Mehndi – The Gorgeous Indian Henna Tattoo Art, Taking The World by Storm

by John Griffith

Every culture around the world has its own unique secrets when it comes to beauty, yet one of the most eye-catching and gorgeous traditions is, undoubtedly, the Indian mehndi. Mehndi, more commonly known in the West by the rather modest name henna tattoo, is a beautiful form of body art, characterized by intricate symmetrical patterns, mandalas, and flower motifs. The term tattoo is used very loosely, as mehndi are not permanent – they usually last between two and four weeks, depending on the type of henna used. Henna itself is a non-toxic plant-based dye derived from the leaves of the Lawsonia Intermis (also known as henna tree). The leaves are dried and crushed into a powder, then mixed with other ingredients to form a paste, which is then applied to the skin, using a special conus-shaped tool.

Although its precise origins are not known, historical evidence suggests that mehndi was used in Ancient Egypt, and was later introduced to India. Initially, henna tattoos were almost exclusively reserved for women, but this later changed, and now they are a common body decoration for members of both sexes.

The henna tattoo is an indispensable decoration for Hindu brides

henna tattoo, indian bride in a red gown, embroidered with gold details, and wearing elaborate jewelry, lifting her arms up, to show dark brown mehndi, on her palms and forearms

In the Hindu, Sikh, and Arab cultures, mehndi is traditionally applied before special occasions and holidays, such as weddings and festivals. It is believed to bring good luck and ward off the “evil eye.” A common legend claims that people with bad intentions get distracted by the intricate henna patterns, and thus their gaze is diverted from the wearer. As a result, expectant mothers sometimes paint their bellies, in order to protect their babies from negative influences and bad energy.

The reason people believe that henna holds such strong protective magic, might be rooted in its medicinal properties. It is an alleged stress and pain reliever, with antiseptic qualities. According to some, henna purifies the body and mind, keeping infections away in the process.

The detailed beauty of mehndi

hand with black nail polish, applying gold-colored paint, on top of the floral motifs, of a henna tattoo

South Asian weddings are big and lavish affairs, with lots of traditional ceremonies and celebrations that continue for several days. Applying mehndi is only one small fraction of the overall festivities. It takes place before the wedding, and it’s aim is to prepare the bride for her new life, as well as give an opportunity to family members to spend some quality time with her before the big day.

The tattoo itself represents the love between the newly married, and signifies the unbreakable bond that they share. In some cases, people hide little details within the intricate decorative patterns for the groom to find. These may be small drawings, or even his own initials! In addition, henna is believed to have aphrodisiac properties, ensuring that the couple’s marriage is long and fertile, while they remain passionately in love.

Can you spot the groom’s initials in this gorgeous henna tattoo design?

bridal mehndi in reddish brown, covering the palms of two hands, henna tattoo with many details, drums and flourishes

Thanks to Bollywood’s rise in popularity during the 90s and early 2000s, mehndi became somewhat of a sensation in the West. Their easy application and temporary effect make them an excellent choice for people who’d like to get a tattoo, but feel reluctant to permanently alter their bodies.

Needless to say, there are countless of beautiful henna designs one can try. They can vary from the more complex and traditional, to the innovative and bizarre. As for the henna paste itself, there are three different kinds available. Each has its own unique effect, and although all of them are exceptionally beautiful, some come with serious health risks.

A stylish example of modern mehndi. Black henna is a popular choice but comes with certain health risks

sheepskin rug in creamy white, under a pair of feet, one of them decorated with an intricate, black henna tattoo, black nail polish

Natural henna

The most widely used of the three, natural henna is harmless and can be utilized in mehndi, as well as for hair treatments and dyeing. Tattoos made with natural henna are usually light brownish-orange in color, although adding natural dyes such as coffee and indigo can affect the final shade, making it redder or more brownish. We highly recommend using this type of henna, as it has no side effects or health risks.

Black henna

Black henna is usually made by adding indigo or Genipapo (a tropical fruit native to South and North America, and also known as jagua). The resulting tattoos usually have a very deep brown hue, and never turn fully black.

There are some types of henna with synthetic additives that do have a jet black effect, but they must be avoided at all costs. Most of them contain a very dangerous chemical para-phenylenediamine or PPD that can be harmful and even deadly! When getting a mehndi, always make sure that the henna paste contains only natural ingredients and colorants.

“White henna”

“White henna” is not made from henna powder. Rather, it is a 100% synthetic mixture, derived from a special adhesive, normally used for special-effect make up on movie sets and the like. Nevertheless, it became known as “henna” because it can be used to create beautiful white mehndi. Usually, “white henna” is safe but, as it is not a natural product, you need to be cautious. There have been cases of people adding toxic ingredients such as bleach or industrial dyes. Unlike regular henna which can last up to four weeks, this type usually disappears in 2 to 7 days.

