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Henna Trouble Shooting Guide
Deep rich red henna stain on the palm by Jody Beachcombers in Orlando.
Let's be real! Henna is pretty easy, but it has a learning curve.
Most of the time, any trouble you have is an easy fix, but henna takes some time to learn. Below are the most common issues for new henna artists.

I am not getting a good stain.
My henna paste is cracking and falling off too quickly.
My henna tattoo is fading quickly.
I am have trouble getting my henna paste to the right consistency.
I've read the trouble shooting guide, but I'm still having trouble.


I am not getting a good henna stain.

  • The number one reason henna does not stain well is the skin was not clean when the henna was applied.
    Lotions, sweat, hair products, and anything else on the skin will give you a poor henna stain. Make sure the skin is completely clean before applying henna. Washing with dish soap or wiping the area with rubbing alcohol or which hazel can help.

  • The moist henna was not left on the skin long enough.
    To get really good color, henna should be left on for at least 4 hours. The longer the henna paste is left on the skin, the more layers of skin cells are stained. You want as many layers of cells stained as possible for darker longer lasting color.

  • The color has not completely oxidized.
    When you first remove the henna paste, the stain starts off a light orange. It takes a couple of days to come up to full color. Don't judge the stain color until 48 hours after you remove the henna.

  • The henna was removed from the skin with water.
    Do not use water to remove the henna from the skin and avoid water for as long as possible once you have removed the henna paste. If you remove your henna paste and immediately wash dishes, your stain will not oxidize properly and you will get a substantially lighter stain. Use gloves when cleaning, especially the first day of your henna stain.

  • Your body was not warm enough while the henna paste was on your skin.
    When you are warm, your skin cells expand because they are trying to release heat. When you are cold, they contract because they are trying to hold in heat. This means when you are warm there is more surface area to stain and more room for the dye in the henna molecules to penetrate the skin cells.

    Imagine you have a balloon that has not been blown up yet and you color the outside of the balloon with a marker. The balloon is completely covered with rich color. What happens when you blow that balloon up? Your richly colored balloon is now covered in very pale color. Now that the balloon is blown up and you color it, you have a deep rich color again. That is why we want nice warm "blown up" skin cells to henna!

  • Henna stains darkest on the palms and gets lighter the further away you get.The henna paste has not released dye yet.
    *Does not apply if you are using ready-made paste. If you mix henna and use it right away, you will NOT get color. Dye release can take some time, especially if it's cold. Though it's possible to over-release or over-cook your henna, it's more likely that the henna paste was not left long enough to release all it's dye.
  • The henna paste was not stored properly and the dye has demised.

    If henna is not being used, ideally, it should be frozen. While at room temperature, henna paste continues to release dye. At some point all the dye will be released and the henna will leave very light stain for no stain at all. The warmer it is, the quicker the henna dye will demise.

  • You are hennaing a part of the body that does not stain well.
    Palms of the hands and soles of the feet take henna best and the further away from these areas you go, the lighter your stain. You will never get that super dark stain that the palms are capable of producing on the upper arm or the back. Play around with hennaing different parts of the body to you learn what to expect.


My henna paste is cracking and falling off quickly.

  • You need to use a sealer to keep the henna moist and in contact with the skin longer.
    Apply the sealer when the henna is just-dry and before it starts cracking and falling off.
    Use the lemon sugar sealer recipe from the How To page or use spray bandage as a sealer.
    Follow up with a wrap for super dark color!

  • Add sugar to your henna mix.
    Sugar makes the henna stay wet against the skin longer, stick to the skin better, and makes the henna more flexible thus helping you achieve a darker stain. It also helps give your henna a great consistency. You may find you like more or less sugar with different brands of henna.

    Keep in mind, sugar becomes a liquid when mixed into your henna. It will NOT thicken your paste and will thin it substantially.

  • Your henna paste is too thick.
    Thicker henna tends to crack quicker and bigger chunks of henna fall off. Thin your henna bit-by-bit to find out what you like to use. Try using a little sugar to thin the henna instead of lemon juice.

  • Steam your henna!
    Be careful with this, but steaming your henna can lead to amazing results because you are both keeping the henna moist AND adding heat. Be sure to keep the henna just-moist and not sopping wet.


