If you can make your skin hotter when you have the henna paste on, you will get a darker stain! Heat makes chemical reactions proceed more quickly. Heat makes the keratin molecules stretch out and more ready to bind with hennotannic acid, Lawsone, henna's dye. If you henna on a midsummer night, you'll probably get the best stain of the year. If you don't have a hot summer night at your disposal, you can use dry or wet heat, or both to darken your henna stain. Hold your hennaed hand near a heater. Keep your skin warm. Seal your henna before you do you do this so your henna won't dry, crack and fall off. Remember, burns hurt! Be careful!
Indian traditions specify holding your hand over a brazier with smouldering cloves. This works, but clove smoke can make your lungs bleed. Braziers will set off smoke alarms. If you want to use this tradition do it outside. Or, add cloves to your mix, or clove bud essentail oil as a terp.
Moroccan traditions also specify holding your hands over a brazier. Iraqi peasants warm their hands by the hearth when they henna. Women all over North Africa and the Middle East hennaed at the hamam, the women's bath, to take advantage of the steam heat to get the darkest possible henna stains. Any heat will work. Smouldering herbs and fragrant woods smell wonderful. Do what's safe and sensible for where you are!
Heat up your teakettle or a pan or water and hold your hand (carefully) in the steam. Steam burns hurt. Be careful! Steam your hand just enough to rehydrate the henna, but not enough to make it runny. Runny designs are ruined designs. In my experience, "unterped" steamed designs are the most likely to turn out deep ruby or burgundy.
If you have hennaed a body part that you can't hold over a teakettle, get a hand-held garment steamer. Poof steam at your henna with your garment steamer. This darkens stains rapidly! Don't burn yourself!
Steam every half hour for a few hours for the darkest possible stain. Heating and steaming this henna gave me this result:
The stain was orange when I took the paste off, darkened to kidney bean color in 12 hours, and darkened to blackberry color in 36 hours. The henna had high Lawsone content, I terped it with Tea Tree and other essential oils, I sealed it lightly, steamed it several times and slept overnight with the paste on. Nothing artificial, all natural, all safe, all henna!
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