Delicate and beautiful – a white mehndi tattoo

silver cone held by a hand, applying white artificial henna, on a pale wrist, henna tattoo with floral motifs, and symmetrical details

If we have piqued your interest and you would like to try making your own mehndi, check out the video tutorial bellow – it features all the information you need for mixing henna paste from scratch! If you are a tattoo aficionado, don’t forget to visit our lifestyle section – we have some great articles, featuring gorgeous tattoo ideas.

Making your own henna paste is easy! Just follow these simple instructions:

Want to draw your own mehndi? Not sure where to start? Check out this tutorial:

Henna powder in its natural form…

leaves from a henna plant, fresh and green, placed near a white, glossy ceramic bowl, containing green henna powder

… and what it looks like when mixed into a paste

bowl made from dark red ceramic, smooth and glossy, filled with khaki brown henna paste

Home-made cones are a very efficient way to apply henna, as they allow you to add very fine details

plastic cones filled with henna, held by a pale hand, next image shows hand painting with henna, on a white piece of paper

What a mehndi looks like right after it has been done, a day after it has been applied, and 36 days after application:

three images showing the stages of the henna tattoo, dark freshly made, cute henna, red after one day, and dark brown after a day and a half

This  lifestyle vlogger tried henna for the first time. See her reaction and comments:

Pamper your hands with a gorgeous henna tattoo!

surface in white, with a hand, wearing dark red nail polish, and freshly made, dark brown finger henna

Exquisite hand decorations for a bride-to-be

identical henna tattoo designs, on the hands of a woman, dressed in a fuchsia pink sari

close up of a hand, drawing a henna tattoo, on another person's wrist and hand, using a green cone

henna patterns in dark brown, decorating the top part of pair of feet, the side of an upper thigh, and the side of the soles of a pair of feet

A professional mehndi artist

artist drawing henna patterns, on the ankle and foot of a woman, wearing dark cherry red nail polish

smiling indian bride, with make up and jewelry, holding her hands in front of her face, to show her palms, decorated with intricate, red henna patterns

deep red henna patterns, on the palms of the hands of an indian bride, wearing a gown, with pink and gold embroidery

Henna hand tattoos look beautiful when combined with a classic red manicure

finger henna in dark brown, with flourishes and flowers, running from the tip of the index finger, to the hand's wrist

palm decorated with freshly made, dark brown henna patterns, seen in extreme close up, and in a medium shot


Going for mehndi is a great activity for a girls’ night out

stages of mehndi, on three linked arms, just applied dark brown henna patterns, newly done pale orange mehndi, and a day old, light brown henna tattoo

small henna tattoo, with delicate designs, featuring dots and lines, and muslim ornaments, on two hands, with pink nail polish

henna meaning, hearts and flowers, flourishes and various symmetrical motifs, decorating the hand and forearm, of an outstretched arm

Stunning henna foot tattoos in white

grass in a fresh green color, under two sets of feet, each decorated with a white, small henna tattoo

brunette girl with long dark hair, parted in the middle, smiling white covering one of her eyes with her hand, decorated with a mehndi, henna meaning

bracelet painted on a woman's wrist, using dark henna, leaves and flowers, henna meaning, pale grey top, and a silver diamond ring

Mehndi for him and her…

man's and woman's leg, lightly touching, henna meaning, hers with mandala and ankle bracelet-like henna tattoos, his with an elaborate mehndi design

drawing floral details, on a small henna tattoo, on a person's wrist and hand, using a white cone

freshly made dark henna temporary tattoo, with circles and flourishes, henna meaning, hand adding a black dot, using a cone

Temporary gold tattoo, featuring a mehndi pattern

imitation of a henna tattoo, made with golden paint, henna meaning, on a slim hand, with black and grey nail polish

back tattoo of a flower, with paisleys and flourishes, painted with henna, henna meaning, seen in close up

wedding temporary tattoos in white, on a woman's feet, back and hands, henna meaning, white dress and jewelry

Don’t you just love this delicate lace-effect temporary tattoo?

temporary henna tattoos, lace-like white henna tattoo, with floral motifs, on the forearm of a woman, dressed in a white top

mini dress in white, worn by a slim, tan blonde woman, with a large white back tattoo, and temporary henna tattoos, on her upper arms and feet

ornamental black henna tattoo, on the sole and ankle of a leg, resting on the ground, temporary henna tattoos

