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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.

The paste can be applied with many traditional and innovative tools, starting with a basic stick or twig. In India, a plastic cone similar to those used to pipe icing onto cakes is used.

In the Western world, a cone is common, as is a Jacquard bottle, which is otherwise used to paint silk fabric.

The name is used in other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna and neutral henna, neither of which is derived from the henna plant.

Whole, unbroken henna leaves will not stain the skin.

The lawsone will gradually migrate from the henna paste into the outer layer of the skin and bind to the proteins in it, creating a fast stain. The dry powder is mixed with one of a number of liquids, including water, lemon juice, or strong tea, and other ingredients, depending on the tradition.

Many artists use sugar or molasses in the paste to improve consistency and keep it stuck to the skin better.

The henna mix must rest for 1 to 48 hours before use, to release the lawsone from the leaf matter.

The timing depends on the crop of henna being used.

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