Style & Beauty

What Henna Is, And Where These Beautiful Tattoos Originated

07/01/2015 12:35pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017

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There is no arguing that henna tattoos are beautiful. But what is henna exactly, and where did it come from? We found out everything you need to know.

What is henna?

Henna is a small flowering shrub that has many uses. The fragrant flowers are used to create perfume, and the leaves are dried and then turned into a fine powder that's used for dying clothes, hair and temporarily dying the skin -- hence henna tattooing. The plant has even been known to treat skin conditions.

Where did henna tattooing come from?

The exact origins of henna tattooing aren't clear, however the tradition dates back as far as Ancient Egypt. It was said that Cleopatra used henna to adorn her body and Egyptians used the dye to paint the nails of mummies before they were buried.

How is it used today?

The art of applying henna to the hands and feet is known as Mehndi, and is traditionally used for celebrations and rites of passage. Every culture and region of the world uses henna tattoos in its own unique way. For Hindu weddings, henna is painted on the bride to symbolize joy, beauty, spiritual awakening and offering, while Moroccans often paint doors with henna to bring prosperity and chase away evil. Depending on where you get henna tattoos, they will look different. Indian tattoos feature fine lines and floral patterns, while Arabic henna designs tend to be larger in scale and African henna patterns are more bold and geometric.

How long does a henna tattoo last?

This depends on a few factors like skin type, lifestyle and body part, but generally speaking, the stain will last somewhere between one and three weeks.

Where can you get henna tattoos?

Depending on where you live, it differs. In New York City, for example, a few spas offer henna tattoos and there are a couple shops that are dedicated to henna specifically, but a quick Google search should help you find your nearest shop.

What does it look like?

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