How to mix henna-Jamila Henna Powder

This tutorial is all about mixing henna powder.  We usually recommend first time users to use Jamila henna powder to try out doing henna, whether it's for hair or body art.  We hope you enjoy the tutorial.

First of all, start with fresh henna powder.  Jamila powder is available online: 

Starting with some fresh Jamila 2014 super sift powder. Jamila henna comes in a box with 100 grams powder.  Empty the contents of the box into a glass bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  The amount of sugar will vary depending on how humid or dry your climate is.  More sugar for dry climates and less sugar for humid climates.  Adding sugar in the henna paste helps the paste stay on the skin for longer without flaking off too quickly.  The sugar also draws in moisture from the air, helping the henna stay wet for longer.  There are many factors of getting a dark henna stain, and a few of the factors are quality henna powder, having wet paste on your skin for a while, and leaving the paste on the skin for a long time. 

Then you want to grab some lemon juice and measure it out.  You will need about 250 mL of liquid.  This amount will vary depending on what region you live in.  Again, if you are in a humid climate, there is already lots of moisture in the air, so you will need less liquid to mix.  If you are in a dry climate, you will need more liquid to mix the henna.  Start with a little less liquid because you can always add more.  However, if you add too much liquid, you cannot take it out (and the only other way to adjust the consistency is to add more henna powder).  Alternatively, you can also keep a spoonful of henna powder aside as your emergency powder.  This will be your reserve powder just incase you end up adding too much liquid.

We use lemon juice because it's acidic and easily accessible.  You can also use distilled water, brewed tea, or a brew made from various spices (like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves).  While some people have their own "henna brew," we like to stick to simple lemon juice.  For people with sensitive skin, we recommend using plain distilled water.  If you cannot get your hands on distilled water, try boiling tap water for 5 minutes then cooling it down.  Tap water contains many minerals that water companies add to make the water "purified" and better to drink.  Boiling the water helps dissolve some of those mineral additions.  You must cool down the water to room temperature otherwise, adding hot water to the henna may make it demise.

Henna can demise because of a few reasons--adding too hot of a liquid, and thereby "cooking" the henna OR leaving the mixed henna paste out for too long without proper storage.  (later we will explain how to store the henna paste once made).

Next, you want to add your liquid to your henna powder.  Add the liquid slowly to the powder and sugar.  Be sure to add a little bit at a time so that you do not accidentally add too much.  We are mixing this powder in Edmonton, Alberta, so we have already determined how much liquid we need to add.  Until you can perfect your measurements, be sure to do things slowly.

You also want to make sure you are keeping a log of what you are doing.  Mixing henna is much like a science experiment.  There are many variables that will change the results, so you want to make sure you know what the variables are, and what to do next time.

When you mix, you want to make sure you are using a stainless steel spoon.  This is because stainless steel is non-reactive (meaning no chemical reactions will take place with the ingredients, unlike aluminum or copper vessels).  Stainless steel can also be sterilized with hot water, making it germ free (this is why many dairy companies use stainless steel to process milk, make cheese, make butter, etc).

You want to continue to mix the henna and liquid to make a paste.  The paste should be the consistency of thick yogurt, pancake batter, or toothpaste.  This photo shows what the mix looks like after 2 minutes of mixing.

Because Jamila is super finely sifted, it feels silky like baby powder.  This henna powder is easy to work with and easier to mix than some other powders.  For example, henna powder from India tends to be a bit sticky and slimy when mixing.  While these same properties make Indian henna desirable for applying long lines, it is a little difficult to mix.  The same goes for henna from Morocco.  The henna powder is very slimy to mix, making it a workout when making henna paste.

For this reason, we recommend sticking with Jamila henna powder.  The mixing consistency is easy to work with, and the application consistency is perfect for any type of henna art.

Once you have mixed in all your liquid (about 3-4 minutes), you want to let your henna rest.  At this time, you will still see some small lumps of henna--do not worry about this right now. 

Scrape the henna from the sides of the bowl and use cling film to cover the bowl.  You want to cover the bowl so that extra air does not go in and dry out your henna paste.  You can also wrap the cling film to touch the henna paste in the bowl.  This prevents a "skin" to form on top of your paste while it rests. 

Place your henna paste in a warm spot.  We usually put ours on top of the fridge.  Find a warm spot in your home, and let your henna rest there. 

Letting your henna rest is very important.  This time is what helps the henna release it's dye.  The dye molecule, lawsone, needs heat and acidity to release it's dye.  The dye release time varies from each henna powder, from season to season.  It also depends on what temperature your liquid is in, and what temperature you leave your henna paste to rest. 

We find that the 2014 Jamila dye release is about 12 hours at room temperature.  After 12 hours, the henna paste is ready to use for natural hair dye applications.  You can also use the henna for body art applications, but we prefer to add essential oils and let the henna rest again before use for body art.  Alternatively, you can add the essential oils before letting your henna rest for approximately 12-24 hours. 

While you do have to be patient with dye release, it is good to have henna that has a long dye release time.  This means that your henna will be a bit more stable than other hennas with a shorter dye release.  A short dye release (2-6 hours) also means a short shelf life--about 2-3 days at room temperature.  A longer dye release, like the Organic Raj or Jamila henna (10-24 hours) means a longer shelf life at room temperature--about 3-5 days.  Later, we will go over later how to properly store henna.

It has been about 9 hours since we mixed the henna paste with simple lemon juice. We then covered it up to let it rest in a warm spot (on top of the fridge).

When you uncover the henna paste, you will find that the top of the paste is much darker than when you were mixing it. This means that the paste is oxidizing (oxygen is touching the molecules), and that the dye is being released. You will take this time to add in your essential oils.

When making henna paste for body art, it's important to add essential oils that have high levels of monoterpene alcohols. Some examples of monoterpene alcohols are terpineol, cineol, linalool, and citronellol. 

We use a special blend of essential oils that have high levels of mono-terpene alcohols to help the henna achieve a dark stain.

Next, you want to add your essential oils to the henna paste and mix well.  You will notice that the dark layer on top will mix in and reveal the greener henna paste that you mixed the day before.  You will also notice that the small lumps that you left the day before have dissolved and the paste is silky and smooth.

You only want to add essential oils to the henna paste if you plan to use it for body art.  While it is not required that you add essential oils to body art henna paste, it is recommended in order to achieve a dark stain on the body.  You want to skip the essential oil (or only add a few drops) if you plan to use this for natural hair dye application. 

The blend of essential oils that we use is Tea tree, cajeput , and naiouli.  As mentioned before, when using essential oils in henna, you want to use oils that are high in mono-terpenes. 

Mono-terpene alocohols include the following:
-terpineol--high concentrations found in tea tree, cajeput, naiouli, juniper, and ravensara essential oils to name a few.
-cineol--high concentrations found in eucalyptus, rosemary, allspice
-linalool--high concentrations found in lavender
--citronellol--high concentrations found in citronella, geranium, cardamom, and basil. 

While some essential oils are quite effective in darkening the henna stain, they are not safe for use--for example, clove or black pepper oils can cause burning sensation and sensitivities on the skin; lemon or other citrus oils are phototoxic (become toxic in the sun); camphor can cause nausea and headaches. 

This is the reason why we have sourced our oil blend and made a combination that is safe, affordable and effective for henna body art application

Now that your paste is smooth and silky and you have your essential oils mixed in, you are ready to start using packaging the paste for body art applications. 

Our next tutorial will show how to package the henna paste into henna cones.