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If a paste will not be used within the first few days after mixing, it can be frozen for up to four months to halt the dye release, for thawing and use at a later time.Commercially packaged pastes that remain able to stain the skin longer than seven days without refrigeration or freezing contain other chemicals besides henna that may be dangerous to the skin.To prevent it from drying or falling off the skin, the paste is often sealed down by dabbing a sugar/lemon mix over the dried paste or adding some form of sugar to the paste.
In Europe, henna was popular among women connected to the aesthetic movement and the Pre-Raphaelite artists of England in the 1800s.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti's wife and muse, Elizabeth Siddal, had naturally bright red hair.
In the Western world, a cone is common, as is a Jacquard bottle, which is otherwise used to paint silk fabric.
A light stain may be achieved within minutes, but the longer the paste is left on the skin, the darker and longer lasting the stain will be, so it needs to be left on as long as possible.
After the initial seven-day release of lawsone dye, the henna leaf is spent, therefore any dye created by these commercial cones on the skin after this time period is actually the result of other compounds in the product.
These chemicals are often undisclosed on packaging, and have a wide range of colors including what appears to be a natural looking color stain produced by dyes such as sodium picramate. There are many adulterated henna pastes such as these, and others, for sale today that are erroneously marketed as "natural", "pure", or "organic", all containing potentially dangerous undisclosed additives.
Other essential oils, such as eucalyptus and clove, are also useful but are too irritating and should not be used on the skin.
The paste can be applied with many traditional and innovative tools, starting with a basic stick or twig. A plastic cone similar to those used to pipe icing onto cakes is used in the Indian culture.
After the stain reaches its peak color, it holds for a few days, then gradually wears off by way of exfoliation, typically within one to three weeks.
Natural henna pastes containing only henna powder, a liquid (water, lemon juice, etc) and an essential oil (lavender, cajuput, tee tree etc) are not "shelf stable," meaning they expire quickly, and cannot be left out on a shelf for over one week without losing their ability to stain the skin.