My henna tattoo is fading quickly.

  • Generally you will have good color for 5-10 days and your stain will be completely gone in 1-3 weeks.

  • The number one reason henna does not stain well or last long is the skin was not clean.
    Lotions, sweat, hair products, and anything else on the skin will give you a poor henna stain. Make sure the skin is completely clean before applying henna. Washing with dish soap or wiping the area with rubbing alcohol or which hazel can help.

  • The moist henna was not left on the skin long enough.
    To get really good color, henna should be left on for at least 4 hours. The longer the henna paste is left on the skin, the more layers of skin cells are stained. You want as many layers of cells stained as possible for darker longer lasting color.

  • The henna design is coming in contact with water or chemicals too often.
    Chlorinated water (pools, spas) will fade henna very quickly (this includes tap water which often has high levels of chlorine). Wear rubber gloves when cleaning the house (especially dishes) and when washing your hair. Apply a light layer of olive oil over your henna design before coming into contact with water and if you swim, put spray bandage sealer over your henna first.

  • You may be using an exfoliating soap and/or lotion.
    Most facial soaps are highly exfoliating and many smoothing lotions are as well.

  • The skin is dry.
    Dry skin helps henna to take and get a nice deep dark stain, but it also fades the henna quicker as dry skin sheds it's cells faster than moist skin. Apply olive oil or non-exfoliating lotion over your henna design daily.

    The skin typically exfoliates completely every 20-30 days. Your skin may exfoliate quicker than most.

  • There is too much essential oil in your henna mix.
    Quality essential oil will help your henna color develop to a deep rich color, but the stain will also fade about 15-30% quicker. Never use more than 1 ounce of oil per 100 grams of henna.

I am having trouble mixing my henna paste to the correct consistency.

  • Don't worry, it takes some practice!
    It takes some practice to get the consistency you personally like for henna, so don't be afraid to experiment and make a few mistakes. If you are still asking this question, do not mix large batches of henna. Mix small batches of henna so you can try different consistencies out to find out what is best for you.

  • The goal is a consistency somewhere between pancake batter and thick yogurt or even brownie batter.
    The henna should smoothly ribbon off your spatula or spoon and create peaks that slowly "melt" down.

  • Thinning or thickening your henna should be done after all your ingredients are added to your henna.
    Any essential oils and sugar should already be added and you should be just tweaking your henna right before you strain it.

  • If you need to thin your henna, thin it with lemon juice or water.
    Do not use essential oils or sugar to thin your henna.

  • If you need to thicken your henna, add more henna powder.
    Do not add any other solid ingredient to thicken your henna (flour will NOT work). Do not add sugar to thicken your henna, as sugar melts in the henna becoming a liquid and thinning your henna paste.

I've read the trouble shooting guide, but I'm still having trouble.

  • Try a different part of your body.
    Henna takes the best on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Thinner skin like your back or upper arm are more difficult to stain and may require more than one application.

  • Try a different kind of henna.
    The same henna works differently on different people. If you've been using pre-mixed henna, try mixing fresh henna from henna powder. Mixing your own henna from powder is capable of the darkest possible stain. Our ORa powder henna is the easiest henna to use for good color.

  • Try sealing and wrapping your henna design, using plastic wrap.
    Instructions are on our "How To" page. It's amazing what this one thing can do for color.

  • Your henna may have lost it's color due to age or improper storage.
    Keep unopened powder henna in a cool dry place. Keep mixed henna paste in the freezer. After you mix your henna, freeze it. If you are doing henna outside in the heat, keep your henna in a cooler when not in use. The heat and sun can ruin fresh mixed henna very quickly.

  • Reapply your design.
    Some skin types and placements need an extra application of henna to get really good color (especially if your body temperature tends to be lower or it's winter time).

  • In some rare cases, henna just doesn't take well to certain people (I have to work much harder for a good stain than most others). Never use henna with chemicals to compensate. If henna doesn't take well to you, then you will need to work extra hard. Mix your own henna from ORa henna powder using the Beachcombers Favorite Henna Recipe. Seal your henna design and use additional heat to help activate the henna. Wrap your henna design and leave it on overnight.

  • Feel free to email me or call me with questions! I'm happy to help!