Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient India. Intricate patterns of mehndi are typically applied to brides before wedding ceremonies. The bridegroom is also painted in some parts of India. In Rajasthan, the grooms are given designs that are often as elaborate as those for brides. In Assam, apart from marriage, it is broadly used by unmarried women during Rongali bihu, but there are no restrictions on its use by married women.
Muslims in India also started to use it as an indication of coming of age. Henna is now also used in some Gulf States, where the night before the wedding night is dedicated to decorating the bride with henna, and called "Henna night". In the Middle East and Africa, it is common for women to apply henna to their fingernails and toenails and to their hands.
Some Muslims also use henna as a dye for their hair and for the beards of males - intended to follow the presumed tradition of their prophet, Muhammad, who is said to have used turmeric dye in his beard. In one narration by him, he encouraged Muslim women to dye their nails with henna so their hands could be distinguished from the hands of a male.
In Africa, henna was used as part of spiritual practices by tribes to decorate their bodies and for protective purposes when certain symbols/designs were incorporated.
As a result, some African countries like Somalia, henna is applied to women and girls during Eid, weddings, and visits to important people or relatives.. In most countries, Henna is seen as a way for women to beautify themselves (as jewels), so is well decorated and applied with good care
Henna paste is usually applied on the skin using a plastic cone or a paint brush, but sometimes a small metal-tipped jacquard[disambiguation needed] bottle used for silk painting (a jac bottle) is employed. After about 15–20 minutes, the mud will dry and begin to crack, and during this time, a mixture of lemon juice and white sugar can be applied over the henna design to remoisten the henna mud so that the henna will stain darker. The painted area is then wrapped with tissue, plastic, or medical tape to lock in body heat, creating a more intense colour on the skin. The wrap (not a traditional method), is worn for 3 to 6 hours, or sometimes overnight and then removed. When first removed, the henna design is pale to dark orange in colour and gradually darkens through oxidation, over the course of 24 to 72 hours. The final color is reddish brown and can last anywhere from one to three weeks depending on the quality and type of henna paste applied, as well as where it was applied on the body (thicker skin stains darker and longer than thin skin). Moisturizing with natural oils, such as olive, sesame seed, or coconut, will also help extend the lifetime of the stain. Skin exfoliation causes the henna tattoo to fade.