Standing in line at a local coffee shop in San Francisco; my mind was wondering a bit thinking of a show that would start shooting in a few months. There would be a host of characters in the series that represent everything San Francisco. Tattoos are at the top of the list. I noticed a woman in front of me with elaborate, reddish toned designs wrapped around her fingers, palms, continuing up her arms. The swirls and patterns were hypnotizing. These were without a doubt is Henna designs or Mehndi.
Mehndi or Henna is painting of hands or feet. Henna is a ritual that goes way back to early Middle Eastern and Northern Africa.
There have been several concerns by the FDA over the last few years about the use of Henna. So who in the Bay Area could I trust to use safe ingredients? Who is an outstanding Henna artist? How could I go about getting a design? One name keeps popping up in my search, Darcy Vasudev.
Hennalounge, an appointment only studio for all things henna, is the brainchild of Darcy Vasudev. Darcy started working in henna back in 1995 after she decided to quit her day job and pursue her more artistic passions full time. Darcy told me, “Who knew that henna was going to be such a focal point of my career. But it’s fun so I’ll continue as long as my vision and dexterity continue.” “Most of my customers are brides of Indian of Pakistani descent who request henna or “Mehndi” for weddings.” Darcy continued by telling me that her Clients can also include Middle Eastern and North African brides, pregnant women, and patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy or alopecia”. Some of her clients just want to have fun celebrating a holiday or birthday. “I also work with multi faith and LGBT customers. We are all so lucky to live and work in such a diverse area,” she said.
Darcy explains the nuances for anybody interested in getting henna. “There are a lot of operations out there that cater to tourists often found in areas near the beach. The products they use could be deemed unsafe. Always inquire about henna ingredients before using. One of the known unsafe additives is PPD, para-phenylenediamine, also known as “black henna”. It can cause severe allergic reactions. Your henna artist should always be able to tell you ingredients in their mix. Natural henna is greenish or brownish in color and smells earthy. Henna paste with PPD is black, leaves a jet black stain, and smells like ammonia. Stay away from that.
Darcy says he only uses safe ingredients, “My henna mix contains only organically cultivated henna, water, sugar, and essential oils. I mix my own paste specifically for each person. That way I know exactly what was used and it’s fresh. Also, each client is asked about any known plant allergies. It’s important to educate each customer about safe and natural henna so they can in turn recognize and avoid chemical products in the future.
Darcy has a few tips if you are interested in making an appointment for henna or need to preserve one you already have.
TIP: Protect your henna design with a coating of vegetable based oil like; coconut oil or shea butter before swimming. Also beeswax based lotions work great. Avoid petroleum products like Vaseline or baby oil.
Fun Fact: Henna acts as a natural sunscreen, so if you expose your henna to the sun for a few days watch what happens when the henna starts to fade. A reverse tan! Or as I call it “ghost henna”.
Darcy will make house calls for smaller events, but also travels internationally for clients. Mexico’s Mayan Riviera is often requested as a location for Indian weddings. She offers henna for teens within the public library system in San Francisco and San Mateo County. Darcy not only teaches henna around the world, she’s VP of online community’s HennaTribe. An organization dedicated to the preservation and continuation of traditional henna patterns and products. You’ll also find her as a guest speaker on the henna podcast “Caught Red Handed “available on ITunes.
For information on PPD , tattoo transfers, and henna visit:
Article written for :
http://www.examiner.com under makeup/Gretchen Davis Motroni
Black&white Head Design , Sarah Berkovich photographer