Beauty

Henna Holds A Rich History Beyond Its Intricate Designs

Woven into every stroke.

1,806 Hypes

Henna Holds A Rich History Beyond Its Intricate Designs

Woven into every stroke.

From being used as hair dye to being applied to the skin in the form of tattoos, henna has been around for centuries. These days, you may find artists offering henna designs at music festivals and carnivals, but the natural dye’s roots seep further than aesthetics and originate in cultural celebration.

In mainstream media, henna designs have become popularized as fashion statements, especially in music and streetwear culture. The art has been worn by artists like Sza at the Grammys and has become a mainstay for Rihanna with her henna hand tattoos. It has even become a staple on mood boards and synonymous with the outfit inspirations of Coachella festival-goers worldwide.

While there’s beauty in seeing these designs gain widespread traction, it also brings awareness to the fact that the cultural meaning the art carries has become lost in translation from its origins to the pop culture-driven styles we see today. The design’s rich history has been hidden behind its new-found allure as an “edgy,” “cool” or “pretty” accessory, a far stretch from its significant religious and cultural meanings.

At its root, henna is a custom that is used to adorn the body in Pakistanian, Indian, African and Middle Eastern cultures for celebrations like weddings, Eid and Diwali. In Moroccan culture, elders of the family wipe henna into the hands of a newly married couple to symbolize good health, wisdom and security, according to a post by the Natural History Museum in London. The beautiful and intricate art of Henna designs are always more than what meets the eye, as many of the flowers, paisleys and motifs hold significant meanings for women within the culture. The designs are often crafted in honor of entering into womanhood, motherhood, receiving cultural blessings and more.

Intentionality is at the forefront of every step of the henna process including how the paste for the art is made. It derives from plants typically found in the Middle East that are dried and finely milled into a powder and then mixed with water or a personalized choice of essential oils that come together to create the dye, according to a study.

Shahina Ghazanfar, a science research leader at Kew Gardens, further states in the post that henna helps to regulate body temperatures in warmer countries. The dye is “smeared over the soles of feet or on hair [and] cools the body part as it dries. It’s the same principle as wearing a wet towel around your head or face to cool it,” she explains.

The cultural, religious and socio-economic value and purpose of henna will always extend beyond its eye-catching designs.

For more on beauty, check out our coverage of Youthforia’s black-colored foundation that’s sparking conversations about inclusivity online.

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