Henna (Lawsonia inermis, also known as "mehndi") is a flowering shrub grown in many parts of the world (India, Middle East, Africa, Asia). The leaves are crushed to a fine powder and mixed with various ingredients (water, lemon juice, black tea, sugar & essential oils) to extract the lawsone molecules which can then stain the skin. Henna has been traditionally used mostly on the hands & feet as these parts of the body have the thickest skin, and thus the increased ability for the dye to reach more skin cell layers. The result is a darker stain that lasts much longer than on other parts of the body.
Leave the paste on for as long as possible, and for a minimum of two hours, preferably longer. The longer the paste is left on the skin, the darker & longer-lasting the henna stain. Henna takes anywhere from 10 - 30 minutes to dry, depending on the air temperature. Little pieces of the paste will eventually fall off when dry ~ that is only natural, don’t worry! As long as most of the paste is still on, you’re good to go! Try your best to avoid soap and water for at least 24 hours after paste removal. If you must take a shower, put some coconut oil or olive oil on the fresh stain before getting in the shower. This will help protect it from water. For the life of the henna stain, wash it minimally for it to last as long as possible. Remember, the more you wash your skin, the faster your skin will exfoliate and thus the faster the design will fade. Other factors such as air temperature and body temperature (henna stains darker with heat), skin type, how long the paste is left on the skin for, and how often the henna design is washed can alter the color and length of stain (try to wash as minimally as possible for a longer lasting stain).
You can always leave the paste on overnight for a beautiful stain. To do this, when the henna is dry (about 30-40 minutes after application), wrap it up with toilet paper, tape the ends, and then put a sock or ace bandage or anything else to help hold the toilet paper in place. In the morning, unwrap it all and pick off the rest of the paste. To make this a bit easier, you can always add a little olive oil or coconut oil to the henna paste and scrape off with fingernails or gently with a butter knife.
A fresh henna stain will be an orange tone at the fingertips & toes, and a lighter yellow color elsewhere on the body. As the stain oxidizes over time, this color will slowly shift to a brown/reddish tone after 24-48 hours. Henna stains look their best 2-3 days after paste removal.
~ Henna stains can look beautiful for around 5 days to a full week if well-taken care of i.e. washed minimally with paste left on for at least two hours. After this amount of time, it will slowly fade away. Henna stains on the feet and thighs will last a bit longer, stains on other parts of the body such as the face and chest may last for a shorter period of time.
*Disclaimer about "black henna" ~ This is not actually henna. "Black henna" contains a chemical known as PPD, which in some cases can cause (extremely) severe allergic reactions & permanent scarring. All ingredients used in my paste are 100% NATURAL and SAFE ~ (high quality henna powder, water, lemon juice, black tea, sugar & essential oils). Please stay far away from black "henna" as its just not worth the risk!