What is Mehndi or Henna?
In India, almost any celebration is incomplete without mehndi . Be it a festival, a marriage or any other auspicious occasion, a mehndi ceremony is a must-have. Talking about mehndi, let us first get to know what exactly this mehndi is and how does it get a distinct colour.
Everyday Chemistry - What is Mehndi or Henna?
In India be it a festival, marriage or any auspicious occasion, a Mehndi ceremony is a must-have. Let us first understand what exactly Mehndi is and how it gets a distinct colour.
What is Mehndi?
Mehndi or henna is prepared from the leaves of henna tree. This tree grows in hot and humid climate conditions. Mehndi is prepared by drying and grinding henna leaves and stems into a smooth powder.
How does it get a distinct colour?
Mehndi contains a strong pigment known as lawsone. Lawsone has a tendency of temporarily staining our skin. It gets absorbed in porous surfaces like skin and hair. The dye sinks into the uppermost layer of dead and soon to be dead skin. Due to natural exfoliation, our skin starts flaking and fresh skin replaces the old one and the colour of Mehndi also fades with the old skin.
History of Mehndi
The art of applying Mehndi is a very old custom originated from 12th century A.D. It was used by rich and royal people to decorate their bodies. It was also an art practiced by Egyptians who used to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs with henna before mummification. The Egyptians believed that this body art helped in recognition into afterlife and hence used Mehndi as an identification mark.
How does the Mehndi turn dark for some?
The longer you keep, the darker the colour gets. It is because the longer the paste stays in contact with your skin; the more it tends to get absorbed. Also, it gets easily absorbed in those with rough and coarse skin as against those with soft skin.
Most Mehndi artists add extra hennotannic acid to the already "tannin" Mehndi paste to help you get a darker shade. Hennotannic acid is found in most essential oils like tea tree oil, clove bud, lavender and eucalyptus oil. Also, according to the Mehndi artists, minimal contact of the Mehndi with water will make it last longer.
So, the next time there is any kind of celebration coming your way and you will apply Mehndi, you'll know exactly what kind of chemistry is at work!