Five Things I Learned from Henna Tattoos

Applying henna to hand

I’ve been in the temporary tattoo business for 20 years now, and along the way I’ve learned a few things. Here are just five of them:

1. People are looking for meaning in their lives.

Even though they’re temporary—whether they’re getting a henna tattoo or a jagua tattoo or a white henna tattoo—people care about what goes on their bodies, and they want it to mean something. Preferably, something with weight, like the very popular yin/yang symbol, which speaks to our universality in its representation of the shadow/light or negative/positive aspect of all things.

2. Everyone loves body art.

Whether you’re 6 or 60 years old, I don’t care who you are, you love body adornment, even more so if it’s temporary. I’ve been at enough events, where the most unusual suspects, like an 80-year-old grandmother or a biker dude, will sit with an artist and ask for a butterfly on the chest or barbed wire around a bicep. Cosmetics, jewelry, permanent tattoos, and piercings haven’t come and gone. They’ve stuck around ever since they first showed up. A temporary tattoo is just the latest iteration (in the West) of a new way to decorate the body, and I’m here to report that, if given the chance to enhance their bodies with an artistic creation, people will go for it every time.

3. People believe in magic (or they want to).

Magical beliefs abound around henna and jagua tattoos. In India, all brides have their hands painted with henna before their weddings because they believe that the darker the stain comes out, the longer the love will last between the couple. The henna plant is also believed to be infused with the positive power of the saints. In the Amazon jungle, indigenous people believe that staining one’s body with the juice of the jagua fruit will keep away evil spirits. In other words, you will be lucky and enjoy protection from the gods. It is my firm belief that these mythical beliefs play a big part in the popularity of henna and jagua tattoos. They’re all-natural, and contain the power to bring me luck? Sign me up!

4. All-natural products come with a price.

Oh, how I wish I could guarantee all my customers that they will get a specific color when they paint their bodies with henna or jagua! Of course, the majority of users will obtain beautiful, dark, rich stains on the skin, as long as the henna paste or jagua gel is of superior quality to begin with. However (don’t you hate “howevers”?), these are natural products working with our natural body chemistry. So, there are many factors that might work against your getting fabulous color, including body temperature (chilly types should drink a hot beverage during the application process to ensure success); lifestyle (chlorinated pools or hot tubs will reduce the life of your tattoo); if you’re an obsessive hand washer, and your design is on your hand, ditto. Extreme stress or fatigue can also be a factor. Not to worry, though! If you got light color, for any number of reasons, just trace over it, or just try it again. Next time will surely be the charm.

5. Henna tattoos rock!

This goes for jagua tattoos too. And I’m not just saying that because I sell henna and jagua tattoo kits. It’s just that, in all my years of watching people get a henna or jagua design drawn on their body, the end reaction is always a big fat smile. Mind you, sometimes people don’t pay attention to the aftercare instructions provided, and end up with a transfer of their jagua tattoo on their face if their hand leaned up against their face while sleeping. Did we say jagua tattoos last two weeks? The good news is that the stuff that transfers from one part of your body to the other by mistake won’t last that long—only 2–3 days. And! There are concealer products made just for hiding tattoos (like if you have a big meeting and you look like you have a black eye!). But, mistakes aside, if 5-hour-long waiting lines for henna tattoos (such as at Vidcon), and big, huge smiles are any indication, I’m telling you, henna tattoos rock!


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