Differences Between BAQ Henna for Body Art, Mass-Produced Henna Cones, and “Black Henna”



This article discusses the difference between products created for the use of decorating the skin. For differences between products labeled as “Henna for Hair,” click here.


For details about rules and regulations regarding the use of henna on skin, consult the About Page.


If you are either a person who is interested in using henna for body art, or if you are someone who wishes to get henna done, it is crucial to be familiar with what is considered real, natural, and safe henna, and what is not. Sadly, there are too many products on the market which claim to be henna (but they are not), and which can be dangerous to the skin. Knowing the difference will keep you and/or your clients safe. This article will describe the differences, and explain how to tell these products apart.


True Henna Paste for Body Art

Let’s start with the good stuff. True body art quality henna paste for the skin is made with BAQ henna powder, an acidic liquid (most commonly lemon juice), essential oils referred to as “terps,” and sometimes some sugar. That’s it. Most artists who use real henna paste mix it themselves in small batches, and fill their own cones. “BAQ” stands for Body Art Quality, indicating that the henna powder is finely sifted and free of additives.



Many henna artists who use true henna mix their own paste and fill their own rolled mylar cones.


 When mixed, the paste must be left to dye-release for some time before use, and then kept cold or frozen if not used right away. At room temperature, henna paste will demise after one or two days, causing the dye to weaken. Demise occurs more quickly at warmer temperatures.

 Henna comes in only one “color.” It will stain skin a bright orange color which oxidizes to red-brown to deep coffee. The darkness of the stain depends on the area of skin that is being hennaed, proper aftercare of the design, and proper mixing.

Henna stains best on dry, rough skin with several layers. This is why henna is most commonly done on hands and feet. Areas like the back and stomach will stain lighter and fade more quickly.

 The longer the paste is kept on, the deeper the stain. Keeping the paste slightly moist and warm will also deepen the stain.


Dye from henna paste migrates into the upper layers of the skin. The stain is orange at first, and oxidizes to deeper colors.



Terps are the only ingredient that will affect the darkness of a stain. Coffee, dyes, and other ingredients should not be added. Terps are essential oils with monoterpene alcohols. These compounds aid in darkening the resulting color from the paste.


Mass-Produced Henna

Several companies produce “henna” paste meant to be used for body art, usually sold in packages with several cones. These are sold on the internet and in international stores. These products contain a number of additional chemicals to preserve the henna dye and to manipulate the color. Rather than using essential oils, cheaper alternatives are added to boost the color. These could be one or more of a wide range of solvents or terpineols that are not mean for use on skin. If you were to hold a flame to the paste and it ignites, it contains something that should not be in henna paste. If the product smells like a gas station or something in a janitorial closet, the same applies.

These pre-made paste cones are sometimes referred to as “chemical cones” by henna artists. Because these products are often produced in countries with loose regulations on ingredients disclosure, it is not enough to check the label.