How to Apply Henna Tattoo Paste

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Applying the Design Freehand

Once you have your henna paste ready to go – whether it be pre-made, homemade, in a cone, tube or bottle – you’re ready to start applying your design. This is the fun part! But it’s also quite time consuming. You’ll want to allow at least 1-2 hours for this part of the process. Rushing it will result in a pale stain that won’t last very long.

Most henna designs are applied freehand – you can use a design as a reference, but it’s usually easiest to draw directly onto the skin with the henna paste. If you have a particularly difficult design or one that requires a great amount of detail, you can use a skin scribe to draw the design on first. Skin scribes are like a marker, usually only come in purple, and they are safe for use on the skin.

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Using a Pre-Drawn Image

If you’re still not comfortable with freehand designs, you can trace the design onto a piece of tracing paper with the skin scribe and then transfer it to the skin using a very small amount of gel lubricant applied in a very light layer on the skin to create tackiness. Make sure you trace your design “backwards” if you use this method. Stick deodorant can also be used if you don’t have gel lubricant.

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Drawing on the Design

Lightly squeeze your tube, cone or bottle and apply the henna paste like paint. The smaller the opening at the end of your applicator, the thinner the line you’ll be able to create. Don’t worry about not being able to make a smooth line. If it breaks, just start again where it broke off. Remember, it’s only the stain left behind that matters in the end, not how the paste looks on the skin. Try not to apply the paste too heavily, because that will slow down your drying time.

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Fixing a Mistake

If you make a mistake while applying your henna design, it is very easy to fix. Simply grab a cotton-tipped swab with a tiny bit of Vaseline or water on the end and gently wipe away the mistake. The quicker you wipe it off, the better. Sometimes the stain can begin to set very quickly.

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Drying the Henna Paste

Once you’ve applied your design to your satisfaction, you’ll want to allow the paste to dry. This can take around 30 minutes. To speed up the drying time and also to intensify the staining ability of the paste, use a hair dryer on a low setting to apply warm air to the paste as it dries. The heat helps to activate the henna to create a more intense stain.

As the paste dries, it will shrink, leaving gaps in your design without any paste. Re-apply the henna to fill in any gaps and allow to dry again.

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Curing the Henna Paste for More Intense Color

This step is not required, but it helps to intensify the henna stain. If you have time to cure your henna, make a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. It should be sticky, but not paste-like. Use a cotton-tipped swab to apply one drop at a time over your entire design. Once it is completely coated in your lemon/sugar mixture, use the hair dryer again for about 15 minutes and allow to air dry for at least 30 minutes – an hour is even better.

The acid from the lemon juice helps to further activate the paste to create a rich stain. The sugar helps the lemon juice to stick to the design without melting the paste and running down your skin.

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Removing the Paste

Once you’ve had the paste on long enough and you’re ready to remove it, get something thin and blunt like a butter knife and slowly scrape the paste off your skin. Don’t try to wipe it off or you may smear your design. After you’ve scraped most of the paste, then you can take a cool, wet cloth and rub off the rest. You should be left with a pale to light orange stain. Don’t be disappointed if it isn’t very dark yet – the color will darken significantly over the next 24 hours.

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Henna Art Aftercare

During the next 24 hours, do not wash your henna art if possible (difficult to do if it’s on your hands) or wash it as few times as possible. Apply a light layer of olive oil or henna oil every few hours and allow the color to darken on its own. After 24 hours, you’ll see the “true” results of your henna stain.

Depending on how often it is washed, whether or not it gets rubbed during normal activity, and how well your skin soaked in the design to begin with will determine how long your design will last. Usually, they last at least two weeks, sometimes as long as four weeks. The stain will slowly fade until there is nothing left. Then, you can start all over again.