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What Are Mehndi?

Mehndi is the art of using henna to create temporary tattoos.
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  • Written By: A. Rohlandt
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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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.

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.

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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.

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