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What is Henna?

Henna is a pain-free, temporary form of body art that involves staining the skin with a dye that’s derived from the henna plant (lawsonia inermis). Henna leaves are dried and ground into a powder. The henna powder is then mixed with a liquid (water and/or lemon juice), sugar, and essential oils to create a henna paste for body art application. The paste is applied to the exterior of the skin by an applicator bottle or “cone” in a very similar fashion to piping frosting on a cake.

The art of henna has been practiced in India, Africa, and the Middle East for thousands of years. It is thought that henna was first used by desert communities who applied the henna paste to their hands and feet due to its cooling effect. This process evolved into the application of decorative patterns. Eventually, men and women of multiple cultures in the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa began adorning themselves with henna for special occasions and spiritual holidays, some of which are still in practice today.

What is the process of getting a henna tattoo?

In-depth instructions for preparation, aftercare, and maintenance are included below. This is a high-level explanation of the process for those who aren’t familiar with henna. 

After choosing the desired henna design and placement, the artist will apply the henna paste to the skin usually with a picture of the design on hand to reference. The length of time the henna application takes depends on the size and complexity of the design — it could be 20 minutes or a few hours. The applied henna paste is wet at first and so care must be taken not to smudge the design until it’s fully dried or sealed. The applied henna paste usually takes about 30 minutes to dry. Once the henna is at a point where it is dry but before its flaking off, the henna artist will seal the henna tattoo with either a lemon juice/sugar solution or breathable medical grade wrap. This will protect the henna and help to enhance the stain. To get the best stain the henna paste should stay on the skin for at least 4 hours, though 6 to 8 hours is best. Once this amount of time has elapsed you should scrape off the henna paste off to reveal a beautiful natural, reddish-brown colored stain on the skin. The henna tattoo will gradually darken over the course of the first 48 hours and usually lasts about 1 to 2 weeks, depending on a number of factors. 

Is henna safe?

Henna in its pure form is extremely safe and has been used as a natural form of body art for thousands of years. At Diversified Ink, we use only professional body art quality henna that is safe and natural — with no harmful chemical additives. It is rare for someone to have an adverse reaction to natural, unadulterated henna. That being said, some people may be allergic or have a sensitivity to the additive ingredients used in making the henna paste, usually the lemon juice or essential oils. If you are sensitive to citrus or essential oils, you should not get a henna tattoo. Those with the rare disorder called G6PD deficiency (or are allergic to aspirin or fava beans) (https://www.g6pd.org/g6pddeficiency.aspx) should not get henna. If you have any concerns, we would encourage you to discuss the ingredients of the henna paste with the artist. 

“Black henna” Warning

There is a huge difference between the safe, natural henna Diversified Ink uses and the product people refer to as “black henna”. With “black henna” PPD hair dye is added to henna to produce a jet-black paste that stains in just minutes. The chemicals found in “Black henna” are toxic and can cause severe allergic reactions and permanent scars. Stay away from harmful “black henna”!

The true, natural henna that we use at Diversified Ink has a please grassy, herbal scent and is a brownish colored paste that stains an orange-red-brown that takes hours to develop. Diversified Ink offers only fresh natural henna made with pure essential oils that results in a beautiful stain and a safe experience. 

***Many photos you see of henna that look black in color are with the paste still on.

How is a henna tattoo different from a permanent ink tattoo?

A henna tattoo is temporary and will completely fade away in 2 weeks’ time. The application of henna is a painless application that does not involve needles. There is no skin penetration or piercing involved in the process. The henna paste is applied on top of the skin with an applicator bottle or cone. Furthermore, in contrast to tattoo ink, the dye that stains the skin is derived from a plant.

Does it hurt to apply henna to the skin?

No. Applying henna on the skin is a painless form of body art. Most find it to be a pleasant and relaxing experience. Usually, the most difficult part of getting a henna design is sitting still for the time required, which can be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the complexity of the design.

What is the age limit for henna tattoos?

Only those 16 years and older can get book henna tattoo appointments at Diversified Ink.

Does henna work on dark skin tones?

Yes, henna is used in some parts of Africa, across the Middle East to South Asia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. If you have a darker skin tone and you want the henna strikingly visible then the palms or soles of the feet are your best bet. The second best would be the back of the hands or top of the feet.

Where on my body should I get my henna tattoo?

Henna tattoos are traditionally done on the hands, feet, and forearms. But you can have henna applied to almost any part of your body: shoulder, thigh, chest, or back. But keep in mind that the placement of your henna affects the level of stain. 

  • Darkest stain areas: palms, soles, and sides of feet, toes
  • Dark stain areas: tops of hands and fingers, sides and tops of feet
  • Medium stain areas: forearms and calves
  • Light stain areas: all other body parts

Also keep in mind that you will need to have the area exposed until the henna paste has dried and is sealed. You’ll need to wear clothing and/or footwear that will not cover the henna tattoo until it is fully dried and sealed. 

If you have henna applied to the palms of your hands or your lower back, you may want to bring a friend to drive you home so that you do not smudge the paste on the steering wheel or car seat. Also, depending on where you put your henna seat belts can smudge your design if it is not completely dry before you head home. In general, it’s a good idea to lay low after having henna applied to avoid having the dried paste come off too early. Many opt to have henna tattoos done later in the evening and simply leave the paste on overnight.


Click Here for Henna aftercare instructions.

Nicki is available by appointment on Saturdays. Complete a quote request to schedule your appointment.


About Nicki

It wasn’t until later in life that Diversified Ink’s henna artist, Nicki Franz, embraced her artistic side. While she doodled her way through school in Northern Maine and then classes at UMaine, sports and other interests dominated her life. After graduating college she spent a couple of years as a snowboard bum in Colorado where she welcomed her son into the world. She returned to Maine with her 3-month-old son and husband in 2010.

This was when her art started to flourish. Most mornings before work you could find her at Bagel Central drawing floral designs on the back of her receipt (her favorite drawing paper). Later she’d throw it into a cigar box that soon became overflowing with her “receipts”.

Three years ago she came upon a henna tattoo while browsing Pinterest. A light went off — it looked like the drawings that filled her cigar box. She immediately bought some henna paste and started applying it to herself, family, and friends. She found people enjoyed the relaxing experience of receiving a henna tattoo as much as the resulting tattoo — she was hooked! She is thrilled to be offering this calming, temporary form of body art with the greater Bangor Community.

Henna Gallery