“Various cultures use henna in times of celebration,” says Kristina Haberek, owner of HennaMe and a Clevelander with a knack for design. She holds a BA in Art from Cleveland State University, and for years she has been providing individual and group henna services to the Northeast Ohio area. “I first saw henna being done at an arts festival in 1998. I thought it was beautiful and got it done. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Henna is a plant that grows in parts of Africa, Australia, and Asia. Its history of cosmetic use dates back thousands of years, and today it can even be encountered in hair dye products. Pharaoh Ramesses II dyed his hair red with henna in his old age, and the pigment is preserved and still visable in his mummy.
As a self-taught artist, Haberek. naturally combines elements of traditional Indian and Arabic styles in her work and handmakes her paste with sugar, lemon juice, cajeput oil, molasses, and natural henna imported from South Asian manufacturers.
“There are dangerous chemical pastes being passed off as henna,” she explains. Black henna, for example, is a chemical dye containing para-phenylenediamine, which can cause adverse skin reactions in those who encounter it. “There tend to be misconceptions regarding what henna is. Henna is a plant. The leaves contain a natural dye that stains the skin reddish brown. There are no different colors. The stain starts off orange and gradually darkens to brown over 2 days.”
After being applied, henna generally takes 4 to 6 hours to develop. The paste, which will dry on the skin, will initially leave an orange stain when removed from the skin, and the stain gradually darkens over a course of days. On average, henna designs last about two weeks. Some artists may also utilize other natural dyes such as Indigo or Jagua in their designs, though those dyes wash out quicker.
“Unlike bodypaint, which sits on top of the skin, henna permanently stains the dead skin cells. As the skin naturally exfoliates, the design disappears,” says Haberek, who also provides professional body paint and temporary tattoos.
Since it is temporary, henna makes for a great addition to special occasions (or just because!). Since it is plant-based, it makes a great addition to photo shoots—especially prenatal shoots.
“There’s no commitment, so one can be more creative or bold with design,” she says, explaining that she works with her clients to bring their visions to life.
Want to learn more? Visit ClevelandHenna.com and follow Kristina Haberek on Instagram @ClevelandHenna.