Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Q&A: The Art of Henna and How Brides Are Using It Today

Henna is a modern trend that is seen more and more today by brides and ladies who are just wanting to do something unique and beautiful. Whether it is your wedding day or a fun party for just the girls, Beth Hendrickson of New World Henna is the expert when it comes to the history and application of Henna! Beth answered some questions to explain more about the art of Henna and what it is exactly.

Q. What is Henna?

A. Henna is known to most people as very popular hair dye but is also used for a form of temporary body art in which the skin is decorated with elaborate designs, typically done freehand. The henna paste is applied directly on the skin and leaves behind a stain that starts out orange and then in 2-3 days darkens to a beautiful mahogany/cherry brown color. It lasts about 2-3 weeks after that.

Q. What is it made of?

A. Henna powder/paste is made from the leaves of the henna plant which grows in hot arid regions, such as the Middle East, the Mediterranean, South Asia and North Africa.

Q. How long have you been a Henna artist?

A. I bought my first henna kit about 3 years ago and I was immediately passionate about it. It was about 6 months after that that I did my first festival event and I was hooked. I love meeting nice people and talking to them and drawing on them and I love it when they smile when I’m done- best feeling ever. For the last year and a half or so, I’ve added bridal work to my repertoire.

Q. How is Henna used for weddings?

A. In Arabic countries and in India, henna is used to decorate the bride’s arms, hands, legs and feet. In India, henna is referred to as “mehendi’ and is a must-have for the wedding. And Indian bride without her mehendi is like an American bride without her bouquet. The family and friends also get hennaed, but they get smaller designs. The rule is that you can’t get anything more intricate than the bride.

Q. How does a Bride go about selecting the type of Henna design that she wants?

A. The bride can pick from design books provided by the artist. The Internet also makes it very easy for brides to find designs on their own. They can either go to my site ( to pick a design or just browse the Internet for other artists’ designs. I usually try to customize the design for each bride to make it unique for them. Arabic brides usually go for elegant floral design that trail up the arms and legs. Indian brides, however like very intricate and dense designs that cover the arms and feet like a glove or boot. And they usually want to add elephants, peacocks, Ganesha or even a cute little bride and groom. Those are more time-consuming but they are fun to do. I’ve had several American brides get henna done for their wedding as well, usually opting for something very light and delicate.

Q. What is the process of applying Henna on a Bride for her wedding day?

A. I have the bride wash and pat dry her hands and feet. Then I begin applying the designs with the henna paste, starting with the legs and feet and them moving up to the arms and hands. The paste will dry as we go along so once I am done with the application, I go back and begin applying stretchy, breathable medical tape directly on top of the dried paste. She will sleep with the tape on overnight and then remove the tape and paste in the morning.

Q. How long does it take?

A. Depending on how much coverage the bride wants and the artistic difficulty involved in the specific elements that she requests, the full Indian bridals can take anywhere from 2-8 hours, including food breaks, chatting, stretching breaks and aftercare.

Q. How long does it last?

A. The henna stain lasts about 2-3 weeks. Usually by week 3, all of the stained layers of skin have exfoliated away. It is said that the darker a bride’s henna stain, the more her mother-in-law loves her. Also, the bride is not supposed to do any housework until it is completely faded.

Q. What is “black” henna and why is it bad?

A. Some artists, usually in touristy beach destinations, will try to sell you “black henna” tattoos. This stuff is terrible- it contains black hair dye which has PPD (P-Phenylenediamine) in it and can cause a severe chemical burn on your skin, leaving you scarred for life. Stay far far away from this false henna.

Q. Do you do Henna parties?

A. I do henna parties for any occasion- birthdays, bachelorette parties, wedding parties, baby showers, you name it. I’ve even done a Morocan themed baby shower complete with henna tattoos and a belly dance class for all of the guests! I also do henna on pregnant bellies. It’s something special and different that a mom can do for her prenatal photos. I just love working with those nice, big canvases!

Q. Why do you love the art of Henna and why do you think we are seeing it more and more today?

A. The thing that attracts me personally to henna is the fact that it is done freehand and that it is such a temporal art form. Because of it’s fleeting and temporary nature, it reminds us to enjoy the beauty that going on right now and to live in the moment. It’s actually kind of a bittersweet thing, because you know the design will fade away eventually. But then again, it lends itself to the ideas of renewal and rebirth, because you can get another beautiful design a few weeks later. I think that attracts other people to henna as well. Sometimes people don’t want to make that commitment to a real tattoo, but they still want to decorate their body. Another thing that I love about doing henna is that I really enjoy the intense mental challenge of doing those intricate 8 hour bridal sessions and then seeing the finished product.

Beth herself, at work applying Henna to a Bride.

To book an appointment or get prices, contact Beth from New World Henna. You can visit her web-site at or e-mail her at You can also check her out on Facebook and see more images of her talented work!

*Photos Provided by McLellan Style

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