top of page
The Henna Peacock Blog

Henna Safety- Is it natural, or is it laced?

Updated: Oct 15, 2022

Did you know, not all henna is safe? There are so many products available that are labeled as henna- and a lot claim to be all natural and safe but are unfortunately just not true.

So, Who am I and why should you take my word?

I'm Shelby and I've been a professional henna artist since 2014. I advocate for safe, natural henna products and artists. I have achieved an International Certificate of Natural Henna Artists, which is a rigorous test all about the safety of natural henna, and shows my dedication to learning about the plant from the chemical level to the international level of culture and religion. I have dedicated my life to continuously learning and studying this incredible art form and it brings me joy and fulfillment to celebrate you with natural, safe henna designs.

Summer is fast aproaching and festival season will be upon us very soon! I can't wait, but with summer holidays and events comes the danger of chemical henna.

Here I will go into detail about how to identify natural from chemical laced products, and will talk a bit about natural henna- for more information on natural henna, check out my previous blog posts or head over to my Q&A pages though my website.

First of all, what is henna anyway?

Henna paste is made from henna powder- which is the dried and ground down leaves from the henna (or lawsonia inermis) shrub.

Paste is made by mixing the powder with liquid and other natural ingredients to enable the release of the natural dye found in the plant.

A basic rule for henna paste is high quality henna powder, something sticky, something acidic and essential oils.

Sticky- this is to help the paste stay on the skin once it has dried, enabling it to stay on the skin and stain deeper, meaning a longer lasting and darker stain. Sugar, honey, syrups, and liquid glucose, and apple juice are all commonly used. I personally use uk grown organic sugar in my paste.

Acidic- like lemon juice, some floral waters, tea or coffee mixes. Henna loves the light acidity in these types of ingredients, and it can give the paste a bit of a boost when it is releasing the dye. This can be skipped to use just plain water for sensitive mixes. I use water and lavender floral water as they are super gentle.

Essential oils- some essential oils contain a natural compound called Mono-terpenes (or terps for short), which help bring out the stain qualities even more. Not all essential oils have high levels or are safe for use on the skin. Oils like Lavender, teatree, clove, and cajeput are common oils used. I use lavender as it is suitable for sensitive skin types, and can be used safely on expecting mothers-to-be.

What colour is natural henna?

Henna stains can vary depending on aftercare taken, the quality of the paste, and the location of the design, but will ALWAYS be a browny-red tone. Different henna types stain slightly different (like roses have different varieties that bloom different colours), so some can be more of a reddish brown, while others are a darker brown. The dye molicule (called lawsone), only stains brown though. Any other colours of ‘henna’ are not real henna and contain synthetic dyes.

What about ‘black henna’?

Black henna does not exist. The stain from real henna can only be brown. The only safe, natural black stain that can be found is Jagua. It is made from the juice of a fruit grown in the Amazon forrest. It stains a blueish black. It can be mixed with henna to acheive darker henna stains. I personally do not use jagua, as it can cause some reactions and is not suitable for more sensitive skin types.

So, what is ‘White henna’?

White henna is just white body paint or skin glue and pigment that has been put in a henna cone to be applied. It does not stain the skin and only lasts a day or so. I don’t offer this, as I prefer to only use natural henna so I know exactly what is being applied to your skin, but this can be fun to do at home.

How long does henna last/ how to store henna?

When mixed, henna lasts only a few days out at room temperature. The dye molicules start to die off and fade, meaning weak, poor stains. It should be stored in the fridge if used within a few days, or a freezer for longer term storage. It can last a year or so frozen, I only use paste that is up to one month old (I use fresh from that week for appointments, but for festivals and fairs where I need a lot of henna, I mix up extra batches each week to stock up, as it’s easier than huge batches in one go). After that, I use the paste on myself or on products. I hate needless waste, so I only mix up what I need each week for best results.

Henna cones for sale should be kept in a fridge or freezer, or a cool bag if at an event, so that the stain quality stays at it’s best. If you see henna for sale that is just on a shelf or table, then it will be chemical filled and dangerous.

Why/ How do these chemical cones claim to be natural?

These fake cones are made in countries which do not have strict laws or policies on what goes on the labels and packaging, meaning that factories can put what they like in there and not have to disclose it.

Why are these cones so dangerous?

Chemicals like ammonia and PPD are often used. PPD is banned for use on the skin in a lot of countries, and ammonia use is strictly monitored as too much can cause severe reactions. These chemicals are desensitising, meaning if you don’t have a reaction at first, the more times you are exposed to them (like when dying hair), the more likely you’ll have a reaction, and the reaction will be worse as it will be like having a reaction to every exposure all at once.

How can I tell if a cone is safe or not?

When buying henna, always look in the description if online, or ask the seller about what ingredients are used, when it was made, and see how it’s stored. Reputable artists and suppliers are always happy to discuss these details. We are happy when people do ask, as it means that the message on chemical henna is getting out there and known more about. If the seller cannot tell you any of these things, I always advise to walk away from them. I sell my cones both online and in person. I mix my paste weekly on Tuesdays and send orders out as soon as it is ready. For clients, I store the fresh henna in my freezer to keep them at their best. I have display cones out that are filled with brown paint, and have a note beside explaining they are dummy cones and the real ones are stored properly. if buying in person, you can also do a sniff test- it’s always better to feel a bit odd and to stay safe, than to get a nasty reaction! Natural henna smells herby and fresh- like fresh cut grass and herbs. Depending on what oils are used, it may smell a bit different, but should always smell natural. If there are any smells of chemicals (like the smell of hair dye), or if it feels like it burns when you take a wiff, then it’s best to put it down and walk away.

At festivals and fairs, I freeze my cones beforehand and store them in a cool box with icepacks to keep them at their best. For longer events that last several days, I pack my ingredients and supplies so that I can mix fresh paste each night for the best results.

I hope that this helps you to stay safe. Feel free to share to friends, family, and henna artists who you see using chemical filled cones. Let's raise awareness and say no to harmful chemicals. Wishing you love, prosperity and a lovely summer!

Take care and stay safe this summer,


9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page