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2 – 3 tablespoons bulk henna powder
4 – 6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup water
5 – 20 drops eucalyptus or tea tree oil
1 tablespoon brown or white sugar (honey or molasses can also be used)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of any combination of black tea, ground coffee, ground cloves, and/or black walnut hull powder
Boil water on the stove, and remove from heat, adding the 1/4 – 1/2 cup of tea, coffee, and/or herbs. Allow this to steep for five minutes, then strain the herbs. This "tea" will be added to your henna.
Using a glass or ceramic bowl (henna will stain plastic), mix the henna powder, lemon juice, sugar, and essential oil. This mixture should have the consistency of dough. Slowly add the "tea" to this mixture while still warm. Stir thoroughly to eliminate lumps. The final consistency should be a paste slightly thinner than toothpaste, so add "tea" until this consistency is reached. Cover the paste and allow it to sit for at least four hours.
When applying henna, results are best with clean, dry skin. You can use pastry bags, tightly-rolled plastic cones, toothpicks, or paintbrushes to apply henna. Depending on temperature and humidity, the henna paste should dry in 15 to 45 minutes. You should notice the paste turn dull and crack slightly as it dries. At this stage, you can add a fixative to your design by mixing one part lemon juice with one part sugar (stirring in the sugar until it dissolves) and daub this mixture on your design with a cotton swab. This will assist the henna in staining your skin.
The longer the paste is left on the skin, the darker the "tattoo." The ideal time is 6 to 12 hours, and you can use toilet paper or gauze to protect the design as you wait — just wrap the design, and you will be less likely to accidentally scrape the drying paste off.
When enough time has passed (or when you need to remove the paste), gently scrape the paste off with the back of a butter knife or pick it off with your fingers. You can then gently rinse the area to remove the sticky lemon-sugar fixative, but be sure to then apply a natural base oil.
Rubbing a liberal amount of natural oil (such as sesame, almond, or olive) on your skin before showering or swimming will maximize the life of your design. Scrubbing with soap will make your design wear off more quickly.
As a note, henna will stain hands and feet best, as thicker skin best absorbs henna dye. Designs on the rest of your body will likely stain lighter. Facial skin is often too sensitive and oily to absorb henna properly.
Henna as Hair Dye
3 – 5 ounces henna powder (depends on hair length)
1 tablespoon olive oil or 1 egg (optional — used as emollient)
2 – 3 tablespoons lemon juice (optional — used as fixative)
Mix henna with warm water until it is a paste with yogurt consistency. If you would like an emollient, add one egg or one tablespoon olive oil. The lemon juice can also be blended in at this phase, to serve as a fixative for the dye. Be sure to keep the paste at room temperature (do not allow paste to cool below 70F).
As with dying skin, henna works best on clean, dry hair, so be sure your hair is free of product before using the dye.
Use the usual precautions when dying your hair — wear gloves to protect your hands from becoming dyed, drape a towel over your shoulders, and apply petroleum jelly to your hairline and your ears to prevent your skin from becoming stained. Using a broad, flat brush, work the henna paste through your hair in small sections. Start at the roots and work through to the tips. If you are just doing a touch-up job, only dye your roots.
Once the henna is worked through your hair, use a plastic shower cap or plastic bag tied around your hair to protect your clothes and house and to ensure the henna seeps into your hair. Leave the henna in your hair for 3 – 4 hours.
Rinse hair of henna, then shampoo.
If you have hair that is already dyed, a test strand is recommended, as the henna may dye differently. If you are considering a chemical dye after using henna, consulting a professional beautician may be recommended for best results.
There are also other combinations for blending henna for hair. Instead of water, use red wine to bring out red tones; black coffee or tea can be used instead of water to darken the dye.
We carry titles on natural hair care in our book section which detail other recipes for blending henna.