If you have been to South Asian weddings, chances are you have encountered the bride, members of the bridal party, and even friends and family with henna stained designs on their hands and sometimes even feet.
Henna, or mehendi – as it is referred to in many parts of the world, is usually associated with beautification, but also holds significance in a marriage. In some customs, strong henna stain symbolizes fertility while in others, the bride is not allowed to do any housework until the henna stains fade because it symbolizes the relationship with the mother in law. Now a days, many of the female family members and friends of the bride are keen on applying henna on their hands and feet during wedding. Engraving initials of the groom’s first name on a bride’s hands is also becoming very common. Aside from weddings, henna is also applied during important occasions, festivals, and religious/holy days in the many cultures.
With henna playing such a vital role in a bride’s big day, we thought we would get the low down on this ancient practise from an expert in the industry, Payal Sharma. Payal is based out of Sydney Australia, and for those of you (and us) who aren’t lucky enough to live in her city, Payal dishes on her tips and tricks that can be used all over the globe to ensure a perfect stain every time!
“The darker the stain, the stronger the love between a husband wife.”
Who is Payal Sharma outside of the henna artist we see on Instagram (@hennabypayal)? Tell us a little about your hobbies outside of your business.
Other than doing henna, I am a University student and am currently in my final year of my nursing degree. I aspire to be an anesthetic nurse one day. Outside of that, I enjoy finding new places to eat, hanging out with my friends, watching movies, and watching new TV series at home with my dog Bruno.
What exactly is henna? What is it made from and what are the different types?
Henna is actually a plant called Lawsonia Inermis. The leaves are crushed into a fine powder which is then used for henna. I purchase the henna powder from various suppliers – and then I mix some essential oils, sugar, and water to create the paste. It is completely organic and chemical-free, so its safe for everyone of all ages. You will come across black henna, this type of henna usually has some chemicals/preservatives in it so I wouldn’t recommend it in case you end up with a reaction.
Rule of thumb: If the henna stains your skin a dark colour within a couple of minutes, it definitely contains chemicals. Natural henna should come out bright orange at first and then oxidize to a dark brown/maroon over a period of 24-72 hours.
White henna isn’t henna at all, it’s just body paint, latex, and body glue mixed together. Safe? Yes, but only will last you 3-4 days.
Where is Payal Sharma located? Do you accept clients outside of your city/area?
I am located in Sydney’s west (Australia), but I prefer to travel to my clients. Yes I do accept clients outside my area.
Have you ever travelled overseas for clients? Are you open to taking clients from overseas?
No I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I would love to travel internationally for my clients!
When did you first get into doing henna? Take us back to your first client. How was that experience? Was it for a bride, henna party, etc?
I started doing henna when I was about 12 years old, and it was only three years ago that I decided to turn it into a business because I enjoyed doing it so much. My first client was a bride, she really loved what I did for her and it made me feel so enthusiastic about doing it again for someone else. I started my Instagram page and got such an amazing response. This expanded my clientele base and allowed me to reach a wider audience.
Are you a solo henna artist, or do you have a team of people working with you?
I normally do work as a solo henna artist, but when it comes to bigger bookings such as weddings with 40+ guests – I usually liaise with other henna artists that suit my style to help with some bookings or go on my behalf. Luckily, three of my best friends are amazing henna artists as well, so they usually work with me when it comes to the bigger bookings. I usually do the bride, while they work on the guests and we usually finish at the same time which works out perfectly for everyone.
What does your calendar year look like in terms of bookings? How far in advance would one have to book you for their event?
September to January usually gets booked out 1 year in advance, so I would suggest advising me of your potential henna night date and putting down a small deposit ASAP. I actually don’t mind taking last minute bookings, as long as I am free and it doesn’t clash with any personal commitments. I love doing henna. If I have the time, I will do it!
In the minds of a henna artist, how do you come up with your designs for clients? Do clients come to you with their own design or with a picture – or do you just start creating a masterpiece on their hands and feet?
I always use inspiration from other henna artists on Instagram (mainly) and put my own personal twist in it. I like to do freestyle henna, but I also don’t mind individuals giving me a design as it helps guide the pattern. It is important to understand that each henna artist has their own style. It’s best not to expect your henna artist to be able to directly copy the design given.
Are you mostly known for bridal henna? What other events do you take bookings for?
I take bookings for almost all events, whether it be weddings, kitchen teas, birthdays, bah/bar mitzvah, fundraisers, or a girls night in. I love doing bridals, and I would like to specialise in them in the near future as its a bigger piece of work. It gives the opportunity to be creative!
