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How Long Does a Henna Tattoo Last?

by  Kin Liu -  Last updated on April 6, 2021

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A henna is a type of temporary body art, similar to a tattoo, that uses a dye obtained from the Henna tree (Lawsonia inermis). Henna tattoos are considered to be a very old practice as they have been involved in a wide array of religions from across the world. In these cultures, henna tattoos are widely used in special occasions such as weddings, engagements, and other religious events.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long a henna tattoo lasts, what factors are involved, and how people can make the temporary tattoo last longer.

How Long Does a Henna Tattoo Last? 

Henna tattoos work because the henna dye contains a special compound called lawsone that binds to the keratin in the skin. Once the molecules bind, the dye begins to oxidize over time and gradually becomes darker.

However, because the reaction between the dye and skin proteins occur very shallowly, the tattoo only lasts until the skin sheds over time.

Often, henna tattoos last around one to two weeks under normal circumstances. It is also not uncommon to find henna tattoos last a month. However, there are certain factors that can affect their longevity.

1. Placement

For one, the placement of a henna tattoo can affect how long it lasts. Since the henna tattoo relies on the reaction between the henna dye and an individual’s skin, there are some areas of the body that would react differently with the henna dye.

The anatomy of the skin includes a microscopic exocrine gland called a sebaceous gland – a gland that opens up to a hair follicle and produces an oily substance called sebum. The sebum provides several functions but it is primarily associated with thermoregulation.

While these glands are found mostly around the body, there are some areas of the body that have a higher concentration of these sebaceous glands such as the face and scalp. Since the henna dye reacts to the skin and its chemical profile, henna tattoos might not last too long in these areas.

2. Rate of Skin Shedding

Another factor to consider is the rate by which the skin sheds. Generally, skin cells multiply at a similar rate across the body. However, people typically have different metabolic rates which means that different people might shed their skin cells at a different rate.

This means that while some henna tattoos would last a couple of weeks for some people, others might not have the same experience.

How to Make a Henna Tattoo Last Longer

While henna tattoos are temporary, there are certain ways people can make them last longer than they normally would. Here are some tips to try if you want to make your henna tattoos last longer.

1. Henna Dye Quality

The first factor that has an influence on how long a henna tattoo lasts is the quality of the henna dye. Henna dyes, powders, and kits can be purchased from specialty shops and online markets.

Coming from different manufacturers, these materials differ from one another and can contain different ingredients, aside from the integral lawsone compound.

The best henna tattoos come from the best quality products and there are some factors that should be considered when choosing which henna dye to use.

The first step is to obtain high quality henna powder. This can be found at local Indian grocery stores but are also available through online markets. It is recommended to get finely sifted henna powder because this would result in a smoother tattoo.

Instructions also often include adding an acidulant such as lemon juice to the mix. The added acidity by the lemon juice creates an acidic solution that promotes the binding of the lawsone to the keratin proteins in the skin. High quality henna dyes also include essential oils and other ingredients that are good for the skin.

2. Location

As mentioned above, different areas of the body would have skin that exhibits different characteristics. One factor that plays a role in the longevity of a henna tattoo is the presence of sebaceous glands.

While sebaceous glands are scattered throughout the body, there are only two places in the body that do not contain any of these glands: the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Typically, henna tattoos placed in these areas of the body have been observed to last the longest.

The thickness of the skin is also a big factor that plays a role in how henna tattoos last. For example, areas of the body with the thinnest skin have been found to have difficulty in retaining henna tattoos.

These areas include the chest, the top of the hands, and the top of the feet. In contrast, areas with thick skin hold henna tattoos very well. The areas of the body with the thickest skin are the soles of the feet and the palms of the hand – adding more reasons why henna tattoos hold well in these areas of the body.

The chest area also has a relatively thick layer of skin that makes it a good location for a henna tattoo, compared to the adjacent stomach area that has a relatively thinner layer of skin.

3. Pre-Tattoo Care

Even before getting the henna tattoo, there is one way an individual can prepare their body to maintain the henna tattoo for a longer duration. Once a person has decided where to get their henna tattoo, they can avoid shaving and exfoliating the area for some time.

This allows the build up of layers of skin on the area. The more layers of skin cells present, the more material the henna dye can bind to.

4. Post-Tattoo Care

Henna tattoos are often applied with an applicator bottle fitted with a needle tip. Unlike real tattoos that aim to deliver the ink subcutaneously, henna tattoos are just applied on top of the skin layer itself since the tattoo design relies on the chemical interaction between the henna dye and the skin proteins.

This means that once a henna tattoo is applied, the henna dye is left on the skin for a period of time. Some henna dyes dry faster than others with some artists permitting their clients to remove the henna dye as soon as 10-15 minutes after application. However, a henna tattoo would last longer if the henna dye was left on the skin for a longer time as well.

With patience, the henna dye is given more time to bind lawsone molecules to the keratin proteins in the skin. For a longer-lasting henna tattoo, an individual can leave the henna dye on their skin for an hour at least. At most, they can also leave the henna dye on their skin for up to 12 hours.

Another way an individual can prolong the longevity of their henna tattoo after the application of the henna dye is to avoid washing the areas with the henna tattoo. Especially when the henna tattoo has been freshly applied, it is best to avoid getting the areas wet since water would dilute the henna dye and decrease the chances of chemical bonding.

After the henna tattoo has been set, washing the areas are still recommended to be avoided for longer lasting henna tattoos. Since the henna tattoo is bound to the skin, washing the area will just wash away layers of dead skin and promote the growth of new skin cells.

Aside from washing, it is also recommended to avoid harsh exfoliation techniques (e.g., the use of loofahs, the use of sponges, etc.) since they also remove layers of skin.

Another way to keep the area with the henna tattoo from indirectly exfoliating is to keep it moisturized. Various humectants (i.e., substances that help maintain moisture) can be used such as oils, moisturizers, and the like.

Keeping the skin moist allows the skin cells to bind to itself and prevent skin cells from flaking off over time.

If you want your henna tattoo to last even longer, you can avoid swimming pools for the time being. Swimming pools are often treated with chlorine to prevent potentially harmful microorganisms from growing in it. However, chlorine is also a relatively harsh chemical and has been observed to make henna tattoos fade faster.

Since keeping the henna tattoo means slowing down skin regeneration, another way to prolong the life of a henna tattoo is to avoid going to saunas. The environment that the sauna creates stimulates the promotion of skin regeneration.

This is why steam is often used in skincare techniques. Steam encourages exfoliation and the removal of skin layers where the henna tattoo is bound to.

Conclusion

Henna tattoos can run the spectrum between being culturally beautiful pieces of art to being simply fun ways for self-expression. While many people enjoy the fact that henna tattoos are temporary, some want to have them for as long as they can.

Different factors are involved in how long henna tattoos last and they can last between a week to possibly three months. Fortunately, there are steps people can actively take to ensure that their henna tattoo will last for a good amount of time.

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