The darker your mehndi the more your mother-in-law loves you… That’s the traditional belief, well we all want to be loved so lets see what makes the mehndi dark!
Start with good quality mehndi preferably one that’s been vacuum packed as old mehndi will give you an orange stain with no depth to the colour. Good quality mehndi is usually triple filtered for a smooth application with no clogging to the fine tip of your mehndi cone. The different coloured stains that are produced on your skin such as red, maroon and deep chocolate brown will vary depending on the type of henna powder you are using. The post ‘how to make mehndi’ goes into more detail about making mehndi and henna cones. Add warm water to your henna powder along with enough essential oils that are high in monoterpenes (also known as ‘terps’), these oils help to release the dye in the henna which will transfer it quicker onto the skin resulting in a deep henna stain. I like to use Teatree, Cajeput and Eucalyptus and sometimes a little Lavender or Clove oil – clove oil along with many other essential oils can be a skin irritants so bear this in mind, if you choose to use them then just add a few drops to the mixture rather than having it as your main essential oil. As essential oils are very powerful and are never to be used neat on the skin I would recommend that you err on the side of caution and use a little less rather than a little too much. I will usually mix a couple of different essential oils together using approximately 1 small tbsp of oil for each 2 heaped tbsp of henna powder. To this mixture I will also add a few splashes of lemon juice. This is all made the day before so there is plenty of time for the oils and powder to fully immerse and work their magic, cover the bowl with some cling film and leave over night then cone when needed. Although many people like to freeze or refrigerate their henna mixtures ready for future use I always like to make it fresh for each bride or event.
When applying the mehndi make sure the skin is free of any creams or lotions just in case they form a barrier between the skin and the mehndi, or even worse cause a chemical reaction. Apply the mehndi pattern and then let it dry, once it’s dry to touch dab on a lemon and sugar mixture with some tissue or cotton wool, this will stick the mehndi to the skin and stop it crumbling off. It’s really important to keep the skin really warm as it’s the heat that will make the mehndi reach its darkest colour (along with the terps in the mixture), this is also why the palms of the hands are always darker than the arms because the heat in this area is hotter. Leave the mehndi on as long as possible, overnight is preferable and don’t forget to keep your hands under the covers when you are sleeping as this will keep the skin warm. If the feet are cold then carefully put on some loose socks, don’t put on plastic bags which is sometimes recommended by mehndi artists as this will cause the hands to sweat and become clammy which will result in a smudged pattern (I’ve seen this on a few brides and it really ruins the design).
The next day the mehndi will still be developing so scrape it off rather than washing in water if possible as water will stop the mehndi from getting darker. Keep the hands and feet as hot as possible the next day and don’t get the areas wet if you can help it. The mehndi will keep getting darker for 48 hours after application so look after it during the second day if you want a dark result. Some like to apply Vix to the skin and hold it over the heat of the stove to enhance the development of the colour the next day (this can work because of the eucalyptus oil in the Vix and the heat).
View some of my mehndi designs.