A Few FAQ's About Henna

What is henna?

Henna is a flowering shrub, its scientific name is Lawsonia Inermis.  Its leaves are gathered, dried, and then crushed into a powder.  This powder is what is mixed with different things to make the henna paste.

Where does it come from?

It grows all over Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, parts of southern Asia and most places overseas that are very hot and dry.

How long has henna been around?

The furthest back we can document the use of henna is in ancient Egypt around 3,400 B.C. and it was used to dye hair.  Throughout ancient Egypt we have discovered that henna was used for many reasons.  It was used for staining the nails, dying hair and wigs, and decorating the body.  It also has antifungal properties, and was used to help disperse heat from the body and keep it cool.  It would help to alleviate migraines, and it is the ultimate in UV protection!

Who uses henna?

Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, and other groups of people use henna.  It is mostly the women and little girls who will decorate their bodies.  Sometimes the designs are very simplistic and other times they are quite elaborate.  As a side note, men do not often use henna except to dye or condition their hair and/or beards.  However, during some events and holidays you may see a man or boy with a fingertip or fingertips stained with henna, or just a palm stained from just pushing the hand into a plate of henna.  In very few cultures do the men wear any kind of design in henna and only then it is very simple and small, and the guy is unmarried.

When is henna used?

Henna can be used for any celebratory event.  You will never find someone in mourning putting on henna.  Some events are religious in nature others are just for parties or other happy events.  Some everyday events include, but not limited to, pregnancy, births, circumcisions, coming of age, weddings, birthdays, victories.  Some of the religious events include, but not limited to: for the Muslim culture Eid and Mawlid, for the Hindu culture Divali and Karva Chauth, and for the Jewish culture Purim and Passover.  Henna is actually not sacred or intrinsic to any religion, it is something that adds to or enhances the celebration.

Why is henna used?

Henna has many different uses, the most popular of which is for decorating the body.  It is also used as a cosmetic to dye hair and stain the finger and toe nails a red to reddish-orange.  It has been used for its medicinal qualities to cool the body, condition the skin, hair, and nails, and for use as an antifungal on skin and nails.  In some areas henna is thought to have protective properties to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye especially when used to draw certain designs or signs and symbols.  Henna is thought to be a symbol of wellness or good health and prosperity, and also of purification or renewal.

How is henna applied?

Traditionally it was applied with a kohl pick, tapered stick or bone to dot the paste onto the skin.  Nowadays we have several different methods for applying it to the skin.  In different areas sticks are still used for application.  There are also cellophane or Mylar cones, bottles with steel tips, and plastic and glass syringes.  All of them have their own techniques and can be used with beautiful results, the artist has to figure out what works best for them.

How long does henna last?

Here in Kansas it is usually safe to say henna will last a week to two weeks this is because henna will react differently in different weather conditions.  The hotter is it the better the stain and it prefers to be in a little dryer climate versus wet.  They also have access to fresher henna than we get over here.  Some people have their own henna plants on their property.  That is why when you go overseas to Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and even South East Asia the stains seems be much darker and to last so much longer.

Are there any dangers to henna?

Natural brown henna is safe for applying to the skin and is even edible.  The only times I have ever heard of anyone having an allergic reaction to a henna paste was not from the henna itself but from one of the ingredients mixed into the henna paste.  There are some henna pastes already in cones and henna kits that are available to buy at Indian, Asian, and world markets.  Do be careful when thinking about buying one of these because the manufacturers, many of which are overseas where there regulations for what is acceptable to put on the skin is different that the regulations we have here, put a lot of chemicals in their henna mix to preserve it and to enhance its staining power.  These ready-made henna cones and kits will stain and many people use them every day without any kind of reactions, just be aware.  There is one group of people however that should not use henna, anyone with a G6PD deficientcy.  This means the person doesn’t have enough of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, which helps red blood cells function normally.

What colors does henna come in?

Natural henna only comes in one color, brown.  There is something called “Black Henna” that has been available for a while but there is no henna in it, it is a chemical.  The chemical is called phenylenediamine, also known as PPD, and is not supposed to be put on the skin.  This is the same chemical in black hair dye.  On the outside of the body it can cause burns, blisters, and permanent scars.  On the inside of the body it can lead to asthma, cancer, and liver failure.  There is a new product that has recently come out called “White Henna”.  This product is actually safe because unlike natural henna or the black henna it does not stain into the body.  It is applied just like henna but once the paste dries it will just sticks to the body and can be worn for 3-5 days.

FDA Rulings on Glitter and Cosmetics

The manufacturer states that these products are used by major US cosmetic companies and confirm that the glitters are approved in the European Union (EU) for all cosmetic uses, as well as have met the EU’s REACH criteria.

With regard to the US FDA, the following is based on conversations that have been had with the FDA as well as members of the cosmetics industry. If you have any questions about these statements, you should contact them directly at the FDA:

The FDA has determined that glitter is a color additive which is not listed on their list of approved color additives. This means that a glitter product is not allowed for use in any cosmetic in the USA. Consumers have expressed confusion over this, as it is obvious that there is glitter in all kinds of cosmetics sold currently in the USA and there are no known reports of harm caused by glitter.

The FDA has not explained itself, but has advised us that it recognizes that the cosmetics industry has been largely unaware of this determination and it is essentially providing the cosmetic industry a grace period during which FDA enforcement is “discretionary”. This grace period allows the cosmetics industry to “respond”. The FDA has not provided us with any information on how long this grace period has been in effect, nor how long it will be in effect. They simply state the the issue is “active”.

All glitters are made from Polyethylene Terephthalate, Aluminum, Polyurethane 33 and the following additionals: