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The Henna Page Journal
Henna and People of Color
Catherine Cartwright Jones
Page 6 of 9

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Front cover

Many traditional African patterns balance contrasting dark and light areas of henna and skin rather than relying on a dark line on pale skin to create pattern. Fine henna lines may be difficult to see on dark skin. Broader areas of henna can be given heavier applications than single lines, and get more intense contrast to the skin color. Including the essential oils with high levels of monoterpines will add to color intensity. The African aesthetic fondness for asymmetry and bold patterns creates dramatic henna!

Other women of color have honey-toned skin that harmonizes beautifully with henna. These women may choose redder or browner hennaes, both will give contrast and definition with fine lines. Use different essential oils, different line thickness, heating and duration of application to create different tones on skin.

Hair and Skin Oils:

Women of African descent often straighten and oil their hair. Chemical residue from relaxing and processing hair is left on fingers and this alters the skin's characteristics. The harsh chemicals used to straighten hair damage the outer epidermal skin layer, leaving palms and fingers looking shiny and peeled. Other hair straightening involves pressing with flat irons, and fingertips are often burned in the process. Seared skin, and healing skin is thin and glassy, and does not stain well. Straightened hair also requires grooming oil to repair damage from heat or chemical relaxing. Henna easily stains dry, desiccated skin cells, but palm and finger skin saturated with pressing and conditioning oil resists henna uptake. Henna techniques that do not include steaming or essential oils may give poor results on skin damaged by chemicals or saturated in grooming oil. In addition, people of color oil their skin to look better. Dry, flaky skin on elbows and knees makes dark skin look ashy. Most dark people regularly oil their skin to enhance the natural warm brown tones and avoid dry skin. Cleaning skin with rubbing alcohol will remove most oils, and improve henna staining.

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