How to care for your henna tattoo


Henna stains the skin a deep reddish brown for 7 - 10 days. The paste is wet for about 15 minutes. Take care as it can be smudged until it dries.  

Keep the dry paste on a minimum of 4 hours — the more time it’s on your skin, the darker the stain gets & the longer it lasts. For adults, I recommend a minimum of 8 hours. It is safe to leave on as long as you wish. If small pieces of dry henna fall off as time goes by, it’s okay. It’s most likely to fall off where the henna passes over a moving joint like the fingers or across the wrist.

Avoid water on developing stain — ideally for at least 24 hours. Remove the paste by scraping with a dry paper towel over a trash container or apply oil and wipe off. Do not remove with water. That can cause henna water drip stains in some cases. Do not scrape it with your fingernails — if henna gets underneath them, it will stain there too.

Natural henna starts out light orange & takes 2- 3 days to reach full darkness. The stain color varies on each person. Moisturizing with a single vegetable oil (coconut, jojoba, olive, etc.) before showers and a few times a day, extends the life of the stain.

It stains darkest on the hands and feet, getting lighter as it goes up the limbs. Although the stain is darkest on the hands and feet, it also tends to wash / wear off sooner there. Typically it lasts a week there.

Everyone takes the henna dye a little differently due to individual body chemistry and amount of sun exposure over our lifetime. This is why good aftercare is so important. As much as I love henna, my skin doesn’t take the stain well. I leave it on for as long as possible. On my upper arms, back and chest, it barely develops. I place it on my hands & feet, inside of my lower arm and lower leg areas and leave the paste on as long as possible, to get a good result.

**IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO GET HENNA FOR A SPECIAL OCCASION, and you have not gotten it in your planned location before, please arrange for a sample to be done in that area first! If the henna doesn’t get as dark as you like there or the color of it doesn’t pop enough, there are other options like jagua, waterproof body art paint and markers that may work better.

“Henna” refers to the plant that contains the natural dye, the paste made from it and the design itself. Humans have used henna to celebrate life events for over 10,000 years!


•Keep the paste on for as long as possible — at least 12 and up to 24 hours or longer. Henna is a medicinal plant and good for the skin, protecting it from sun and dryness.

•Seal dry paste with a syrup of lemon and sugar to keep the paste pliable and sticking to the skin. Some pure lemon juice dabbed on will do as well. The acid in the lemon helps release the stain from the powder made of dried crushed henna leaves.

•For convenience you can cover the dry paste with cotton (cotton sheet or unroll cotton balls). It sticks to the lemon sugar. In a pinch, or traveling, toilet paper or paper towel work too. Lightweight gauze tape or paper medical tape also works. A dark colored sock pulled over your hand /arm works well or a bandanna tied around your arm or wrist. Use dark colored fabrics to cover because henna can stain light colored fabrics. A cover prevents it from flaking off into your sheets if you wear it overnight.

•Avoid water for as long as possible. Chemicals in tap water can impede the developing henna stain. Chlorine from a pool or hot tub and salt and sand from the beach will impede, and in some cases, prevent the henna from staining at all. Wait at least 24 hours if possible. 2- 3 days is better.

•Apply oil, Vaseline or an aftercare balm to henna stain before getting it wet to protect it from water.

• Moisturizing twice a day and before showers with a single vegetable oil (coconut, jojoba, olive, almond, etc.) truly helps the stain get darker and stay darker longer. Lotions can have other ingredients that may impede the staining, such as Vitamin E and others, so use more sparingly.

•Clean your skin gently before getting your henna. Don’t wear sunscreen or apply lotion. Use only a single vegetable oil before to prep the skin if desired.

•Avoid exfoliating, shaving or straps or jewelry over the henna that chafe the skin.

•As the stain starts fading, exfoliate to remove it more quickly.

•If you need to cover the stain for some reason, try using foundation makeup dabbed on lightly with a sponge.


Henna creates a reddish brown stain color. Different crops in different locations can produce some variations like a cooler black cherry color or a more golden bright red brown.

Adding the plant dye Jagua (a deep indigo blue) to henna paste (referred to as hengua) has become popular and will add a darker purple tint to the henna. Jagua stain comes up more quickly than henna, so your stain will get darker in the first 12 -24 hour period than plain henna will. It is difficult (or impossible) to control the final color in each batch, and the cool purple color isn’t as versatile on all skin tones as henna is.

If the henna is a brighter color or is black, chemicals or colorants have been added to the paste. Ask the artist the origin of the pigments if it is a bright color like red or blue or green.

NEVER USE BLACK HENNA!! THE HAIR DYE CHEMICAL PPD HAS BEEN ADDED TO NATURAL HENNA PASTE to make it stain in the black color. About 20-30% of the world population is severely allergic to this chemical whether used on the hair or the skin!! It can cause severe swelling, burns, thin whitish line scars, and in some cases, has contributed to the development of autoimmune disorders. The stain will come up black in about an hour. That is how you know it is chemical in nature. True henna develops and darkens over 2-4 days.


It brings joy. After 17 years of doing henna at all types of events and by appointment, I am convinced the joy comes from the plant itself, in addition to the fun of creating art and being together. It is truly fascinating!

Kathryn DeBra