You may have seen images of beautiful henna-style body art done in white, silver, gold, or other colors. This technique is often referred to as “white henna,” and has gained popularity in both regions where henna is traditionally used, and in western societies. “White henna” is an interesting new twist on traditional henna. It’s great for formal looks in weddings or events, as well as casual summertime adornment.
What is “White Henna?”
“White henna” is not actually henna. The red-brown stain of traditional henna paste comes from the dye that occurs naturally in the leaves of the henna (lawsonia inermis) plant. To make traditional henna paste, the leaves are harvested, dried, ground, and sifted into a fine powder. This powder is mixed with a mildly acidic liquid, such as lemon juice, which releases the intermediary dye molecules which bind to keratin in skin, hair, and nails. This stain oxidizes from a bright orange to deep red and brown tones. The color stays in the surface layers of the skin until the skin cells shed, allowing the pattern to last a couple of weeks.
On the other hand, “white henna” is a style of body art that involves applying a product to the surface of the skin for a temporary, henna-like effect. It has been done with body paint, adhesives, homemade flour-based pastes, and—as a quick search on YouTube would reveal—acrylic paints, white-out, and other materials that are not safe for skin. Some “white henna” products on the market claim to “stain” the skin white, and may contain some kind of bleach. The problem with many “white henna” products or DIY techniques one might find online is that the product is not safe for use on skin,
Although “white henna” has gained popularity in the past couple of years, Catherine Cartwright-Jones, PhD, began exploring “white henna” work in 2003. In 2012, Becoming Moonlight® Gilding Paste was developed through a collaboration between Catherine and her company, TapDancing Lizard® LLC, and Olena Wilshanetsky.
What is Becoming Moonlight® Gilding Paste?
Becoming Moonlight® Gilding Paste was the first product developed specifically for creating henna-like patterns on the skin. It is based on Pros-Aide medical adhesive. It is water resistant, flexible, and latex-free. It is not a paint nor a dye, but rather an adhesive paste that can be applied with a cone just as henna would. The paste dries after 5-10 minutes, and is tacky to the touch. The artist then seals the paste with any body art quality glitter or mica powder for the desired effect.
Pros-Aide adhesives were originally produced for medical use, but have been widely used by body artists to apply durable, colorful, and sparkling patterns to skin. Both the liquid and cream adhesives tend to dry flat, and transparent. Becoming Moonlight® worked directly with the manufacturers of Pros-Aide to create a skin-safe* adhesive specifically for body art use. Unlike the original Pros-Aide cream adhesive, Becoming Moonlight® gilding paste dries raised and opaque white, making glitters and powders “pop.” The formula is thicker, allowing it to be applied in thin lines and intricate patterns, the same way as traditional henna paste.
Setting the paste with white or pearlescent mica powder creates the classic “white henna” look. However, any color or combination of colors can be used over the paste. This makes it wonderfully versatile. The design stays in place for up to a week, depending on placement and aftercare. It can be easily removed with mineral oil or by rubbing sticky tape over the design.
Because Becoming Moonlight® gilding paste does not stain the skin, it is an ideal product for school children and workers whose dress codes would not allow them to have visible “tattoos.” The design can be worn for the desired period of time, and then removed prior to returning to school or work.
How to Use Becoming Moonlight® Gilding Paste
Mehandi.com sells Becoming Moonlight® gilding paste in both single-use cones and in 4oz jars. A single cone contains enough gilding paste to create several small patterns, or 1-2 large patterns, depending on intricacy. A 4oz jar contains enough paste to fill about twenty cones. Becoming Moonlight® offers body art quality glitters, mica powders, and gems in a large assortment of colors. You can also purchase pre-rolled cones, or mylar triangles to roll your own cones.
The following videos demonstrate how to roll mylar cones, and how to fill cones with Becoming Moonlight® gilding paste.
If you are familiar with applying traditional henna, applying gilding paste feels very similar. Simply snip the very tip of the cone, enough to draw thin lines. Clean the skin with isopropyl alcohol, and create the pattern. Allow the paste to become firm and tacky. Once the paste has set, apply your choice of Becoming Moonlight® gilding powders and glitters to seal the design, and dust off the excess.
Here’s a video tutorial for creating a simple but elegant Halloween look.
For more tutorials and patterns, visit www.becomingmoonlight.com and http://www.hennapage.com/henna/white_henna/index.htm
* Note: Those who are sensitive to adhesives, such as those ones used in bandages, should conduct a patch-test with Becoming Moonlight® gilding paste first.