History Of Natural Henna As A Hair Dye – They Do Say History Repeats Itself, So What Can We Learn From The Past?

Natural henna has been used to dye hair for well over 6,000 years.  Records show that it was used in ancient Egypt, with the daughter of one of the great Pharaoh’s found to have it on her hair.  For centuries, it has been used across the Middle East, Africa and India. 

Henna in Europe

Henna came to Europe in the 1800s, when women were fascinated by the Pre-Raphaelite artists.  Business men started to travel to the Orient for trade and Orientalism became a real movement.  It became fashionable to be bohemian and women started to surround themselves with products from the Far East.  Women in these days romanticised the Turkish harems, picturing them as filled with beautiful women in grand palaces, wearing the most exotic clothes.  The idea was erotic and tantalising, even though there was very little truth to be found in it.  What women in Western Europe started to do was decorate their homes in products from the Orient, brought home by their husbands.  They started wearing Oriental clothing and they started to use natural henna on their hair, hands and feet.  They even adopted a stance or pose that they felt was very Oriental.

Famous People and Henna

At the time, there were very few famous people that actually used henna.  However, through artists and painters, like Evelyn de Morgan, Gaston Bussiere, Frederic Leighton and Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandy, having red hair suddenly became very popular.

There were a few famous people around who did use henna.  Each of these women are credited as being the “one” who actually popularised the product, but no real consensus can be reached.  Adelina Patti, a famous opera singer, used henna, but so did Cora Pearl, a courtesan from Paris.  She even died her dog’s hair with henna so that it would match her own.  In the 1950s, Lucille Nall from I Love Lucy, really brought henna to fame, as her character used the henna rinse in the popular television show.

Other Cultures and Henna

Henna is found traditionally in the Muslim world.  It is used on the hands of women, who are covered from head to toe in a burka, to show that they are women.  Males use it on their beards, because it is mentioned that the prophet Mohammed did so with his own beard. Dying the beard red is a sign of respect – or a sunnah – in the Muslim world.

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