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Planning To Get A Henna Tattoo? Here’s What You Need To Know Before Getting One

Pro tip: Some henna dyes are not safe for your skin.
by Astrud Bernales
March 29, 2023
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If you’re considering getting a tattoo but are not quite ready to make that lifetime commitment, you might want to consider getting a temporary one. Just to test the waters, if you will.

Fortunately, temporary tattoos are a thing and they’ve been here for quite a while now. Heck, a quick stroll at a popular beach would likely lead you to a shop that offers henna tattoo service for a reasonable fee. 

In case you’re interested in getting one on your next beach trip, we rounded up everything you need to know about henna—what it’s made of, what dye to avoid, and how to make it last longer.

First, What Is A Henna Tattoo?

You probably already know that henna tattoos are temporary tattoos. But did you know that the dye used for this body art comes from a plant also called henna?

Traditionally, henna dye is prepared by mixing the dried and ground leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis) with water or oil. The resulting paste is then applied to the skin using a cone or an applicator bottle following a particular design. The dye then leaves a stain on the skin, the colors of which can range from red to dark brown. 

How Long Does A Henna Tattoo Last?

ICYDK, henna tattoos don’t involve the use of needles. As such, the ink only goes through the top layer of the skin and slowly fades over time. Depending on how the henna was applied and how it was taken care of after, your tattoo should be visible for up to two weeks. 

Are Henna Tattoos Safe?

Henna tattoos are generally considered safe, although it is not advised for people with sensitive skin. As a general rule though, experts suggest avoiding one particular type of dye: black henna.

Unlike traditional henna dyes, black henna is often made with a certain additive called p-phenylenediamine (PPD). This is used to make the design look darker and last much longer. But here’s the kicker: Should this ingredient get absorbed into your skin, the reactions could include redness, blisters, or in some cases, permanent scarring. 

Since it’s hard to know for sure whether a certain dye is made with or without PPD, it’s recommended to steer clear of black henna altogether. 

Needless to say, make sure that the shop or artist you’re getting your henna tattoo from is legit. If the option to do a patch test is available, go ahead and check to make sure that the dye won’t react negatively to your skin. Should you experience allergies or irritation after, don’t put off consulting a doctor. 

When Should I Wash Off Henna?

To get the best results out of your temporary tat, proper henna aftercare is a must. For starters, it’s good practice to let the paste dry on your skin for at least eight hours. Do note that the longer it stays on your skin, the longer the design would last. 

While it’s drying, don’t let anything touch the tattoo if you don’t want certain lines to get ruined or look smudged. Plus, getting your clothes or sheets in direct contact with the pigment could lead to permanent stains. If you’re staying at a hotel or renting a place by the beach, here’s your warning that these stains could lead to extra charges.

Once the henna is completely dry, don’t rush to wash it off with water. Instead, peel the cracked paste with a credit card or a spoon. At this point, you’d want to avoid getting it wet within the next 24 hours as doing so could cause the design to fade fast. If you cannot avoid the water though, you can apply some baby oil or balm over the tattoo to protect it.

The design would look faint initially, but it should appear darker over the next two to three days. 

5 Henna Tattoos Ideas To Try On Your Next Beach Trip

It’s important to note that since henna ink is essentially a paste applied on the skin, fine lines and dainty tattoo designs will not likely register as well as they do in permanent tattoos made with needles. So you might be better off exploring bolder designs with thick lines for this particular body art. Besides, they’re bound to fade off anyway, so what better time than now to explore new and crazy designs, amirite?

Check out our recos for the henna tattoo ideas you should definitely try this summer:

  1. Mehndi-inspired patterns

    The practice of applying henna tattoos on the hands, feet, and other parts of the body is called mehndi in the Middle East, South Asia, and some parts of Africa. As such, you can’t go wrong with mehndi-inspired motifs as their shapes and lines are designed with the limitations of henna in mind. Besides, how cool would you look with this chest tattoo while sporting your favorite bikini?

  2. Aesthetic leaves

    Dainty and subtle, leaves are lovely symbols of life and growth. They also look good anywhere on your body, be it your side or arms.

  3. Beach symbols

    For when you’re a beach babe and there’s no hiding it, this cute series of palm tree, waves, and starfish will let you carry your happy place wherever you go. Well, at least for the next couple of weeks. These would look cute going down your arm, leg, or even down your upper back. 

  4. Zodiac-inspired graphics

    Bare a gorgeous full back piece inspired by your zodiac sign at the beach. For when it starts to fade after your trip, you can easily hide it under your clothes. 

  5. Your own sigil

    If you’re planning on eventually getting a tattoo that holds personal value, have a test run with a henna version. You can come up with your own design or hire an artist to come up with your customized sigil. Just show the design to your henna artist for reference and get the chance to wear it on your skin before you say yes to permanent ink.

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