What Is Black Mehndi?

Felicia Dye

Mehndi refers to the art of henna skin painting. Some people use the term to refer to the actual henna paste and others to the artwork. Black mehndi therefore refers either to black henna paste or the resulting tattoo work. The black paste is generally adulterated with para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which helps to provide the dark color. It generally creates tattoos that are bolder than those created with pure henna, but it is also associated with serious health risks and is banned from use on skin in some countries.

Black mehndi refers to temporary tattoos created from henna paste.
Black mehndi refers to temporary tattoos created from henna paste.

Henna, a dye that is produced from the henna bush, has been used for centuries in the Middle East to create body art. Pure henna is generally some shade of orange, red, or brown. It is applied to the skin in the shape of the desired design and must be left on for hours or even a day to create a stain on the skin that normally lasts for less than two weeks. There is no widespread evidence to suggest that there are any risks associated with the use of pure henna.

Henna has been used in the Middle East for centuries to create body art.
Henna has been used in the Middle East for centuries to create body art.

Black mehndi, on the contrary, is adulterated henna, which commonly contains PPD. This type of paste is believed to have been developed as a response to growing consumer interest in this type of body art. As more individuals from Western nations became interested in henna tattoos, producers responded by creating a product that was supposed to be superior to pure henna.

There are several benefits of black mehndi. To begin with, it drastically reduces the amount of time that a person must allow the paste to remain on the skin before a tattoo forms. The resulting tattoos tend to be much bolder than those that result from pure henna. The black paste also leaves a stain that lasts longer than that provided by pure henna.

For some people, however, the benefits of black mehndi are outweighed by the consequences of using it. Such products have been found to result in adverse side effects, including irritation, weeping sores, and permanent scars. This is believed to result from the adulterants such as PPD that are put into the paste.

Due to the risks, individuals are commonly warned to avoid using black henna paste. This is why many henna products and service providers often advertise as being PPD free. In some countries, black henna is illegal or restricted solely for use on the hair.

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Discussion Comments


Actually, I've heard that it may be possible to make black mehndi without using chemicals. My aunt is very into mehndi and she once mentioned something about using black walnut to darken henna. I'm not sure what she meant exactly but I will definitely ask her the next time I see her.

I also believe that the color of henna could be darkened a little bit by adding cold coffee or tea to the henna powder to make the paste instead of plain water. Coffee and tea have tannins in them which cause their dark color. Some people even use coffee and tea to color cloth. So I think it may work. The henna may not be pitch black, but it will probably be a very dark red.

If someone gives this a try, do let me know on here whether it worked for you or not.


@ysmina-- I don't like that black mehndi contains PPD either but I still think that this type of mehndi is a better and safer alternative to permanent tattoos which contain more dangerous inks and chemicals. I personally don't like the orange-red color of regular henna. It looks very bad when it is fading. It becomes orange and then yellow. Black mehndi looks much better, like a tattoo.


I saw a girl with a black mehndi design on her hand recently. I was curious about how they did that since I know that mehndi naturally has a red color. I should have guessed that it was due to some kind of chemical.

Black mehndi does look beautiful and attractive. But the reason I like henna is because it's natural and safe. So I won't use black mehndi, I don't want to put dangerous chemicals on my skin.

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