Henna designs: an ancient tradition

Henna, or Mehndi, has been used since the Bronze Age to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather, silk and wool. In several parts of the world beautiful, intricated henna designs are traditionally used to decorate parts of the body during festivals and celebrations. Today, thanks to the advance of technology and multicultrality, this ancient art has become a worldwide fashion.

Fashion and tradition

The henna plant was already known in ancient Egypt as a medicinal herb, and during the Roman Empire for its cosmetic use, as well as in Indian courts since around 400 CE and many other regions throughout history. The so called henna 'tattoos' originated from the ceremonial art form of Mehndi, the act of painting with henna intricate patterns on the hands and feet of brides before wedding ceremonies.

Originated in ancient India, Bridal henna decoration is still an important tradition in many of areas in North Africa, Near East and South Asia. However, large scale emigration and improvements in cultivation of the henna plant and processing of the paste have contributed to the global explosion of henna tattoo art.

PHOTO GALLERY: Mehndi Henna Designs Ideas

The paste used for henna tattoos is prepared from ground fresh or dried henna leaves. Placed in contact with the skin, for few hours or overnight, it produces a semi-permanent tattoo that turns from light orange to dark reddish brown, depending on how long the paste is kept on and individual skin type. Also depending on the type of skin and the duration of the application is how long the henna tattoo will last.

Normally it lasts from 1 to 3 weeks, with rubbing of natural oil expanding the lifetime of the stain. The art of "Bridal Mehndi" in countries as Pakistan, is currently growing in complexity: elaborated henna patterned designs nowadays feature glitter, gilding, and very fine-line work.

Possible health issues

Unfortunately, the desicion of applying henna designs to the body isn't completely risk free. In a quest for making the henna tattooas black as possible, people have started adding to the paste various types of dyes. Amongst them, the synthetic dyep-Phenylenediamine (PPD) is considered extremely harmful to the skin and and can cause severe allergic reactions resulting in permanent injury or death. In some cases, the following have also been fond as additivesin the past: silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye, and chromium. These also can cause allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory reactions, or onset allergic reactions to various kinds of dye. Generally, henna is known to be dangerous to people with glucose-6-phosphatedehydrogenase deficiency (G6PDdeficiency)

PHOTO GALLERY: Mehndi Henna Designs Ideas

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