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What Are Mehndi?

A. Rohlandt
A. Rohlandt

Mehndi is the art of applying henna to the skin to create temporary tattoos. The word mehndi means "henna" in Hindi, and the art itself can be referred to as mehendi, mehandi, al-henna, or just henna. The henna paste is all natural, and is applied to the skin using a mehndi cone. Once the henna is dried and removed, it leaves a dark red or black stain behind. Henna tattoos are temporary, but can last for up to three weeks.

A traditional form of body art, mehndi originates in India, the Middle East, and North Africa. The tradition began with the application of henna to soften and condition the skin and was later used to create body art for special occasions, such as festivals or weddings. The application of henna to create temporary tattoos has since spread the world over and is quickly gaining popularity in the Western world as well.

Mehndi is the art of using henna to create temporary tattoos.
Mehndi is the art of using henna to create temporary tattoos.

Henna tattoos are created using a natural henna paste made from the henna, Hawsonia inermis, shrub. The leaves and twigs are ground into a fine powder, which is the main ingredient. There are many recipes for making henna powder, and the ingredients added can vary depending on the supplier or manufacturer.

In order to make the henna paste, the mehndi artist mixes the henna powder with water. Some artists prefer to add lemon juice to create a darker stain. The paste is scooped into a mehndi cone, which works in much the same way as an icing bag. The paste is then squeezed onto the skin, and can be used to create very intricate and elaborate designs.

Henna paste has to be left on the skin to dry for a minimum of 20 minutes. Experts suggest that the longer the paste is left on the skin, the darker the stain will be and the longer the tattoo will last. Henna can be left on overnight or for a few hours to create a dark red stain. Henna tattoos can also be done with black henna, leaving a stain that closely resembles modern tattoos. Black henna, however, contains chemicals and can cause an allergic reaction, so traditional henna is a safer option.

This form of body art can be used on any part of the body, and the life of the tattoo will depend on things like the application time, body heat, and where it is applied. Henna tattoos can last for up to three weeks, especially on areas like the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. A general rule of thumb is that the thicker the skin, the longer the tattoo will last. Mehndi can also be used to stain the fingertips or fingernails, but it has to grow out if applied to the nails.

Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- That's a common problem. Before you start applying henna, take some sugar and lemon juice and mix it up in a small cup. Take a cotton ball and keep it ready. After applying the henna design, when you start seeing the henna drying, dip the cotton ball on the mixture and lightly apply it on the dry henna. Keep doing this to prevent the henna from drying.

Ideally, henna should be kept on skin overnight. Put a plastic bag over your hand and go to sleep that way to avoid a mess. In the morning, wash the henna off and apply an oil like almond oil on it. The henna design should be a dark red and should last for at least three weeks.


The issue I have with henna is that the design dries off very quickly and the dried henna falls off. So it doesn't get much time to infuse into skin and I get a light orange colored design at best. I haven't figured out how to resolve this. I've tried applying over it a few times but it's too much work.


Mehndi is a great alternative to regular tattoos. It's not permanent and it's completely natural so it's not toxic in any way. In fact, henna is believed to be beneficial for skin.

I think that those who do not want a tattoo that will be there forever should consider getting mehndi tattoos on a regular basis instead. One can even learn to apply it herself and it's a lot of fun.

We sometimes have mehndi parties with my friends where we basically watch films and draw mehndi tattoos. I bought a mehndi art kit which came with henna, cones, stencils and a drawing booklet. It's easy to learn and practice makes perfect.

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    • Mehndi is the art of using henna to create temporary tattoos.
      By: videoroot
      Mehndi is the art of using henna to create temporary tattoos.