The Lie They Fed You About Getting Dark Henna Stains...
There's a myth circulating around the henna community, and I feel like it's time that we put it to bed. You can call me Chelsea, the Myth Buster.
I've heard this myth cross the lips of henna artists, clients, and aunties alike. For whatever reason, it seems like it just won't die. It's the good ol'...
"If you put lemon juice on your henna it will stain darker.”
Now listen, before you jump on me, just hear me out.
Yes, there is some truth to the idea that the use of lemon juice and sugar can cause a henna stain to be darker than without it. However, the thought that it is the lemon doing the darkening is a well-perpetuated misunderstanding.
In many cultures, after applying henna designs, a mix of sugar, lemon juice, rosewater, garlic, and other herbs is applied over the paste. The design may then be wrapped in a cotton or gauze material or simply left to dry in the open air.
The common use of lemons (or lemon juice) to make this henna sealant has led to the belief that the lemon itself is what causes stains to darken. The truth of the matter is that an effective sealant can be made with or without lemon juice as the real determining factor isn't the liquid, rather the sugar.
Say what now?
Yes, you read that right. It's the sugar in the sealant that promotes a dark stain. The reason for this is that the sugar content in the sealant acts as an adhesive which keeps the paste on the skin longer. We know that the longer henna paste remains on the skin, the richer and darker the subsequent stain is to be expected.
There are lovely henna sealants on the market which also serve this purpose - from hydrosols to sports tapes - and the result is the same. Similarly, henna pastes with high sugar content can provide a sticky paste that does not require any sealant whatsoever.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you spritz lemon juice on your henna, you may also be raising your risk of adverse reactions. The use of lemon juice on the skin on hot, sunny days can result in skin irritation due to the mild phototoxicity that lemon juice presents.
All in all, it's safe to say you definitely don't have to bathe your design in lemon juice to experience beautiful stains. With great aftercare and fresh, natural henna paste, you're fit to be pleased and with much less hassle. And well, I think that's pretty sweet!
P.S. What's the next henna myth that needs busting? You should let me know!
P. S. S. Are you interested in becoming a henna artist? Don't let myths like this make a play in your book. I've created a pretty awesome (and free!) 5-day email course that outlines the five biggest mistakes that new henna artists make. You're welcome to join!