How do I know I have dye release?

This question is for the salvation of all the henna users out there who are just not sure what to do! 

Two of the most popular brands of henna powder are Jamila and Raj.  Jamila henna is cultivated from a farm in Pakistan.  The farmers and whole-sellers of this product harvest this from a certain region of Pakistan.  Raj henna, on the other hand, refers to henna from the Indian province of Rajasthan.  You can get Raj henna from Sojat, Jaipur, or Jodhpur, to name a few.   Because Raj henna can come from any region of Rajasthan, the characteristics of the henna plant can vary significantly.  Differences can range from irrigation systems, fertilization, complemantary crops, and rainfall.  The slightest change in growing environment can have an effect on the henna powder's dye release.  So henna, in many ways, is just like grapes for wine.  (Henna and grapes do have Tannins!)

As a rule of thumb, henna needs to rest a bit before it can have a full dye release. 

While henna can demise (be dead, with no staining ability), you do have a few hours to play with.  Unless you are keeping your henna in a very warm place, you should be able to leave out the paste a few hours past dye release. 

So how do you do a dye release test?  One way is to simply mix up a small amount of henna powder and put a dot on your skin after every hour of mixing the paste.  You should keep really good notes and remember where you put the sample dots on your skin.  Leave the henna paste on your skin as you would recommend to a client.  (this can get a bit tricky especially if you have henna dots spanning over 4 hours).  Then, you can check for how deep the stain is for all your dots.  The dots with the deepest stains are your dye release times.  Be sure to note your room temperature and environment settings.  You also want to note your recipe.  If you replicate this setting, you should have flawlessly released henna paste. 

A much easier method is to put a piece of paper towel on top of your mixed up henna paste.  You want to first cover your henna paste with cling film.  Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the henna paste--this eliminates extra air exposure to the paste, and also helps you avoid the henna skin that forms on top of the paste. 

Check back on your henna paste often.  You want to see your paper towel turn orange-ish.  If there is no orange on the paper towel, you want to leave the paste out a bit longer for dye release. The dye molecules "travel" from the henna paste into the paper towel with dye release.

While the paper towel test is an easier way to determine dye release, it is not the most accurate.  Since cling film is not all made the same, the results of this test may vary. 

The best way to know if you have dye release is to just test the paste.  Start with a small batch, and determine what environmental settings you have to get a great dye release.  Dye release times vary from location to location, and recipe to recipe. 

Here is our quick recipe on dye release--HART Recipe

Quick tips--
mixing with water?  dye release is within 30 minutes to 2 hours
mixing with lemon juice?  dye release is within 4-12 hours
mixing with tea/coffee/combination?  dye release is within 1-4 hours

Keep the henna around 70-75 degrees (dye release gets shorter if your temperature is hotter)