Everything You Want to Know about Henna Tattoos

Chances are, you’ve probably seen henna tattoos before, even if you didn’t know what they were called. Henna tattoos are a beautiful work of art and are often found on the hands, wrists, and arms. The art of applying henna is also known as mehndi, and can be traced back to Ancient Egypt when Egyptians would paint the nails of mummies using henna dye, and Cleopatra would use it to decorate her body.  

What are henna tattoos made from?

HSST_Illustration_071317_ArtThe dye used for henna tattoos comes from a flowering plant. The leaves are dried and crushed into a powder, and then made into a paste. The paste is applied to the skin in intricate patterns, and after it dries, it leaves a reddish-brown stain.

How did they originate?

In its earliest uses, henna was loved for its cooling properties. On a hot afternoon, people would make a paste using the ground leaves from the henna plant and apply it to their hands and feet to get some much-needed relief from the warm temperatures. When the paste dried and left stains on the skin, people were inspired to use the paste to create designs on the skin.

 Are they permanent?

HSST_Illustration_071317_HandUnlike tattoos applied with needles and ink, henna tattoos are not permanent. With permanent tattoos, the ink is injected deep into the dermis, allowing it to stay on the skin without eventually disappearing. With henna tattoos, the dye is applied to the skin, where it will sit for several hours. The dye soaks into the skin (past the tops layer of dead skin cells, but not as far as the dermis), and will eventually fade and disappear after the body sheds the outer layer of skin after a couple of weeks.

How do they differ around the world?

Henna tattoos (called different names around the world, like mehndi in Indian culture and hinna in Arabic culture) are often used for important celebrations like weddings, religious holidays, and festivals. In Morocco, doors are painted with henna to ward off evil and invite prosperity. African henna features bold, geometric designs, while Indian mehndi designs are more fine and lacy, and Arabic hinna uses large floral and vine patterns.

HSST_Illustration_071317_SmileNow that you’ve learned a bit more about the traditions and rich history behind henna tattoos, you can appreciate their art and beauty even more next time you come across an intricate design. Maybe you’ll even consider getting a henna tattoo yourself if the opportunity ever arises. As a bonus, henna tattoos are a great way to showcase, adorn, and accentuate your hands—something we’re all about over here at the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas.

 If you’re experiencing hand, wrist, or elbow pain, learn about some common conditions here. You can also schedule an appointment online or over the phone at any of our four convenient Houston-area locations. To stay up-to-date on everything happening at HSST, make sure to follow us on Facebook! Our hands heal yours!