Henna: More than Meets the Eye

Hiba Baloch, Staff Writer

Henna. Every single time I’ve worn it, people will say things like “Wow, that’s pretty!” or “What’s that on your hand?” and I don’t blame them, because, most of the time, they have no idea what it is, or why I’m wearing it. The majority of people see it as a fun tattoo, or a leafy, flowery decoration, but to me, it means tradition, and it has lots more meaning than anyone would think.

I’ve worn henna since I was a little girl, maybe three or four, and I loved it, and I still do. When I younger it was always a very big thing for me and it was always very exciting because I would rarely wear it, and if I did, I would wear it once in the year, the maximum was three times a year, and I guess it would be “seasonal” to wear it. I would only wear it on two occasions: holidays and weddings, that was it. My family and I would go to festivals, exhibitions, and even houses to get our henna done, mainly at night, because, the day of holiday, henna artists would be fully booked. Several people have made henna designs their life-long career, and it makes a very good amount of pay, due to the fact that it is very appealing. Henna isn’t that cheap to get done, even though henna cones are sold for about two dollars on average, and many prefer to do it themselves at home. Where my parents were born, when brides have their weddings, they have henna from head to toe (not literally, but you get the idea). Professional henna artists that do henna for brides, parties, and special events can charge anywhere from $80-2,000, depending on the design, amount of time it will take, and how many people will want to get it done.

Henna is more commonly worn by women, but men can get it, too (the most famous henna tattoo worn by men is the BatmanⓇ logo). My mom said that on her wedding, the artist had done the henna all the way up to her shoulders, and on her feet, all the way up to her knees.Henna, to me, is a huge tradition, because I’ve worn it for such a long time, and I’m sure it’s a very important tradition for others, too, because henna has been around since the 12th century BCE, and it’s created from palm leaf and it still is.

Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. Not all henna is harmful, but it’s important to be alert and aware of which one YOU’RE wearing. There’s a wide variety of henna; from emergency henna to glitter henna, to rainbow henna, there are some that may contain chemicals. Black henna may look all cute and pretty, but it is DANGEROUS and can cause BURNS!! Emergency henna is the go-to henna if you’re desperate and really, really, need it. It’s practically a bride’s savior if she has no time. The color will show up in about 5-15 minutes (depending on the design), and it is DARK, but it shows up beautifully, and it takes no time at all. It DOES contain chemicals, because it comes on so quickly. Personally, when I wore it, it made my hands extremely cold, so I believe that it was numbing my hand and that made the drying process faster. Regular henna is natural, organic, and contains no chemicals AT ALL, but the color does take a while to show up, so I would say it’s worth it wearing natural henna, cause at least you know that your skin’s not in any danger.

Just remember that every time you see something peculiar, especially when it’s foreign, not just henna, don’t forget that it always has a story, and that it’s worth telling.  Ask!

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