Clicking on an image will open another window. You can use the second window to scroll through all the enlarged images associated with this article

The Henna Page Journal
Henna and People of Color
Catherine Cartwright Jones
Page 2 of 9

Previous Page Next Page
Front cover

As henna has become popular in Canada, USA and northern Europe, light skinned women have been the most frequent users and practitioners. They are often unfamiliar with techniques appropriate for women of color, and may have had few opportunities to gain experience, though larger cities have ethnically diverse populations, including blacks, Latinos, South and Southeast Asians, and West Indians. All people may enjoy henna. Afro-Americans in particular may wish to explore henna as part of their heritage, and they present the entire spectrum of skin tones from palest to darkest. A henna artist must know techniques and chemistry suited to accommodate this wide range of colors, as well as patterns and traditions relevant to their interests and origins.

Translucence: Creating Harmony and Contrast With Color

Hair, skin, and fingernails are made of keratin. Henna stains keratin red-orange to near black; different recipes, temperature, time, and application techniques create the variation in stain color. Henna's stain is not opaque, it is translucent; henna color does not mask the skin tone, it blends with it.

Henna applied to skin stains the top, dead, epidermal cells above the melanin-bearing layer. Thus, the pigment of dark skin cannot mask henna, as it lies underneath it. The red-orange to black/brown henna color will be a translucent layer over the natural color of the skin.
Similarly, a bittersweet color crayon line drawn onto a tan, brown or black paper will make a translucent mark, creating a different effect on each, while being the same color. The bittersweet will appear as a dark mark on pale paper, a light mark on black paper, and tone against tone on brown paper. Bittersweet henna will appear dark on pale skin, and a warm bittersweet orange on darkest skin. The colors in each case are translucent, not opaque, so they blend with the underlying skin tone. Heavier applications of higher quality henna will make a more saturated stain; lighter applications will make a more transparent stain.

Creating contrast and harmony with henna on dark skin requires different techniques than those used to henna pale skin. Henna on dark skin will be a harmony of shades, tones and contrasts rather than a simple dark line on a light ground. In addition, a person of color has palm and sole skin paler than the rest of their skin. Hand and foot patterns must accommodate and compliment this color change.

    Previous Page

Next Page

Back to the Cover

    [Home] [How] [Why] [What] [Where] [FAQ] [Forum]