“Henna is usually part of joyful occasions,” explained Wardah Halim of HennaTrendz in Chula Vista (858-366-3374; hennatrendz.com). “Marriages, birthdays, graduations, sweet 16s, bar mitzvahs.”
A few of those occasions are in the Kelly family’s near future, and I’ve always been fascinated with the flowing designs of henna art. That’s why I was talking with Halim, who explained that henna is a plant.
“The scientific name is Lawsonia inermis. It grows in hot, humid climates: India, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco. The leaves of the plant are ground into a fine powder and then a paste is made out of that powder, using natural ingredients such as lemon juice and essential oils. The paste is used to draw designs on the skin. It’s a natural dye. It’s temporary; it lasts anywhere from one to three weeks. Because it’s staining the top few layers of skin cells, it will come off as your skin cells exfoliate.
“The final stain of henna comes out as a shade of brown — a burgundy brown, mahogany brown — but never black.”
Halim cautioned about using what is called black henna. “Black henna is p-phenylenediamine [PPD], which is used in artificial dye — it’s not good for your skin.”
Halim has been doing henna since she was 12. “I am a traditional girl. I do the floral traditional styles — Indian, Arabic, Hindu-like styles. I don’t do creatures — dragons, birds, fish.”
HennaTrendz prices for the design start at $10 in her home studio. Parties start at $70 an hour.
“I am from Pakistan,” said Anita Bhakta of Hennasphere in Bay Park (858-220-6782; hennasphere.com). “In our culture, we have henna parties before any big event — weddings, religious occasions. I grew up going to these parties. The host would distribute henna cones, and everyone would try their hand at it. Usually there were only a handful of people at the party who felt comfortable doing it. Everyone would always be very willing to let me draw them, even when I was eight years old.”
Bhakta specializes in Indian and Arabic styles of henna. “But if someone brings me an image, I can pretty much copy anything,” she said. “For a bracelet, a flower, or an anklet, it only takes a couple minutes. If I was to do an Indian bride who wanted the traditional amount of henna — both hands, front and back, the feet, up the ankles, and maybe even further up — it could take four to six hours. The more you practice doing your henna, the faster you get. For a half-hour appointment, someone can get quite a bit of henna done. So sometimes I say, ‘Bring a friend, because if you are just wanting something going up your arm, I can do that in 15 minutes.’
“Henna on pregnant bellies is a big trend right now,” she added. “It’s definitely a Western thing. We don’t do that in our country, but it is a really nice canvas.”
Bhakta charges $75 an hour, with a two-hour minimum, and a travel fee for more than ten miles. Her home studio rates are $60 for a half hour, with no time minimum.
“I do quite a few pregnant bellies, which is a fun addition to a baby shower,” said Natasha Papousek of Crescent Moon Designs Henna Art in Lemon Grove (619-337-5780; cmoondesigns.com). “I also get quite a few people just wanting to do something special to show off in the summer. I had one guy who was going to an event in San Francisco, and he wanted something really wild, so I did his whole chest and back and down the arms.”
Papousek charges $75 an hour to come to a client. In the studio, she averages about $10–$15 per appointment. If a client is having henna done for an event, she recommends scheduling the appointment two days before the event in order for the henna to come to its full color.
“I get calls from clients that want to get henna done because they want to get a permanent tattoo,” said Tejal Shah of Henna San Diego in Rancho Peñasquitos (858-752-3628; hennasandiego.com). “The client tries it out first in henna.”
Shah charges $65–$100 an hour. No travel fee for up to 25 miles. Individual appointments at the studio are $5 and up.