It has come to my attention that there is precious little information out there about comparing dye release times of different henna powders, at least for body art use. Apparently most of the info out there is for mixes for hair, which do include things like apple cider vinegar (which body art mixes don’t use because ew, smelly), and don’t include the essential oils that are so important for getting great color in body art.

Why didn’t this handy-dandy short reference guide exist yet? Well, because everyone’s mix is different, and people who wish to become professional henna artists should spend many months figuring these things out for themselves through trial and error, so they really know their medium inside out and can troubleshoot and get themselves out of a tough spot should they find themselves with a dud batch and not that much more henna powder on hand.

SO, you’ve read my little pre-amble and just want to know the answer to the question “what are the dye release times for different henna powders”, hmm? Okay. Here’s a chart. It assumes an ambient indoor room temperature of 70F / 21C, and that you are leaving your mixing bowl out on your countertop with nothing else cold or hot nearby to slow down or speed up the process. All assume you are mixing 1oz / 30ml of cajeput essential oil into your mix at the beginning of the mixing process. All will vary a bit by crop year etc, so that’s why the hours are a range. Mohana’s range is the smallest because Artistic Adornment strives to make sure we only purchase henna that specifically falls within that range, to keep things consistent for our customers.

Henna PowderLiquidHours to peak dye release
Mohanalemon juice12-24
Jamilalemon juice24-72*
Rajasthani (ie Artistic Organic)lemon juice8-36
Moroccan (ie Sahara Tazarine)lemon juice8-12
Mohanadistilled water**3-6
Jamiladistilled water6-18
Rajasthani (ie Artistic Organic)distilled water2-9
Moroccan (ie Sahara Tazarine)distilled water2-3
Mohanastrong black tea ***6-12
Jamilastrong black tea ***12-36
Rajasthani (ie Artistic Organic)strong black tea ***4-18
Moroccan (ie Sahara Tazarine)strong black tea ***4-6

* Yes really, some years, Jamila hasn’t reached peak dye release for 72 hours. I know – it’s crazy! Normally you’ll be quite safe to stick to 36 hours, though, as a general rule if you don’t have time to really test.
**Note that really, water dye release times are 1/4 of the lemon juice times, and strong tea times are 1/2 of the lemon juice times. but if we just said that, it wouldn’t make for a handy-dandy chart style reference for you to skim down and find, now would it?
*** What is “strong black tea?” for us, it is 5 bags of Lipton brand (super-standardized and easy to find) plain black tea steeped into two cups of water, left boiling for 5 minutes and then brought down rapidly to room temperature by adding ice. Or 4 bags of tea and let it cool down slowly without adding ice (aka more water).

Note that every single henna artist you ask will have a different opinion on this. My numbers are based on 21 years (1999-2020) of taking very careful notes at this sort of level on many, many batches, trying out all the henna powders in many, many different crop years. Someone who has only been doing henna for, say, a decade, may not yet have experienced the insanity of the 72 hour Jamila dye release…but it is indeed a thing. Most people were saying that Jamila was “bad” that year…but nope, they just weren’t giving it long enough to achieve dye release.

Always do your own experiments. This sampler pack from Artistic Adornment will help you get your hands on all highest quality hennas so that you can get a feel for them yourself.

If you’re now getting pretty deep into all this dye release time science nerdery, here are some more articles for you.

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If you read this and thought “but isn’t Mohana just a Raj???”….the answer is NO. That is a fallacy spread by other henna suppliers who want you to think that what they’ve got is the same as / as good as Mohana. Mohana is the henna that I hand-select each crop year after testing many possible options from all of our favorite henna farmers and processors. It is a henna that has dark color, super fine sift, relatively predictable dye release, and a creamy/stringy texture balance. The two LEAST negotiable factors are dark color and super fine sift. The dye release and texture may change slightly in a given crop year if that’s what we need to do to ensure that the main criteria of dark color and fine sift can both be met. It can be, but also may not be, a Raj. Sometimes we might mix hennas together to get the right combo of factors to make Mohana. The main feature of Mohana is CONSISTENCY.