper seal
  • * Stencil (optional)
  • * Lemon juice (1/2 cup)
  • * Sugar (4 tablespoons)
  • * Eucalyptus oil (3 drops)
  • * Water (2-3/4 cups)
  • * Black tea bag (1)
  • * Henna powder (1/2 cup) 
 To begin, sift about 1/2 cup of henna powder through the flour sifter. This will remove lumps and help you achieve a darker and longer-lasting tattoo. Next, you will need to make a very strong tea by boiling one tea bag in approximately 3/4 cups of water until half the water has evaporated. Combine the henna, eucalyptus oil, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Slowly blend the tea into this mixture until you have created a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Let this mixture cool for 3-5 hours at the least or up to two days for even better results.

While the mixture sets up, you can prepare your skin to be dyed. Wash thoroughly and exfoliate any areas where you intend to apply the dye. Excess oils and dead cells will inhibit the skin’s ability to absorb the henna. You will also need to choose a pattern for your tattoo. Traditional henna designs involve intricate swirls, flowers, and circles in attractive arrangements. There are several books and internet resources available with beautiful patterns you can try, if you are feeling artistic. You can create any style of tattoo that appeals to you, from traditional to outrageous. Simply lay out your design on paper to get an idea of what you want and a bit of practice before you dye your skin. If you are not an artist, there is also the option of purchasing adhesive stencils. If you choose this option, you will need a small paint brush to apply the henna with.

There are two options for applying the henna mixture. If you use a stencil, follow the pattern while brushing the paste onto the skin. The stencil will have to stay on the skin until the henna has completely dried, then removed carefully to avoid cracking. If you choose to create a free-hand tattoo, you can fill a plastic sandwich bag with the paste and cut out a very small piece of the corner through which the dye will escape. It is also possible to achieve a finer line by “drawing” the dye onto the skin with a toothpick. Which ever option you choose, apply an even line to the skin. Patience is the key to attaining an intricate design.

Once you have the dye in place, the most difficult job begins: waiting. It is recommended that the dye be allowed to remain on the skin between three and six hours for optimal results. The longer the dye stays on, the darker the tattoo will be and further extended its life. To avoid an uneven line in the finished product, spray the henna with a mixture of 3/4 cup lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 cups of water as it begins to harden and crack. Mist the area but do not get it too wet or your tattoo will run. When you are ready to remove the dye, allow it to dry completely and scrape it off with a butter knife. Your tattoo will be orange — do not panic. It takes between several hours and a day for a rich brown color to appear. Do not wash the area for at least one day if possible to give the dye time to be completely absorbed into the skin. Finally, rub a cotton ball soaked in eucalyptus oil over the entire tattoo to aid in setting the dye.

The above recipe should give you a beautiful henna tattoo. Depending on how often the area is washed and where it is located on the body (hands and feet hold dye the longest because of their relative dryness), the resulting tattoo will last from two to four weeks. It is a fulfilling craft, a beautiful ornament to the body, and a painless means of having a tattoo, if only for a while.
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