WALLINGFORD – Temporary henna tattoos are becoming more popular on the festival and fair circuit, but not all henna is safe.
The Record-Journal sat down with local henna artist and nurse Adila Khan to talk about her natural henna paste, how she made her passion a home business – “The Art of Henna” – and the safety aspects associated with the intricate temporary tattoos.
Q: What is henna?
Khan: Henna comes from a plant that grows in really hot countries like Morocco, Pakistan and India. The leaves dry and can be made into a really fine powder. It is mixed with lemon juice, some essential oils and sugar into a paste, which is used for hair dyes and body art.
Q: How did you get into this art?
Khan: I was born in Pakistan so that was part of my culture growing up. I was always one of those people that could do henna, like if you go to Pakistan or India you’ll always find this one person, one cousin or one friend who can do henna. Art kind of runs in the family, my girls are really good at it, I was always into it but I never really got a chance to make it official.
Q: How did you start your own henna business?
Khan: I ended up going into nursing… but after 13 years of nursing I felt like I needed a change, I needed to pursue something I really wanted to do. So two years ago I just made it official — registered and I’m just really enjoying it.
Q: What has been the response from the community?
Khan: It has been amazing. I wish I could do more, you know, between nursing and my kids it’s very difficult with the timing but the response was amazing, especially since I make only natural stuff. That’s what I try to educate people about.
I was actually surprised how much kids know about henna. Some places, though, offer something that has been pre-made or commercially made that gives instant color and that can cause bad reactions.
Q: What is the difference between commercially made and authentic, or natural, henna?
Khan: For me, I feel like there is no short cut. I wanted to offer something that is natural, homemade, there are no chemicals and safe for every age. You can smell it, you can smell the chemicals versus the natural essential oils like the lavender the eucalyptus, those kind of oils.
You see horror stories, there was a black henna that was getting very popular. The easiest way to tell is if it gives you instant color and anything other than brownish or a dark brown color, then it’s not henna. Unfortunately those reactions come out a couple days later.
Q: What is the process you use?
Khan: I mix everything together from scratch, I make the applicators and I fill it up. It takes some time for dye release, usually it takes 12 to 24 hours for dye release, mix the paste then fill up the applicators and I have to freeze it right away. There is no shelf life for henna.
I use natural henna powder from Pakistan, lemon juice, or mineral water, essential oils and sugar.
Q: What is some of the art you offer?
Khan: I offer henna crown for cancer patients. When the ladies lose their hair, the henna design will go around their head. So I offer that for free. It’s very therapeutic, the whole henna experience.
Q: What are some places you have done henna for people?
Khan: I do private parties so people can book me ahead of time, and private appointments based on my availability.
My very first festival actually was Celebrate Wallingford last year, that’s where it took off. From there I did a lot of schools, a lot of student associations, Quinnipiac University, I did the Meriden pop-up market.
Q: Have you seen an interest in more authentic henna, like what you do?
Khan: I try to educate people as well. I’m very happy especially with the youth that’s who my clients are. They seem to know a lot more and they’re ready to accept more about natural henna than anything. I feel like it’s much harder to educate the adults. I had people thinking that it is almost like a permanent tattoo.
It’s only going to last a couple weeks, it’s not permanent. It’s the education and trying to tell people the history and where it comes from.
Q: What do you see as the future of your business?
Khan: I love it so much. When I started people asked me, how are you even finding time to do this? I was working late nights and decorating. I do henna art as well so there are a bunch of candles, pencil cases, canvases those kind of things as well.
So I am looking into growing it more, but it all depends on how I can manage time.
More information can be found on The Art of Henna Facebook page @AdilasHennaArt or by calling (203) 804-7763