Known for its beautifying as well as its healing properties, henna has been used for centuries throughout South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The intricate ornate designs carefully piped on to hands and feet, particularly on special occasions like weddings and Eid are a fascinating and deeply-rooted part of beauty culture for Arabs and Asians alike.
One woman who knows a thing or two about this stunning art form is multi-award winning henna artist Sara Mush. As the founder of Sara’s Henna, she has travelled across the globe sharing her talents and experience with clients and henna enthusiasts as well as creating beautiful works of body art for exhibitions around the world. As a master of henna, she also applied henna crowns for women battling cancer in Hong Kong and Pakistan. On a recent trip to Dubai, I sat down with Sara where she shared her insight on henna trends and her unique take on this ancient beauty ritual.
What are the main differences between Arabic and Asian henna?
Arabic henna is bold & strong, using very thick lines with spaced out patterns stretched over the entire arm. Lines are the dominant part of Arabic henna, whereas Indian/Asian henna focuses a lot more on details. Itʼs very intricate and complex, using traditional florals and paisleys as well as portraits, and other such motifs, with delicate fills. Asian henna has very little negative space in comparison with Arabic henna. Even the henna paste and application cones are different in the Middle East compared to those used in India and Pakistan.
How do you think it’s changed in recent times?
Recently, I feel that women across the globe are a lot more open to contemporary designs, due to the heavy influence of social media. I find a lot of my local Emirati clients insisting on traditional Sara’s Henna bespoke Asian designs, or asking for some of the more trending designs, such as the lacy gloves, half fingers, and other patterns that have been inspired by fabrics and fashion trends.
Are there henna trends or do designs remain consistent?
Just like Fashion, henna trends come and go every season. However some favourite styles prevail and remain consistent throughout. For example, last June my introduction of the lacey henna glove caused a huge stir, and before long every henna artist was being asked to replicate the design and from June to December all you saw in Dubai and around the world, was women adorned in beautiful variations of henna lace gloves! Then came the trend of reverse negative space from India, and these days all you see is designs heavily influenced by this current trend!
Why is it important to learn from a professional?
I have been teaching Henna in Hong Kong for the last two years now. I havenʼt started teaching in Dubai yet due to a lot of travel in and out, but it’s in my plans for the near future. I feel itʼs very important to learn from a professional henna artist, as we put a lot of time, effort, energy and money into making sure we research and teach our students the most effective, safest, and the most natural henna recipes. We import fresh henna and essential oils ensuring beautiful colour payoff.
How does your henna style differ from traditional henna?
I believe in henna art telling stories, creating a very personal bond between the design and the wearer. So I create designs according to the vibes and the energy I receive from the clients. I feel my henna style has evolved over the last few years due to traveling and exposure to styles and techniques that I’ve learnt from artists around the world. I like to keep the traditional Asian elements while adding contemporary patterns and designs from things that inspire me. I donʼt enjoy copying other artistsʼ work, and instead doodle every pattern I see and henna designs just evolve from there.
Are there any risks when getting a henna tattoo?
Natural henna has absolutely no risks involved! Itʼs 100% safe for skin. However, the infamous “Black Henna” is extremely risky, and I strongly advise against it. There is no such thing as “black” henna! Henna is a plant, itʼs 100% natural, and unless you mix it with chemicals and dyes – the colour will never be black. Natural henna is a beautiful reddish brown color that develops over 48 hours. Check for the following before using your henna:
– The smell: it should be a light and earthy. If it smells super strong, chances are it has been mixed with chemical dyes, and itʼs not natural Henna.
– The colour: henna is always a greenish brown shade. If itʼs black or red then itʼs not natural henna.
– The effect on skin: henna should never sting or burn. In fact it should have a very cooling effect. If on application your skin starts to tingle or burn – itʼs not henna!
How should you care for your design after application?
There are a few ways to ensure that you get the perfect prime henna colour. Follow this aftercare routine for the best results:
– Dry your henna in sunlight, or if in a rush use a hairdryer. The heat is good for your henna!
– Once henna is dry, you can dab lemon & sugar.This sticks the henna to your skin for longer.
– Do not wash your henna. Let it flake off naturally.
– Ideally donʼt get water on your henna for at least two to four hours after application.
– Once the henna paste has flaked off and you have a light orange stain, apply some Vicks or any deep heat balm to intensify the colour.
– Keep your henna moisturised and steer clear of chemicals such as washing liquid, shampoo etc for 48 hours after application
Can we expect you back in the Middle East any time soon?
I will be traveling back and forth to the Middle East over the next few months as I do a lot of destination weddings. I am always available to fly back for my brides, or for special events such as Eid.
Whether you’re preparing for your wedding day, heading to a festival or you just love the look of beautiful artwork on your body, click through the gallery below and get inspired by Sara’s breath-taking designs.