I have always admired the intricate mehendi artwork seen in several Eastern cultures, but never knew quite where to get the mehendi paste or how to apply it. Imagine my delight when I found prepackaged mehendi cones at a grocery street on Devon (a street full of Indian stores and restaurants in Chicago). These pre-made cones made the prep super easy--just cut of the tip of the cone, squeeze on to hands, and then don't touch anything for several hours as the design absorbs into the skin. Since it was my first time, I kept it simple. The top hand is my first mehendi drawing ever, and the bottom hand is mine. Feels good to pick up a new skill and create something pretty!
Some tips to get the designs to come out dark and last long:
1) Exfoliate the skin before you start drawing. This ensures that only fresh skin will get the dye--not old skin that is about to fall off soon anyway.
2) Put a pinch of sugar in a small bowl of lemon juice.. Apply this mixture on the design once it is somewhat dry and won't be smeared. You can apply this by either spraying or dabbing softly with a cotton ball. I prefer to soak a cotton ball and drip it over the design until it is covered. This will help darken the color by increasing the acidity and keeping the paste moist enough to let the dyes continue to soak into the skin.
3) Keep the skin warm! Heat will help the color seep in faster and deeper. So if you are prone to cold hands and feet, put them by a fireplace, heater, or any other source of heat.
4) Keep the paste on as long as you can, preferably overnight. I like to draw the design after dinner once I have nothing else to do for the day. Then right before going to bed, I will apply the lemon-sugar mixture one last time and cover my hands loosely with paper bags or cloth scraps. In the morning, peel off the paste.
Pictures of future, more intricate mehendi attempts coming in future posts.