What trend have you noticed in terms of henna these days? (colour, design, etc)
White henna is probably the biggest henna trend at the moment and I think everyone can agree that it looks amazing. It really gives that modern twist to the traditional henna. For those of you that aren’t aware, white henna only stays on for a maximum of four days – definitely one of its biggest downfalls.
What is one popular design that people always request from you?
A lot of people request designs from a henna artist named Divya Patal (@hennabydivya) and I don’t blame them – her work is absolutely flawless! She is definitely my biggest inspiration.
How many days before an event should henna be applied?
It is important to get your henna done 2-3 days (24-72 hours) before the big event, as it gives the stain time to develop.
Sometimes with the traditional red/maroon henna, you see different shades ranging from a more orange red to a dark maroon colour. Why does this happen?
It is all apart of the oxidization process as henna has the potential to turn into a nice dark maroon/almost black colour – but it all depends on how well you take care of it. If you find your stain is stuck at a orange/red colour, then grab a hair dryer or go to the stove, heat up your hands and keep them warm till the big event. *Please be cautious, do not burn your hands and feet.*
Can you tell us about the different colours of henna (natural and otherwise)? What goes into black henna vs red? Is one more difficult to work with vs the other? What about the drying times and maintenance?
As I mentioned before, you have your natural (safe) henna which is the traditional brown and then you have some that have a chemical base, which is your black and white henna paste. White henna is much more difficult to work with because of its texture, I would prefer to work with the natural brown henna paste.
I usually tell my brides to leave it on for at least 6 hours or cling wrap it and sleep with it overnight. In other cases, at least 2-3 hours is sufficient to achieve a good stain.
Once its ready to come off, use the back of a butter knife to scrap it off – and don’t wash it off. Additionally, keep your hands warm (use external sources) and as dry as possible.
What colour of henna do you prefer on yourself? (black, red, white etc.)
Natural red/brown/maroon is always the best!
Did you need training to become the henna artist you are? How can one get into becoming an artist?
Nope, no training is needed. I am a self taught artist and am still learning new things day after day. To be very honest, you just need to practice with a henna cone, an arm or leg, or even a piece of paper – just start!
Tell us about a time where your experience with a client did not go well. How did you overcome this issue, and what did you learn from it?
I get a lot people, who are new to henna, message me 6-8 hours later concerned about their henna being orange. My next question usually is “Have you ever had NATURAL henna done?”, because if they have ever encountered natural henna – they would know to wait for 24-48 hours for the stain to fully develop. This makes it clear that a lot of people expect the stain to come out dark instantly because they have only been using chemical based henna in the past. The abundance of chemical based henna is now easily accessible, however, the unsafe nature of it is still unknown to many.
What do you recommend for mehndi parties (5 people or more) wanting to book you?
Hourly charge works the best as everyone is not limited on the design they want to pick. We can usually get 10-12 hands of simple designs done in one hour.
Tell us a little about the drying process of Henna. What are some important rules our readers should know when it comes to after the henna is applied?
Leave it on for 6-8 hours OR overnight if you are a bride. For everyone else, 2-3 hours is sufficient. Keeping your arms and legs warm is a vital factor in achieving a good stain.
How long does it take for you to do bridal henna? What are recommendations you have for future brides looking to have their henna done?
It usually takes me 3-4 hours to apply a moderately heavy bridal henna design. I would recommend brides to start their henna around 4-5pm to be finished by 9pm, so that they can allow 3 hours to fully dry and cling wrap. This will allow you to sleep with it on without worrying about it smudging.
Do you make your own blend of henna or do use pre made tubes/pastes?
I mix my own as the store-bought ones have too many preservatives and they tend to have a drier paste texture.
Name a famous henna artist that you are inspired by.
Divya Patel (@hennabydivya)
What are some collaborations you have done – whether it be with famous makeup artists etc?
I have worked along with some many amazing makeup artists, photographers and other vendors. My recent collaboration was with Nikki Arora (@nikkiaroraofficial) who is a makeup artist, Monika Pear photography (@monika.pear), and Model Anusha Menon (@____anusha). This collaboration was super fun!
What do you enjoy most about applying henna for clients? What is one thing you dislike about the henna process?
The thing I enjoy the most is being able to freestyle a lot of the designs and the satisfaction I get when people say they love what I have created. The worst part is the fading process, I’m sure a lot of people would agree it looks horrible.
Tie • The • Thali would like to thank Payal for taking time to collaborate with us on this article. We hope you learned a few things about henna, and we also hope her tips help all of you maintain your henna long and strong!
For those of you looking to book Payal for your big day, check her out on: