Out for Dragon’s Blood

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

If you watch Game of Thrones, you already know what dragon’s fire does to enemy lines, but do you know what dragon’s blood does to facial lines? Croton lechleri, a flowering plant commonly known as “dragon’s blood,” produces a deep red sap that has both medicinal and cosmetic benefits. Its natural latex forms a protective barrier on the skin, acting as a liquid bandage to stop bleeding and speed the healing of wounds and other skin disorders. (When added to hair gel, it also helps smooth split ends while holding styles in place.)

In the short term, dragon’s blood can plump the skin, giving the appearance of smaller pores and smoother lines. Simply squeeze a few drops into the palm of one hand and rub with the fingers of the other hand until the sap turns white, then spread evenly onto the skin. It creates an almost imperceptible second skin that gives a refined, matte look. Dragon’s blood is also high in antioxidants and taspine, which promotes tissue regeneration and elasticity with regular use.

But the benefits of this red resin go more than skin deep. I initially bought dragon’s blood for the intriguing name and the fact that it really does look like blood, but I discovered that it’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for a variety of physical issues, both internal and external. I will not list them all here, because the good folks at The Raw Food World have done that for me (link below), but I’ve been known to swirl a few drops around in my mouth to encourage healthy gums. It always seems a little magical to ingest dragon’s blood, no matter how mundane the reason.

Now that I’ve spilled the beans about this fantastical beauty secret, you’ll be out for dragon’s blood, so tip the scales in your favor and enjoy skin that’s fit for a queen.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Dragon’s Blood

 

From now through the end of September, The Raw Food World is offering Dragon’s Blood at cost ($10.46, reg. $14.95). For the full list of September’s “At-Cost” Specials, click here. Enter the code “honeymoon” at checkout to get an additional 7% off your order.

 

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Taking the Waters

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Cold Drinks, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Savories, Sweets, Wellness

Here in Southern California, we’re on the tail end of yet another summer heat wave. It feels like we’ve been pummeled with them this year, barely having time to enjoy a week of “cooler” temps (90s instead of 100s) before the next one rolls in. This latest wave brought some dreaded humidity that made going outside feel like stepping into a wet sauna. Ugh. We’re only midway through the season, so to keep my cool and freshen up when there’s no time for taking a bath, I’ve been taking the waters.

I discovered the culinary delights of rose water and orange blossom water when I got to know my Persian co-workers many years ago. They explained that Middle Eastern cooks use these floral waters in cooking and baking the way that most Americans use vanilla. I quickly learned that the waters also make fragrant and refreshing toners and tonics. During the summer, my favorite cooling trick is to pour them into spray bottles and keep them in the fridge for sweetly-scented spritzing throughout the day.

For years, I could only find Indo-European brand rose and orange blossom waters at Whole Foods and the ethnic foods aisle of some chain grocery stores, but then a large Middle Eastern market opened a few miles from my house and introduced me to a whole new world of culinary waters. There were familiar ingredients, like dillweed, cumin seed, and licorice, alongside less common ones, such as borage, sweetbriar, and willow, but some of the names were unrecognizable to me. What the heck is hedysarum? And fumitary water sounds like a treatment you’d be given on the road to wellville.

I bought them all.

Since I’m more of a baker than a cook, the dillweed and cumin have languished on a shelf, but orange blossom continues to be a favorite scent, and a rose by any other name—whether Naab or Ghamsar Kashan—smells as sweet. A whiff of willow holds hints of violet and rose, while fumitary emits the unexpected essence of peppermint. On sweltering summer nights, nothing beats a mist of mint water on sheets, pillows, and overheated skin, especially under the cooling currents of a fan.

Many of the descriptions online recommend taking these waters as a tonic beverage with plain water and sugar added. According to one, chicory water can “refine the blood,” promoting skin and liver health. Another claims that fenugreek water helps lower blood sugar and strengthen hair. Willow is said to stimulate the appetite, while fumitary (sometimes called fumitory) is beneficial for treating eczema and psoriasis. Hedysarum, which has a flavor completely unfamiliar to my American palate, tastes slightly medicinal, with a sharp earthiness and a trace of fruit that is both strange and exotic … and, apparently, useful for whooping cough.

In addition to Indo-European, I have found culinary waters from Cortas, Al Wadi, and Sadaf, but the largest selection is produced by Golchin. Most of them are only $3-5 a bottle, so stock up this summer and hydrate liberally, inside and out, because taking the waters is (almost) as therapeutic as a trip to the spa.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Culinary Waters

 

If you don’t live near a Middle Eastern market and can’t find these culinary waters at your local grocery store or gourmet food shop, many are available online from Persian Basket.

 

Sharing o’ the Green

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Tea, Wellness

What is it about mints and gum that prompts people to share? I can’t remember a time that I’ve been out with a group of friends when I haven’t had an open tin or pack offered to me. It’s like the universal gesture of amity and goodwill. In this spirit of generosity, I will share with you my sweet secret for healthy teeth, fresh breath, and a strong jaw: Green Tea Chewing Gum from Spry.

