With a history spanning millennia across the regions of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, henna is steeped in tradition and cultural rituals. The natural dye is typically used to create temporary, intricate body art for religious festivals and celebrations, such as weddings.
Henna is made from plant leaves. Its origins as a cosmetic product are unknown, but it has “been used for thousands of years for cosmetic purposes” including coloring hair and nails, and decorating hands and feet.
The Henna plant is thought to be a gift to India from Egypt where they painted their fingernails with it.
Typically, fresh henna paste, or the raw ingredients to make it, are available only at specialist stores. But there’s a major barrier — henna paste has a shelf-life of just a few days.
Most off-the-shelf henna pastes contain preservatives and some contain paraphenylenediamine or PPD, a synthetic dye that can cause serious allergic reactions.