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March 2016

Henna—A Temporary Body of Art

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(3):290. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.4237

Amidst joyous chatter, choreographed dances, and the aromas of South Asian food, a bride is joined by close friends in her childhood home as she delights in a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. As part of the festivities, a red-brown paste is expertly applied to her arms, hands, legs, and feet in intricate designs of leaves, flowers, and geometric shapes. This paste, otherwise known as henna, is an integral part of this timeless Mehndi ceremony.

Derived from the plant Lawsonia inermis, temporary henna tattoo paste (or mehndi) is a mixture of the plant’s extracts with water or oil.1 Decorative patterns are skillfully drawn onto the skin with a brush or thin stick and allowed to dry. A dressing can be applied to improve penetration1 of the paste into the stratum corneum. Over the course of a few weeks, as corneocytes gradually shed, the tattoos will fade.1

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