The Secrets of Dark Staining Henna

Why Did My Friend's Henna Turn Out So Much Darker Than Mine?
Adding Ingredients To Your Henna To Get A Darker Stain
Blackening Your Henna With Ammonia

Why Did My Friend's Henna Turn Out So Much Darker Than Mine?

The same batch of henna, applied at the same time, may turn out completely differently on two separate people. Why? Because of three main factors

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Adding Ingredients To Your Henna To Get A Darker Stain:

Henna artists always seem to have a secret recipe that they use to coax a dark stain from their henna. Some of the safely guarded ingredients do indeed make a difference, others are just placebos (at most they might make the henna smell nice), while others may in fact be unsafe.

People have been known to use harsh ingredients such as gasoline, turpentine, and hair dye--things you definitely do not want to put on your skin. ABSOLUTELY NEVER EVER GET BLACK HENNA DONE ON YOU! It is not real henna! It is a toxic chemical that can cause severe damage both externally and internnaly (see the section on black henna)!

Be cautious of pre-made tubes of henna and henna kits, because you do not necessarily know what the manufacture has included. If a tube of pre-made henna smells bad and makes your skin feel funny, then you probably don't want to use it. It is always best to mix up your own batch of henna paste, that way you know exactly what went into it. If someone is doing henna on you, never be afraid to ask if there is anything in there to which you might be allergic. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Essential oil bottles

Hennotannic acid is the key element for making your henna turn dark. Where can you find hennotannic acid? It is found in a variety of essential oils. Some essential oils that can be used include tea tree, cajeput, ravensara, clove bud, and lavender. The most effective and least irritating of these oils are tea tree, cajeput and ravensara. Clove bud can be effective, but it can often cause allergic reactions. Lavender is the least likely to cause a skin reaction. Many henna artists swear by eucalyptus oil, but it is questionable as to how much it aids with the darkening process. Other essential oils can be added simply as a fragrance (clove bud, geranium, jasmine, frankincense, etc.). (Information adapted from The Reverend Bunny's Secret Henna Diary, accessed Nov. 6, 2002)

Always be careful when using essential oils. When doing henna on pregnant women, be sure to use a batch with out any essential oils. Many people are allergic to essential oils, especially eucalyptus, and clove oil. Also beware of nut extracts or powders (such as walnut powder). If you do want to use essential oils, know that all essential oils should not be applied to the skin undiluted.

For more information about essential oils and their uses in henna, please visit The Reverend Bunny's Secret Henna Diary, especially the page on The Serious Henna Mixes.

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Blackening Your Henna With Ammonia:

henna by Catherine Cartwright Jones

Henna is prepared with an acid (lemon juice, vinegar, etc.). If you remember your high school chemistry class, you might recall that acids react strongly with bases. So how does a base affect henna?

It has been a long standing tradition throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia to turn henna designs black by treating them with ammonia (a reactive base). Ammonia was most easily found in the form of urine (especially the urine of camels, donkeys, etc.). Now though, we have the option of going to the store and picking up a bottle of household strength ammonia.

Please note, ammonia is potentially hazardous to ones skin, so read the following before you try to use ammonia on yourself or others!

"Before you try this, read the WARNING label on the back of the ammonia bottle! This only works well on PALMS and SOLES, and should only be tried by an ADULT with healthy unbroken skin. If the ammonia starts to burn or sting, quit this IMMEDIATELY, and flush the skin with water and vinegar. DO NOT do this if you have sensitive skin, if you have broken skin, or if you are a child. Do a patch test on your skin with the ammonia before you do a large area! Use household ammonia, not laboratory ammonia. Do not use sudsing ammonia or lemon ammonia ... use the plainest household ammonia you can find. Household ammonia is 90% water. Don't get ammonia in your eyes, mouth, or on thin delicate skin. Ammonia is caustic, and can give you something like diaper rash or dishpan hands. It does not usually bother healthy adult palms and soles. It works much better on hands that have firm to callused skin than soft skinned hands. On very soft hands, this does not work properly ... the skin must be firm and porous for this to work. Do this only in a well ventilated area.... DO NOT do this on skin other than palms and soles! Ammonia on uncallused skin HURTS and will exfoliate your henna before it ever darkens!" (The Reverend Bunny's Secret Henna Diary, accessed Nov. 6, 2002)

The ammonia treatment:

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