Bridal henna hand tattoos often feature symmetrical elements, which form one big picture when the palms of the hands are placed next to each other

one large image, formed by the temporary henna tattoos of two palms, pressed together, traditional bridal mehndi

rings and a bracelet, made of gold, decorating a hand, painted with black, temporary henna tattoos, and sporting white nail polish

cherry red nail polish, on the fingernails and toes of a woman, putting a ring on one of her toes, temporary henna tattoos, on her feet and hands

Add a touch of mystic beauty to your life

marble-like surface in white, and pale grey, under two hands, with red nail polish, decorated with white, temporary henna tattoos, with flowers and crescent moons

black ring-like motifs, dots and a long, curved detail, running from the wrist, to the index finger, finger henna tattoo ideas

many tiny details, painted with dark henna, on an outstretched arm, temporary henna tattoos, covering the hand and forearm, the fingertips are left bare

A great example of modern mehndi

sitting slender woman, dressed in pale denim shorts, drawing a dreamcatcher on her thigh, using a cone of henna, cute henna designs

a rose and a heart, decorated with flourishes, cute henna designs, drawn above the knees of two legs

cute henna designs, little flowers and flourishes, leaves and dots, painted on a woman's foot, with black henna

We love this gorgeous shoulder design

shoulder tattoo with a circular pattern, painted with dark henna, cute henna designs, worn by a brunette woman, in a black top

adding the finishing touches, on a traditional mehndi, drawn with brown henna, cute henna designs, depicting hands holding a vase

metallic gold nail polish, on a hand decorated with mehndi, cute henna designs, flowers and geometric figures

Stunning “white henna” tattoo

brown arm adorned with a white, detailed temporary tattoo, cute henna designs, in the shape of a dreamcatcher

mesh-like henna design, with large detailed flowers, cute henna designs, on the palm and fingertips, of an outstretched hand

cute henna, three hibiscus flowers, decorated with dots and flourishes, drawn on a person's foot

A lovely, intricate floral design

thigh temporary tattoo, featuring a mandala and lots of details, cute henna, worn by a woman, in a dark blue dress, with white floral pattern

floral patterns on the palm of a hand, dark brown finger henna, with daisy-like shapes, running down to the wrist

woman showing her palms to the camera, they covered in red mehndi, henna hand tattoo designs, with intricate floral motifs

Another pretty example of bridal mehndi

brown hands decorated with rings and bracelets, a french manicure, and long finger henna tattoos, resting on shiny, pale pink embroidered fabric

large temporary tattoo, covering the thigh of a woman, wearing red and white shorts, cute henna, lotus-like details and flourishes

blanket made from brown faux fur, under an arm, decorated with a small henna tattoo, in a winding pattern

Floral mandala henna palm tattoo

henna hand tattoo designs, perfectly symmetrical flower mandala, painted with brown henna, on the palm of a hand

extreme close up of a person's wrist, freshly decorated with dark henna, featuring floral motifs and dots, henna hand tattoo designs

fabric in white, with pink and green print, under an arm, henna hand tattoo designs, on its palm and wrist

Lovely and sensual henna upper thigh tattoo

upper thigh cute henna tattoo, on the leg of a woman, dressed in a black skirt, lying on a cream duvet

set of hands, with outstretched palms, fully covered with henna hand tattoo designs, in a dark brown hue

muslim henna hand tattoo designs, black lotus-like shapes, painted on a person's wrist and palm

So many unique henna designs to try!

seven outstretched arms, decorated with different henna patterns, flowers and paisleys, symmetrical shapes and flourishes, painted on the forearm and palm

pale grey knitted sleeve, on a hand with finger henna, in dark brown and orange, with a golden ring

bright orange nail polish, on a hand, decorated with henna hand tattoo designs, featuring decorative circles, running from the wrist, to the tip of the middle finger

This is what henna looks like, shortly after being applied

recently applied henna, on the palms of a woman, dressed in a multicolored outfit, henna hand tattoo designs, with intricate patterns

contarsting white nail polish, and a cute henna tattoo in white, on a tan hand, placed over a grey towel

assortment of silver rings, in boho style, on a hand with long sharp red nails, decorated with cute henna, temporary tattoos in white

Lovely foot mehndi, decorated with sparkling gold details

tiny shimmering gold details, decorating a henna foot tattoo, identical flower design, on two bare feet

easy design in white, small henna tattoo, with stripes and flowers, on a person's fingertips, hand and wrist

small finger henna tattoos, in dark brown, on a pair of hands, resting one on top of the other, on a crinkled purple fabric

A charming, boho look, perfect for the summer!

dreamcatcher-shaped, small henna tattoo, in pure white, on a hand with many different boho rings, and sharp pink nails

dots and small flowers, decorating the fingers of two hands, with pale powder pink nail polish, finger henna in black

newly applied brown henna, covering the palms, and forearms of a woman, traditional and cute henna designs

