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Can we all just relax about henna?

It was the hissy fit heard around the country:

Well, itwasn'ta tattoo ... it was henna. The child had gotten her little hands decorated with flowers, swirlies and her name—Leah—as part of a school program designed to expose youngsters to other cultures. 

Leah's mom had gotten en email advising that henna would be offered at the event, but to be fair, the school didn't give parents any details about henna ahead of time so that she could make an informed decision.

Can You Test-drive a Tattoo with Henna?

Very often I'll be asked to do a henna design as a way to "test drive" an ink tattoo design ... before all the business with needles and peeling skin.

Does it work?

The Ins and Outs of Using Henna as a "Test Tattoo"

As I rantedhere, henna and ink tattooing are distinct and different art forms, even though both leave you with a design on your skin. Besides the fact that henna is temporary and ink tattooing is (practically) permanent, certain designs can work well with both henna and ink but others do not.

A Rant on Henna vs. Tattoos

Photo by VistaprintA little venting is in order ...

"Henna tattoo" is a bit of a misnomer, although henna artists -- including myself -- occasionally use the term. However, confusion reigns, and sometimes this leads to really annoying behavior by potential customers and festival-goers. To wit:

  • Henna and tattooing are two separate art forms.Although "tattoo" has come to mean almost any decoration or picture on the skin, a true tattoo is surgical implantation of ink in the skin. Tattooing involves a very different set of tools and skills than does henna, so it's not accurate to say that henna is a "fake" tattoo.

How a White Girl Got into Mehndi

In the late 1990s, mehndi (a/k/a henna) was just appearing in Western pop culture. Perhaps the first glimpse we got was inMadonna’s video ”Frozen”from her groundbreakingRay of Lightalbum. (Although her designs in that video were black, not red/brown – probably done with body paint rather than natural henna to fit with the dark, brooding mood of the video.)
Madonna was into yoga and saris, and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt was on the mehndi train as well. Then Sting recorded “Desert Rose” and Shakira began shaking her hips, and suddenly the Western world was getting keen to
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