general info WHAT IS HENNA?
What is Henna?
Updated on 04 June 2018

By: Salamah Ghudayer

You will see henna designs this month on the majority of Muslimas around Eid Al Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. From the intricate to the basic designs, henna in the Emirates is worn on special occasions by ladies and girls. Decorated hands and feet are popular for any traditional festivity, social gathering or significant occasion. Some tribes believe married women should frequently be beautified with henna designs as a sign of dignity and proper self-care. Henna though has some medicinal purposes as well and it is through this sometimes men get in on this natural treatment.

Firstly, henna is a leaf from a bush, which once dried and ground, opening up it’s fibres it can dye whatever it comes in contact with especially when moist. When the powder is mixed with water into a paste, it can easily be applied in many forms; as an intricate design, as a salve on the body or head or more traditional basic designs. The lady who administers the henna is called a hennaya and the best of them can really be considered artists. Henna paste should be all natural. Some hennaya or salons add sugar, rose water and other personalized ingredients, but they should be natural. Healthy ingredients for the skin.

Henna can be applied in the most intricate of designs, on the hands or feet. A plastic piping cone, in a similar method used for icing a cookie, or a wide syringe with a dull end are used for applying the dark green paste above the skin in the thinnest of designs. These methods can create beautiful intricate geometric patterns and all types of floral and nature motifs. Traditionally though a thin stick or thread was dipped in the paste and then applied. Also, ladies just used their fingers tips to pack the paste along the bottom of the feet and then uniformly on their fingertips. Afterward a design in the palm was created looping the thumb and pinkie finger together then curving back up toward the index finger, or else a simple perfect circle in the middle of the palm were the most common patterns for ladies and is still common. These two designs are also popular for very young girls who cannot sit long for the hennaya or to then let it dry. After the design is applied, the paste is left to dry for a few hours. If it begins to crack, some people tap the design with olive oil, or spray it with perfume to rewet the mixture without diluting it with water. Once the henna begins to fall away, it is removed and the orange stain is moisturized. Often by the next day the stain will have darkened into the darkest brown possible. The longer the design is kept moisturised it will last.

Henna can also be used in dying the hair as well, though some say it brings forth grey hair quicker. Henna paste is also used medicinally by anyone of any age as a salve on the feet for cracked heels or those hurt by the hot sands. Some place the henna paste on the bottom of the feet to reduce headaches, by drawing the blood towards the coolness of the henna, while others use it on the back of the neck or through the hair to relieve headaches. When the seeds of the bush or the completely natural powder are ingested under advice from a medicinal expert it can help with skin irritations as well as those of the digestive tract. From ancient to modern times, henna has been widely enjoyed in the Emirates for all of its qualities.

NOTE: There is no such thing as natural black or white henna. The Dubai Government has a campaign in salons against black henna & carcinogenic additives to strengthen the stain of natural henna. Henna should never feel it is burning or causing severe irritation as it is applied.

The Dubai Government has a campaign in salons to enforce this, as some try to add unhealthy additives to improve the staining power of the leaf. There is no such thing as natural white or black henna as well; those are purely manufactured products and are not traditional for Arabia, and black henna is not allowed in Dubai. 

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