If you are planning to get Mehndi or henna this Eid stay away from black mehndi as it contains hair dye chemical that can damage your skin.
Henna is the dried and powdered leaf of the Lawsonia inermis and is widely used in Pakistan as a dye for the skin, hair, and nails. As it stains the skin reddish‐brown, it is also called red henna. Pure red henna is made from a green-grey powder that tends to turn orange when moistened. It needs between two and 12 hours to be fixed on the skin. This is the safest form to use.
Black henna, on the other hand, is the combination of red henna with p‐phenylenediamine (PPD) or coal-tar hair dye. Adding the black PPD hair dye powder speeds up the process of dyeing and drying and gives a darker brown to black color. It stains the skin black.
Some black mehndi can contain as much as 15% of PPD, which is much higher than what you will find in commercial hair dye. Your risk of allergic reaction to mehndi goes up if it contains hair dye or PPD. It can lead to pruritic dermatitis or itching and swelling.
Black henna became fashionable ever since the Spice Girls used it for body designs. It is also called blue henna but it is a combination of red henna and PPD. No natural black henna exists. Some of these ‘henna’ preparations do not even contain red henna at all.
The EU allows the use of p-phenylenediamine and other diaminobenzenes for hair dyes (a maximum of 6%). Some hair colouring has dyes based on diaminotoluenes which are textile dyes. The EU forbids the use of PPD for dying your eyelashes, eyebrows or skin.
The American Food and Drug Administration says PPD can cause dangerous skin reactions in some people.
“That’s the reason hair dyes have a caution statement and instructions to do a ‘patch test’ on a small area of the skin before using them,” it said. “By law, PPD is not permitted in cosmetics intended to be applied to the skin.” Cosmetics that are sold to people must have their ingredients listed on the label or they are considered misbranded.
The biggest market for mehndi in Karachi is Meena Bazaar in Karimabad. One mehndi artist, Rubina, told Samaa Digital that they get their supplies from a factory at Chandi chowk in Paposh, Nazimabad. “They supply mehndi internationally,” she said. “The same people have another factory behind Memon Foundation in Karimabad.” She has been buying from them for over eight years. The factory gives you the mehndi in plain wrapped cones. Salon owners and shopkeepers get their names custom printed on the cones and that is what they sell. This means that ingredients are often not mentioned at all or the chemicals inside.
The black mehndi costs Rs500 per cone and Rubina confirmed that it contains hair dye. She added that they have found that people with “super-sensitive skin” get rashes. She added that the red mehndi that sells is also problematic as it contains a “fast” chemical that can blister the skin.
Normal raw green mehndi cones cost Rs100. According to Rubina, people tend not to buy this option as it takes much longer to colour even though it is the safest. People don’t want to take the extra time to add mustard oil or steam to make the colour darker, she said.
People should be aware of variations of mehndi that are popular with young women. One is an ‘Emergency’ cones cost Rs50 to Rs60 but have chemicals that make it apply and dye quickly.
You can also find ‘Party’ mehndi which is scented apple, lemon or mango if you don’t like the smell of mehndi. But these have chemicals too.
Rubina added the tip that you should use mehndi within 15 days. If kept in the fridge you can go 10 days more. If you keep it longer then the paste starts to sediment and the fluid separates. This weakens its colouring effect.
To create the safe henna paste add water or oil to the green henna powder or to ground fresh henna leaves. You can add essential oils such as lemon, eucalyptus, clove, and dried powder of indigo plant leafs, mustard oil, lemon juice, beet root juice, nut shell, sugar, tannin concentrates from brewing tea leaves, instant coffee powder. But as with all natural chemicals be careful to research quantities and do a test patch.
This paste is applied to the skin and allowed to remain there for a minimum of 30 minutes to six hours as the plant’s dye penetrates the skin. The longer the exposure, the darker the colour will be. The orange stain will darken over the next two to four days. A temporary henna design should last for about two to six weeks, until the outer layer of the skin exfoliates, depending on skin type, the area of application, sun exposure, and other factors such as bathing and activity level.
Benefits of henna
In Arab countries, henna is also used for medicinal purposes, for example for the treatment of boils and folliculitis, by mixing it with vinegar and making a hot poultice. It may also be used to reduce pain, swelling, and high fevers, and to treat alopecia, burns and headaches.