How Long Does A Henna Tattoo Last?
Getting a henna tattoo is a convenient way to obtain body art without fully committing to a permanent tattoo. In some cultures, they are used for special events, such as weddings or holidays. They don’t rub off easily and remain longer than temporary transfers. Most customers want to know how long henna tattoos last before going ahead.
It’s an important question as it could affect your final decision. For instance, you might want a henna tattoo to last all through the summer when your skin is exposed. Conversely, maybe you would only like it to last a short time. Perhaps you want it on your vacation, but it would be unacceptable to be seen when you return to work.
How Long Does Henna Last?
Under normal circumstances, henna will last one to two weeks on and around the wrists and hands before fading. In other areas, especially around the feet, henna typically lasts longer, and can even last for up to five weeks. Everybody’s oil secretion within the skin is unique, along with cell regeneration times, and for this reason, henna clarity and duration is usually slightly different for everybody.
What Makes Henna Tattoos Last So Long?
Unlike permanent tattoos, which involve ink being inserted into the skin, henna acts as a temporary colorant.
Like anything which is dyed, over time it will fade. Henna, however, is one of the longest-lasting temporary skin dyes. There are two main reasons why.
Henna Binds Itself to Your Skin
Many plant products can dye your skin, often when you do not want them to. If you are an experienced cook, you know how turmeric or beets alter the color of your hands. This then requires extensive hand scrubbing to remove the stains.
While these other plant-based dyes are effective on skin, henna has a distinct advantage. The molecule lawsone, found in henna leaves, actually interacts with the skin.
In a process known as the Michael reaction, the henna-based lawsone binds to your skin’s keratin proteins.
This has two effects. Firstly, the binding process makes the dye darker. Secondly, as the henna is now “tied” to the skin, it cannot be washed off. The dye will remain until this layer of the skin is shed.
The Apple Effect
If you slice an apple and leave it on a table for a few minutes, it will turn brown through oxidation.
Not all plants have this property, but henna does. Once exposed to the air, the dye darkens over the following 48 hours. While other skin dyes fade with time, henna increases in intensity, making it a long-lasting skin colorizer.
How to Make Henna Tattoos Last Longer
There are several ways to make henna last longer. Below are a few techniques for increasing (or decreasing) the life of your henna tattoo.
Location of the Tattoo
You may want a tattoo in a specific area. If you are flexible, the choice of body area can increase the life of the henna tattoo.
Areas of the body that have thicker skin will hold the tattoo for longer (as the dye penetrates the levels of dead skin).
For long-lasting tattoos, go for:
- Soles of the feet
- Palms of the hands
The chest area, top of hands and the feet, all have the thinnest skin. Therefore, a henna tattoo will not last as long as in these areas.
Have Some Patience
After the henna paste has dried, it’s tempting to remove it immediately, to see the beautiful design on the skin. However, the longer you leave the henna on, the darker your tattoo will be. Patience is the key.
Leave for a minimum of one hour, up to a maximum of 12. If possible, leave the henna paste on overnight.
Keep It Moist
A certain level of dampness is required for the stain to take hold.
A traditional technique from Indian mehndi (or mehendi) tattooing is to use lemon juice and sugar. Here is my favorite method—this should be done before the henna paste is left overnight.
- Heat a quarter of a cup of lemon juice on your stove, but do not boil it
- Add three tablespoons of sugar
- Mix until the sugar is dissolved into the juice
- Wait for the mixture to cool down
- Add to a small spray bottle. If you make too much, the remainder can be frozen for use at a later date
- Gently “mist” the henna paste with the spray—but not to the point where it is dripping
The acidity and moisture of the lemon will increase the molecular binding, while the sugar intensifies the color.
Of course, if you want the tattoo to last for a shorter period of time, don’t moisten it.
Keep It Warm
The binding of lawsone to keratin is intensified if the henna is kept warm during the first 48 hours after application.
Balance is essential when heating your henna tattoo. Too much heat can lead to sweating. The process of emitting saltwater through the pores can reduce the color of the tattoo or distort the design. Hence, little and often is always my advice.
A technique I use, which produces great results, is as follows:
- Place a few tissues lightly over the henna tattoo
- Apply heat through a small heating pad. If this is not available, place the tattoo near a space heater. Remember: you want the tattoo to be warm, not hot
- Allow the tattoo to warm up for 10 minutes. Repeat every few hours. Four sessions of 10 minutes each would be perfect.
Do Not Wash
Ok, I’m not saying drop your personal hygiene regime entirely. But at the very least, don’t wash the tattooed area often, and don’t use exfoliating sponges or scrubs. Since the henna dye adheres to dead skin, when these layers are removed, the henna tattoo fades. Wash the area using a light touch, and with low-acidity soap.
This is also important as a pre-tattoo regime. Do not exfoliate or wax immediately prior to getting your henna tattoo applied. These actions would reduce the number of layers available for the lawsone to bind to.
In general, a henna tattoo will last from one week to three months, if you don’t try to remove it.
As seen above, this depends on several aspects. The area of the body where it is located, preparation, care during the first 48 hours and post-tattoo washing.
Whether you want your tattoo for the longest or shortest time possible, these methods will help you achieve your goal and determine how long henna tattoos last on your skin.