Alright as a PHA (Professional Henna Artist) there are several things that I know about henna and the way it works i.e, Stain development, dye release, and quality of paste.
That being said, there are a few things I'd like to share (the following post may have a slight know-it- all tone... I apologize in advance):
First of all, henna powder comes from the leaves of a shrub called lawsonia inermis. It's been used for centuries to dye, skin, nails, hair, and certain fabrics. (If you're allergic to grasses and shrubs, it would be to your benefit to use caution when considering henna tattoos.) Natural henna consists of about 3-6 ingredients (sugar, 100% organic henna powder, some kind of natural liquid with acidic content [distilled water, tea, coffee, or lemon juice], 100 % pure essential oil (which have to be of the highest quality as they will be used on the skin), and sometimes flower water (rose water) to scent the paste and to adjust consistency.
In order for dye release to occur henna needs to sit in a warm sunny area for anywhere from 12 -16 hours, depending on choice of the ingredients, temperature and quality of henna powder used. (Also when I say temperature, I don't mean to imply that henna has to be cooked in anyway- it just needs heat so that there it can that the acid from the liquid can release the dye from the plant- hence the term 'dye release'.)
When fresh and natural henna paste (which is brown to green in color) is applied to the skin, it should not feel like it is burning, getting hot, or excessively itchy. No blisters, or skin peeling should occur at any given time from the time henna is applied to even after the design has faded. Natural henna is very healing for the skin, in fact, ancient veds (ancient Indian doctors) used henna leaves to cure infections, burns and treat fevers. Some may experience a slight itchy sensation on the design as the paste dries.
The design should stain an orange to a red orange stain. Once the dried henna paste is scraped off from the skin with a blunt edge of a butter knife or crumbles off -this is known as a fresh stain. This stain will oxidize over a period of about 48 hours to a mature stain and will be a rich burgundy brown to a deep burgundy brown if proper aftercare instructions are followed. After which the henna stain will gradually fade (not peel or blister) away, leaving a clean canvas for a potentially new design to take its place. (BTW the ultimate color of a design varies depending on the location of design and body chemistry of the person the design is rendered on.)
This is what the natural process of henna looks like. Natural henna doesn't look black in color, stain to a deep black color in an hour, or reek of chemical PPDs that will damage the skin (in some cases permanently scar...) and is definitely perishable (natural henna only has a shelf life of about 3 days on the shelf before it goes bad) Basically, natural henna is the exact opposite of chemical henna.
To artists who have unknowingly been using chemical henna on clients: I hope this helps artists who have been unknowingly using chemical based henna for their clients. If you are this person- there is tons and tons of information out there about natural henna, there are tons of natural henna paste recipes that you can adopt and then tweak to make your own. It's not too late to switch- your clients safety is number one priority.
To those of you who knowingly use chemical henna on your clients: knowingly put your clients in danger because it may be cheap or you're too lazy to make your own paste, and you think that that's what your people want (even though I promise you they don't want any thing to do with a chemical burn or to be left horribly scarred) - I have absolutely nothing to say to you other than you're a horrible person and you shouldn't a part of the industry.
To a someone who is super confused about whether henna is good or bad: I hope that this blog helps you understand how natural henna works, so you can use your judgement wisely when hiring a henna artist for your event or private appointment.
Welp. If you've made it this far, how about spreading the message? Share this post on your social media to help spread awareness about what henna really is. If more and more people are educated on henna safety, then one day we won't have to worry about chemical cones or PPDs, or commercial henna that lasts 6th months. We won't have to worry about black henna or think twice about getting henna anywhere. Maybe kids like Owen Richardson won't have such a traumatic henna experience. Maybe then something so rich with healing properties that's been used for centuries, that is useful in great celebrations and that save lives won't be tainted by allegations of the negligence of careless people who only care about their profit and benefit.
I know that got pretty serious, but like bro, how do you even sleep at night know that people are using your shitty, henna on joyous and auspicious occasions. How are you gonna put a persons life in jeopardy just so that you can make money? That's so low. Before you go out to scheme against hurting me, ask yourself this question. Would you put your own product on your own child's skin confidently? No. Okay, enough said.