We’re taking a look at how the art of henna has risen in popularity, to become the trend-setting form of body art!
Rooted in culture, history and tradition, henna has massively increased in popularity, and this attractive form of body art retains its exotic roots while appealing to people across the globe.
Ever wondered what all those motifs, swirls and symbols mean? We’ve de-mystified this ancient art form and taken a look at what the most popular designs symbolise.
The Tradition of Henna / Mehndi
Henna, or mehndi, as it is known in Hindi and Urdu, is the art of using the henna plant for body art and is traditionally practised in cultures across Africa, Arabia and Asia as a temporary tattoo for religious ceremonies and weddings.
When it was discovered that the plant could be made into a paste, that actually cooled the feet down, henna body art was born. As the paste fades it leaves a stain, which led to the idea of using it to create patterns. The patterns are abstract, freehand and intuitive leaving loads of room for creative expression and freedom, which has possibly added to their appeal in the western world.
The application of henna is often thought to be a spiritual experience between the artist and the recipient.
To make the henna plant usable for body art, the plant can either be freshly picked or dried and made into a paste, which when applied to the skin only stains the top layer. Although it is green in colour when applied, the stain itself fades into beautiful shades of orange/brown. Other colours seen, such as black henna, use a dye additive to achieve a dark stain - for this we recommend a trail application first, as it may not be suitable for all skin types and can lead to a reaction.
The beauty of henna is that it works on all skin colours and it also acts as a sunblock, so not only does it look good in the summer months, it is protecting your skin as well.
Henna Going Viral
You’ve only got to look on Instagram so see how popular henna has become throughout the world. In fact, the hashtag #henna has been used over 5 million times and #hennatattoo, over 1 million times.
The mainstream has rapidly adapted this body art as a new fashion trend and has been adopted by people all over the world, with many celebrities such as Rihanna and Katy Perry, showing off their body art through social media. In 2013 Rihanna famously had a hand tattoo coverup using a mehndi inspired design, although traditional henna isn't permanent this is a great example of adapting traditional henna designs into fashionable trends!
The meaning of Henna designs
It’s fairly common to paint the fingers, palm, wrist, arms and feet and certain designs lend themselves more naturally to certain parts of the body. Here’s a look at common designs around the body and their meaning and significance.
Fingers - For the fingers, it’s quite common to use designs made of small leaves, flowers or shapes such as stars. Some designs will often incorporate a ring at the base of each finger. Flowers and petals symbolise joy and happiness.
Palm - The palm is of course a larger space that allows for more creativity. Designs on the palm often begin in the centre and work there way outwards. These complex, central designs are known as a mandala, a Sanskrit word that means circle. Mandalas will have either a geometric or organic pattern and represent a connection between our inner world and outer reality.
Common designs for the palm are significant to the person such as a favourite flower or bird. Birds are thought to represent the messengers between heaven and earth and some of the most common birds used in henna are the proud peacock, which symbolises beauty, and the elegant swan representing both beauty and success.
Wrist – patterns on the wrist tend to be a horizontal design that goes all the way around. These will sometimes include small symbols such as flowers or petals. Scrolling, intricate, paisley designs are also popular and these represent fertility and good luck.
Arms – The arms provide a larger space for bigger and bolder designs. This where the artist can really be creative and design something on-trend or unconventional. Large floral patterns, leaves or birds such as the peacock can look really vibrant on the . It’s also common to create a pattern which links the same icon together all the way down the arm. This is an area that is often embellished with colour, glitter and jewels for a really striking effect.
Feet - Designs on the feet will help to enhance them and are very common for weddings. Like the hands and arms, designs using flowers and birds are popular as are zigzags and paisley designs.
Other popular designs include reptiles such as snakes and lizards, which are considered to be the seekers of enlightenment. Eyes are often used in henna design and they represent the reflection of the evil eye, turning any evil wishes back onto the gazer and giving a spiritual form of protection. Designs incorporating eyes are particularly popular for weddings.
Henna: Latest Trends
As with hair, makeup and clothing, there are trends in henna artistry. Here’s a few that are becoming increasingly popular:
Tribal designs – This is a unique style of henna, which uses symbolic figures. Tribal designs are bold, dark and often include areas of shading. Not only are they popular for hands and feet, in the west they are also designed on the back as well.
UV henna – Another trend that started recently is UV henna. It’s not strictly henna because it’s not made from the henna plant but it’s been big news in 2017. It perfectly mimics the traditional art form in a completely new and radical way using non-waterproof body paint and leaves a glow-in-the-dark finish, perfect for clubbing!
White henna – White henna is a body adhesive that has been specifically adapted for henna body art. This white paste is applied with a cone and sealed with glitter or gilding powder. Watch out for more of this in 2018.
Henna parties are a fantastic opportunity to bring a group of friends together and explore designs. It’s perfect for people who have never experienced henna body art before and is a unique pampering event bringing together ancient traditions with modern design.
It is now common to include henna as part of an English wedding, using henna to add a twists to a traditional wedding day look. Social media is also a great place for getting ideas on designs and patterns, particularly on Pinterest and Instagram.
• • •
Saj Neha started her career as a henna artist applying mehndi for brides in her local community and is highly skilled at this art form, gaining extensive experience at intricate design work that achieves an eye-catching finish.
Using a naturally fine henna paste provides a fantastic colour with minimum risk of an allergic reaction. We create hand-to-sleeve designs, sleeves and feet as well as hourly parties, which are popular for special occasions and of course, mehndi & hen parties.
Saj Neha is passionate about bringing fun and creative designs to her clients and with prices starting at only £45 for hourly sessions or parties, why not book through our website or call us for a consultation.