Mehndi Designs is the application of Henna as a temporary form of skin decoration, in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Somalia as well as expatriate communities from these areas. Mehndi Designs became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos. In Kerala henna is known as mylanchi and widely used by the Muslim community. Henna is typically applied during special occasions like weddings and festivals. It is usually drawn on the palms and feet, where the color will be darkest because the skin contains higher levels of keratin which binds temporarily to lawsone, the colorant of henna. Henna Designs was used as a form of decoration mainly for brides.
The term henna tattoo is inaccurate, because tattoos are defined as permanent surgical insertion of pigments underneath the skin, as opposed to pigments resting on the surface. Likely due to the desire for a "tattoo-black" appearance, many people have started adding the synthetic dye PPD to henna to give it a black color. PPD is extremely harmful to the skin and can cause severe allergic reactions resulting in permanent injury or even, in the worst case, death.
Henna paste is usually applied on the skin using a plastic cone or a paint brush, but sometimes a small metal-tipped jacquard bottle used for silk painting (a jac bottle) is used. Henna is available at stores. The painted area is then wrapped with tissue, plastic, or medical tape to lock in body heat, creating a more intense color on the skin. The wrap is worn overnight and then removed. The final color is reddish brown and can last anywhere from two weeks to several months depending on the type of the paste.
The Mehndi Patterns are typically quite intricate and predominantly applied to brides before wedding ceremonies. However, traditions in India, Bangladesh and Sudan sometimes expect bridegrooms to be painted as well. In Rajasthan (north-west India), where Mehndi is a very ancient folk art, the grooms are given designs that are often as elaborate as those for brides. In Arabic and Persian speaking countries such as Morocco, and some other countries in central Asia, it is done for any special occasion. It is done during the seventh month of pregnancy, after having the baby, weddings, engagements, family get-togethers, as well as many other reasons to simply celebrate an event.