Henna is more popular than ever in the US. From children to adults, everyone seems to be enjoying the adorning temporary henna tattoo designs on their skin. But every so often, we receive news that there has been an incident leading the consumer to severe allergic conditions after using henna.
News that not only questions the naturalness of henna but also its quality and how it has been made. But it doesn't mean that you should put off henna completely. Surprisingly enough, there are 2 very different types of henna that look somewhat identical, but their characteristics are very different.
Often referred to as "black henna" or "natural henna", these pastes are used to make a temporary pattern on the skin. Early in 2013, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a warning to consumers on the use of "black henna" after receiving countless complaints on the effect on the skin.
What is Black Henna?
Black henna is somewhat similar to natural henna, the only difference lies in the ingredients - specifically, a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (PPD).
This chemically mixed element is used in the henna paste to increase its life and to offer darker and brighter colors. Although PPD is legally used in many of the hair dye products (under strict procedures) but when applied on the skin can cause some serious problem.
The problems can include skin reactions such as scarring, burning, blistering, and itching. Now, this is something you wouldn't want, right?
What is Brown Henna?
Brown henna is the complete opposite of Black Henna. Also known as natural henna or pure henna, brown henna is made from the ground-up leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis). The leaves are crushed and mixed with a liquid (water or coffee) to make henna paste/mixture and then applied to the hair or skin.
During the process of mixing brown henna, there are no value-added preservatives or chemicals to increase its lifespan or consistency, hence the name pure henna mixture.
But it doesn't mean that brown henna has a lighter tone compared to black henna, there are tons of herbs and liquid you can use it increase the color consistency.
How to differentiate between natural henna and black henna?
There are several tell signs you can check to distinguish what is real and fake henna. Before we cover the signs, a huge disclaimer. Please don't consider the commercial premade cone supplier's word for saying that it is 100% pure henna. You’ll get this once you read the below-mentioned points.
- It smells like a chemical
Well, this one is the most obvious. You can easily tell the difference between what is a natural product, or what is made of chemical ingredients. Although black henna is odorless, it sometimes has a paraffin-type smell.
In contrast to this, brown henna has a more earth-like smell. You’ll get this when you open the pack of brown henna, it feels like you're experiencing nature.
Read More: What is white henna? Is it a clear alternative for pure henna?
- The Ingredients are different
Most people don't check the product ingredients before they buy it. The best way to check if it's either fake or real henna is to look at the ingredients. If it's not made from natural, earth-driven leaves of Lawsonia inermis, consider skipping it.
- The Duration Period is different
The maximum amount of time that you leave real henna on your skin, the brighter the color tone. Black henna on the other side is advised to leave on for just 30 minutes to 1 hour. So next time, if you go to a henna artist and they claim you can get a brighter color in just 30 minutes, please ask for the ingredients.
- Real Henna has Reddish Brown Staining
Always remember that real henna, driven from the leaves of the henna plant only has one color stain, reddish-brown. This stain will last on your skin for about 4-6 days. Black henna has a darker reddish color.
- Shelf Stable vs not shelf-stable
Natural henna is not a shelf-stable product. Once you make the paste, the maximum amount of time it can last for is 3-6 days. Black henna on the other hand has a shelf life of more than 6 months. And this is the main reason why PPD is used in black henna, to increase its shelf life.
- Do a Patch test before Application
One of the best methods to check the quality of the henna is to do a patch test. It's simple, just apply the henna on your skin and leave it for about 15-20 minutes. If you feel any sensitivity or feel that your skin is burning then it’s probably made of black henna.
It is unfortunate that black henna contains ‘henna’ in the first place. The thing that haunts us the most is how companies widespread the use of "henna" and negatively advertise it as a pure and natural product.
Also Read: How to do Henna Freckles?
Natural henna on the other hand has been used for thousands of years, to not just dye skin, but also clothes, hair, and nails. And it not just colors your skin, but also protects it from the sun..
Where to buy Natural Henna?
At The Henna Guys, we offer pure and natural henna for your DIY haircare and skincare regimen. Derived from the leaves of the henna plant, crushed and packed with care, this henna powder is best to use as a hair dye or to dye skin. All you have to do is to make a consistent henna paste, add it into the henna tattoo kit and apply it to your skin.
You can also make a henna paste and use it with henna stencils, which is a fun method on its own to get a temporary tattoo.
Is black henna bad for skin?
Black henna is mostly made of ingredients paraphenylenediamine (PPD). PPD can cause serious infections on your skin and can cause allergic reactions.
Can we use black henna on the hair?
The best type of henna to use on your hair and skin is brown henna. It gives a solid color and is usually mixed with other natural herbs to offer exciting new shades.
What are the benefits of brown henna?
Brown henna, when applied can improve hair growth, reduces hair fall, controls scalp itchiness, dandruff, and naturally conditions your hair for a thick and lustrous look.