Jun 30, 2010 05:00PM ● Published by Style
Photo by Dante Fontana
Does it seem that some ancient arts are becoming mainstream?
Are some of the traditional beauty practices used by early women getting a new look? Is permanent-ink-based body art being replaced with temporary, natural, plant-based products? In the 21st century, the art of henna is joining yoga and acupuncture to enjoy a new resurgence of interest.
El Dorado Hills licensed esthetician and body artist Beela Shaikh is passionate about keeping this tradition alive by offering henna tattoos. In her native Pakistan she learned the art of making and applying henna. She is very proud to be able to bring this centuries-old art form to America. “My clientele,” Shaikh explains, “appreciates the ancient methods.” She also offers her artistic services at henna parties. “Everyone is doing it,” Shaikh says. “It’s not just Indians anymore.”
Henna tattoos and the use of henna products can be traced back to the Bronze Age. The natural paste was used to decorate the skin and more. Our ancestors, and modern women, believe that applying henna designs to the skin is very spiritual. They have faith that henna tattoos can bring good fortune, happiness and protect against evil.
Most people recognize bridal henna as the most commonplace use of henna today. In countries where marriages were arranged, henna artists incorporated the husband’s name into the intricate designs on the bride’s hands or arms. The new groom would examine the tattoos to search for his hidden name! This ritual served as a fun and intimate introduction for the newlyweds.
Along with traditional cultural wedding tattoos, henna tattoos are the perfect way to state your individuality. Permanent tattoos involve having indelible ink inserted into your skin to change the color. By embracing the practice of henna art you get a similar effect without needles. “It is used as a reminder of happiness, a form of blessing for the wearer, and depending on its intent, has a strong aphrodisiac quality,” Shaikh says.
Before Shaikh can apply the elaborate designs, she must prepare the mehndi (henna leaf paste), which takes more than 24 hours to prepare a batch. She only uses natural ingredients and henna imported from Yemen. “My paste is the best,” Shaikh admits, “I just love making it.”
The darkness of the designs depends on several factors, one being the surface of the skin. “The texture of the skin,” Shaikh explains, “and where it is applied dictates the color.” However, Henna is never black...it is shades of orange to dark reddish brown. Black henna, para-phenylenediamine or “PPD,” can be harmful and damage the skin. It is important that the artist only uses natural henna paste.
Shaikh hopes to “share this ancient art form of henna application with people, and show them the true meaning of passion and love for creativity through this unique way of expression.”
For more information on Beela Shaikh, visit hennamoods.com.