When is the henna ready?  When is it too late?
How do you know when there is "Dye Release"?
Your henna paste won't stain your skin until it releases the dye.  The sour stuff breaks up the cellulose of the henna leaves, and makes the dye available. This takes some time ... and will be slower or faster if it's cooler or hotter.  How do you know if henna has released dye?

If you have your henna in a container, covered loosely with plastic wrap, the paste surface will turn brownish.  That shows dye release. The henna dye has been released, and air is oxidizing it. You can check the difference between the brown surface and the green paste beneath by pulling some back with a spoon, as shown.  As soon as you see this brownish color, you're ready to use the paste, or to go to the next step!

If you've put your paste in a plastic baggie, (a very good thing to do!) you can see dye release a different way.  Place the baggie on white paper for a few hours.  Released dye molecules will pass through the plastic and leave a faint orange color on the paper: if you see the paper turn slightly orange under the baggie, you've got dye release!

How long does it take to get dye release?
When does henna paste demise?

When the weather is HOT, your henna paste will release dye FAST.  When the weather is cold, your henna will release dye slowly. 

(40c is 104F, a HOT day.  30c is 86F, a very warm day. 20c is 68F, a mild day.  10c is 50F, a cool day.)

You have to wait for henna paste to release dye so it will stain skin.  Then, you have to use it before the dye "demises". After your henna releases dye, it is in contact with oxygen (unless you have a way to inert the paste).  If oxygen combines with the dye, it won't bind with the keratin in your skin, and you'll get a poor stain.  This is "demise", when henna stains poorly because you have waited too long to use it. 

If it is a very hot day, and you don't want your henna to release and demise too quickly, use rainwater to mix your henna paste.  A less acidic paste will release dye slower.  If you want your paste to last longer before demise, keep it in the fridge. 

Remember: every henna is different!  Some hennas release dye quickly, others release more slowly! Try things out yourself and write the results down in a notebook!

Henna Page Artists talk about Dye Release and Demise:

Alissa: "I prefer to give my terped paste closer 24 hours to cure before use in summer (kept at approximate 70-75 degrees fahr. while curing), and 36+ hours in winter (60-65 degrees Fahr.), which seems to be a peak time for dye release for the henna powders I most often use. After this point, I bottle up and freeze what I don't intend for immediate use."

Faery Ring: I put my plastic bag full of henna paste on top of a white sheet of facial tissue and place it inside an airtight jar.  The airtight jar will keep the oxygen away from the henna paste as it releases the henna dye.  The white facial tissue under the bag of henna paste will be stained a slight orange color when the dye release has taken place. 

All text and images on this page
copyright 2003
all rights reserved
Catherine Cartwright-Jones
The Henna Page

What's the next step? 
Terp the henna if you haven't done that already.
Apply the henna if you've added everything already.
Save the henna if you're going to use it later.

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