Aren’t they cute?

a heart with flourishes, and two little parrots, painted with brown henna, on the heel of a foot, henna foot tattoo

child's hand decorated with a drawing of an elephant, surrounded by flowers, all done in brown henna

girls showing their henna ahnd tattoos to the camera, dark and light brown, with simple and complex patterns

“White henna” for fashion conscious and stylish ladies

complex and simple, white tattoo designs, on a college with three images, large and small henna tattoo, worn by three different women

stars and leaves, and other shapes, painted in black henna, on a pale hand, with long and sharp black nails

adding the finishing touches of a henna tattoo, two images showing an arm, decorated with mehndi, seen in the final stages of development

Stunning traditional motifs:

traditional wedding mehndi, elaborate dark brown, henna foot tattoo, on the feet and ankles of two legs

groom and bride, drawn on the hand of a woman, with brown henna, and decorated with splashes of paint

ring made of gold, on the middle finger of a hand, decorated with brown mehndi, with floral and mesh-like patterns

The ever popular dreamcatcher design 

three feathers and a rose, attached to a dreamcatcher, drawn with brown henna, on a person's forearm

blonde woman with hair tied up, showing her bare back to the camera, it is decorated with a dreamcatcher, painted with dark brown henna

bare feet on a sandy surface, each is decorated with a different henna foot tattoo, one has a feather, and the other a flower

Beautiful lotuses

lotuses painted with brown henna, on the thigh and hand of a woman, dressed in a knitted white dress

mandalas drawn with henna, decorating the palms of two hands, next image shows the other side of the same hands, also decorated with mehndi

cuff made of gold, on the wrist of a brunette woman, dressed in a grey t-shirt, her hand is decorated with white mehndi

Real tattoo, inspired by mehndi

real tattoo in black, inspired by mehndi, decorating the wrist and fingertips, of a hand with long, ballerina-shape nails, painted in black

cutout back white top, worn by a brunette woman, revealing a henna tattoo, of a dreamcatcher on her back

symmetrical art-deco-like henna tattoo, drawn in black, on a person's slim forearm

Once applied, the henna is left to dry. Eventually, the top layer peels off to reveal the stained skin underneath. Here, the tattoo has been photographed just before the top layer falls off:

big peacock tattoo, done in brown henna, seen in close up, on the back of a person, the top layer of the tattoo is about to peel off

identical floral designs, on a pair of feet, with red nail polish, henna foot tattoo, dark brown with many symmetrical details

firebird-motif and floral elements, drawn with brown henna, on a hand with pale peach nail polish, and an encrusted ring

Unpeeled vs peeled top layer:

orange and dark brown areas, on a henna foot tattoo, seen in a close up, removing the top henna layer

mehndi in dark brown and orange, fading from the palm of an outstretched hand, mandala motif and finger details

examples of different mehndi, large and small henna tattoo, featuring finger details, flowers and muslim motifs

Unleash your imagination!

svelte woman sitting on a wooden surface, wearing black shorts, and a white top, her legs and one of her hands, are decorated with white mehndi

wooden surface in a dark color, under a hand with square nails, painted in a nude pink nail polish, elaborate dark mehndi, on the wrist, hand and fingertips

scale-like dark brown mehndi details, on a pale hand, with bubblegum pink nail polish, resting on a teal blue towel

Lovely mehndi and a perfect manicure

beige lace under an arm, with long sharp nails, painted in a dark plum nail polish, a black henna tattoo, featuring a flower and a ring-detail

tablecloth made of crochet lace, under a pair of arms, densely decorated with dark brown mehndi, covering the palms and forearms

dense and dark henna hand tattoo, with details on the fingers, the lower part of the palm, and the wrist

And here are a few rather unusual suggestions:

cartoon-like drawing of an indian woman, with headdress and a nose ring, done with henna, on the palm of a hand

Have you ever seen a henna tattoo of an octopus before?

funny drawing of an octopus, done with dark brown henna, on a pale hand, with outstretched fingers

french fade nails, on a hand with a large, white mock-henna temporary tattoo, resting above a woman's bare legs

Natural henna is safe even for children’s hands

small hand of a child, freshly painted with henna, featuring a large heart shape, flourishes and dots

sun-shaped mandala, drawn on a child's hand, with brown henna, fingertip details with dots and lines

dark henna foot tattoo, on the side of a foot, and around the ankle, asymmetrical outlines filled with small flourishes

The incredible beauty of henna tattoo art

henna foot tattoo, identical designs in brown, freshly applied on a pair of feet, with black nail polish


John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.