Our guide to henna

Our guide to henna

First published date April 07 2014 Amended date November 10 2015

Henna, the traditional art of painting patterns on parts of the body, has long been a part of the cultures of many countries and from Cleopatra to Madonna, henna has been worn by some of history’s most famous of people. A henna course will teach you everything you need to know about applying and designing henna tattoos, an art you can share with your family and friends.


What is henna?

Henna is a flowering plant that can grow up to 15 feet high. Henna refers both to the plant, the dye that is prepared from the plant, and also the practice of applying the dye onto the human body. The henna plant contains lawsone. Lawsone is a reddish-brown dye that binds to the keratin of our skin, safely dying the skin, for as long as one to three weeks. The art of Henna can be used to dye hair, nails and skin, and has long been known to possess medical properties that can cure headaches, stomach pains, sunburn and even used as a sun block for animals. Henna as both a nail art and  a body art requires comprehensive artistic t talents in order to create intricate and original designs.


An ancient tradition

Henna has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. It has been practised for over 5,000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East; however some reports claim that it could even be over 9,000 years old.

Over 5,000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, henna became extremely popular. Archaeological research has found that it was used by ancient pharaohs to stain their fingers and toes. However it was also used by all Egyptians, as it provided them with an inexpensive method of adorning their attire, while also at the same time having huge spiritual significance in Egyptian culture.

In India, henna also has very strong influences in religious and social traditions. This is most prominent the night before an Indian wedding where the bride will get extensive traditional mendhi design on their feet and hands that can extend as far as their elbows and knees. It is tradition that for as long as this henna design holds, the wife will not have to do any housework.


What will I learn?

A henna course will be comprehensive and you will learn everything about the design and application of henna. During a henna course you will learn:

  • The application of henna.
  • How to design your own henna.
  • How the use of henna differs in different cultures and countries.
  • All about the aftercare of henna.
  • About starting your own business.
  • About commercial, personal and bridal work.

Henna takes a lot of creativity and artistic talent so it can be a good idea to take some extra courses beforehand. An art course or a fine art course will help to build those artistic skills that are so essential for henna.


Get paid for your artistic talents

Now that you’re a henna expert why not use the skills you’ve learnt from the course and establish a career as a henna body artist? To pursue this dream you will need to be a highly skilled artist with a flair for henna and great attention to detail, but once you have learnt all the henna techniques you will be in a great position to make the leap. Becoming a henna artist will take no formal qualifications and you can either work for an existing shop or be self employed.

If you’d prefer to just make some extra money, doing something you love, then maybe you could work part time as a self employed henna artist? This would involve visiting clients and creating designs for them. Enrolling on a business administration course will give you the business know-how to succeed. Other jobs can include; nail technician, body artist, you could even use these new skills to become an artist.

Different henna designs

Due to the widespread traditions of henna, there are many countries, which all have their own henna designs. Here are some of the most popular henna designs:

Indian Mendhi: This involves thin lines that create intricate lacy and floral patterns. It is often applied on the hands and feet, and can move its way up as far as the knees and elbows.

African henna: Simple and bold, African henna uses large and abstract shapes to create unique patterns on the skin.

Arabic henna: Arabic henna is more like African than Indian. It uses large patterns such as flowers and vines that are drawn onto the hands and feet. It is not as intricate as Indian henna and not as bold as African.

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