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Henna for Body Art, Hair, and Nails

Are they different products? Which one should I use?

The short answer? No. They are not different. It is all the same plant, you can use the same henna powder for all three uses.  The difference is in the texture required, and essential oils.

Henna binds to keratin, which is the protein found in skin, hair, and nails.  Other materials that have keratin include wool, silk, and leather. Fabrics made from these can be stained by henna so be cautious!

Henna is a permanent dye. This means different things when colouring skin, hair, and nails. Henna may be permanent but your skin is not. It renews itself reguarly, every 3-4 weeks you have fresh brand new skin! Amazing huh! So as the old dead skin cells fall away, or are exfoliated, the stain leaves with them and the new, unstained skin replaces it. This is how a henna stain fades on the skin. Most stains last no longer than 2 weeks.

Now hair and nails do not shed the same way. You must wait for them to grow out. Henna does not fade, this is one of the qualities that makes it an amazing hair dye, as it is will not fade to orange like commercial hair dyes. You will get a clear regrowth demarcation, just like regular permanent dyes, so root touch ups are needed. If you are wanting a temporary or semi-permanent hair colour, then henna is not for you. It is difficult to remove from hair and regular dye removers are not effective and bleaching is required - typically several attempts.
There are great reasons to use henna in your hair though, it is very strengthening and adds a beautiful shine. Your hair will look glossy and healthy when you use henna. It will add a little weight too. You're also not harming your body with synthetic dyes. 

Just like hair, henna on nails must grow out.  If you do a light application, you may be able to buff it out but generally consider henna on nails to be permanent. It is, just like with henna in hair, strengthening and conditioning. If you have nails that are weak and delaminate or split easily, henna can help.  Henna is also a suitable nail colour for Muslim ladies, as the dye permeates the nail and does not need to be removed prior to wudu, as is the case with regular nail polish.  If you do henna your nails you'll need to keep reapplying it as it grows out. If you decide you've had enough of hennaed nails, just let it grow. You can use nail polish over the top, however light colours may not fully cover the henna colour. 


So how is the henna mixture different for hair, skin, and nails?

Henna for body art is needs to be the thinnest of the three, as it must pass through a tiny opening to make intricate designs. Essential oils with terpinol alchohols will help the henna dye to bind more effectively to the skin. Example of safe effective essentail oils are tea tree, lavender, cajeput, ravensara, and geranium bourbon. Certain species of eucalyptus are also effective, but there is a range commercially available and they do not always state the botanical name (Eucalyptus globulous is the correct one).

Henna for nails must be quite thick and is easiest to apply with a cone with a large opening, jac bottle with a large tip, or a flat stick such as a paddlepop stick. The most tricky part of applying henna to nails is getting clean edges. Any henna that stains the skin around your nails will fade over a couple of weeks so it's not a disaster if you do get some on your skin. Essential oils will make the stain darker and push more towards the burgandy tones. Henna without appropriate essential oils will be more orange. You may need multiple applications to get the depth of colour you are after. Some people steam the henna paste on their nails to keep it moist. You can tape up your nails once the henna is dry with medical tape, or wrap with tissue. 

Henna for hair must be thin enough to be able to be distributed throughout the hair, yet not drip or run. It falls between henna for body art and henna for nails in thickness. Some hennas are sold for hair, for example hair quality Jamila. Usually this means that it is not as finely sifted and are usually cheaper than body art quality henna, but be aware if it states a particular colour, it is NOT pure henna, and the additives may be chemical dyes.
Essential oils are not required for henna for hair. Just henna powder and water will do the job effectively. 

You can read about my own experience using henna on my hair here.

Things that are the same for all three mixes

All three require the henna to be mixed ahead of time, and the paste must remain on the skin/hair/nails for several hours while the dye migrates into the surface. The colour will be light at first and will take 1-3 days to fully bloom to it's final colour. It will start out quite orange and move towards red for hair, and reddish brown for skin and nails over that time. All three can be mixed with just water, although some people use lemon juice. 


All in all, henna is an amazing plant!

Find some great natural hair dyes below:

$7.60 per unit for buying at least 10 Organic Rajasthani Henna Powder 100g 2017
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$7.60 per unit for buying at least 10 Indigo Powder 100g Natural hair dye Certified Organic
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