As I’ve written about before, I am a stickler for oral hygiene, but I’ve had my share of dental issues over the years. One hygienist I spoke with said she’s seen patients who are meticulous about brushing and flossing, but have new cavities with every visit, while others never floss and don’t brush regularly, yet enjoy a mouthful of flawless pearly whites. Genetics, diet, and lifestyle all play a factor, but you can tip the scales in your favor by chewing gum daily.

Not all gums are created equal, however. Some contain sugar and are little better than candy, while others are filled with artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Spry uses xylitol, a naturally-derived sweetener that reduces cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect teeth and gums while neutralizing unpleasant odors.* I also find that Spry gum is slightly tougher than most other chewing gums I’ve tried, which is great for strengthening the teeth and jaw.

Beautiful on Raw gives a concise explanation for how thorough chewing can inhibit bone loss and increase density by applying stress to the teeth and jaw, which draws bone-building minerals to the area. It also increases the flow of calcium-and-phosphorus-rich saliva to help prevent tooth demineralization. I have a friend who is primarily interested in how chewing gum regularly can change the shape of one’s face, giving it a more attractive structure.† In any case, the practice is so easy and the benefits so numerous that it’s time to get busy chewing!

I like to chew gum for 5-10 minutes after I eat and 45 minutes to an hour on my nightly walk. I simply pop a piece in my mouth before I head out the door, then discard it when I return. This way, I get in a good amount of daily exercise without offending anyone by chewing in social situations.

But why green tea? Simply because it tastes great! Sugarless gums all seem to come in standard flavors of peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, and fruit, but the Green Tea version from Spry has an almost floral note that is refreshingly unique. You won’t need mint to freshen your breath when xylitol is on the job.

This St. Patrick’s Day, instead of looking over a four-leaf clover, turn over a new leaf and start chewing on the idea of deliciously improving the health and beauty of your mouth and jaw with Spry Green Tea gum. Then pay it forward by sharing o’ the green.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Spry Green Tea Chewing Gum

 

Spry gum can be found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and The Vitamin Shoppe, but many stores don’t stock the Green Tea flavor, so look for it online from Xlear and Amazon.

 

*Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, so NEVER leave an open purse or container of xylitol-sweetened gum within reach of your pets.

†For this purpose, he recommends Falim gum, which is quite tough to chew. I tried it once and could definitely feel the stress on my teeth and jaw, but I didn’t enjoy the taste or the level of difficulty involved.

 

Essential Soil

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fragrance, Wellness

terressentials-super-protection-deodorantYears ago, when I developed a sensitivity to deodorant, I tried virtually every brand on the market before finding one that actually worked and didn’t make my underarms feel like the pits. This miracle product was the Super Protection Deodorant from Terressentials, a small company dedicated to environmental responsibility and 100% natural and organic body care. I could devote an entire post to my regard for this roll-on were it not for the fact that underarm deodorant isn’t a particularly swoon-worthy topic. Fortunately, I discovered that Terressentials also makes an unconventional hair wash that functions as a Shampoo Worthy Of Our Notice.

Always on the lookout for simple, natural hair and skincare solutions, I jumped on the “no ’poo” bandwagon a few years ago, using a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse to clean and condition my hair. Apostrophe slang aside, I loved how this crack combo cleaned my scalp without weighing down my waves, but when I read several articles about the harsh effects of baking soda, I knew I had to find a fresh fix.

terressentials-lavender-garden-pure-earth-hair-washAfter trying several different products and conducting a few disastrous homemade experiments (turns out you have to SIFT the rye flour), I spied Terressentials’ Pure Earth Hair Wash while on a deodorant run at my local health food store. I’d seen this product before over the years, but had dismissed it as not suitable for my scalp, which tends toward oiliness. However, in the interest of research, I decided to try the sweetly-scented Lavender Garden.*

This wash takes some getting used to. Composed primarily of organic aloe vera and bentonite clay, it contains no soap or detergent and does not foam up. You must massage the mud-like paste into wet hair for 2-3 minutes to make sure it comes in contact with all parts of the scalp. It’s also recommended that you repeat this process the first few times you use it in order to thoroughly clean your hair.

terressentials-pure-earth-hair-washWhile it may seem like a paradox, washing with dirt actually works! Without harsh cleansers or heavy conditioners, my hair was squeaky clean and untangled with ease, while the essential oil fragrance surrounded me in scents of lush lavender, sweet orange, and rose geranium. Just a dab of unscented hair gel to tame frizz and flyaways and I was good to go.

When it comes to pure and natural hair care, sometimes you have to get your strands dirty, so dig up this essential soil and bring your shampoo down to earth.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash

 

*It turns out that Lavender Garden is recommended for normal-to-dry hair, but it works well for my scalp.

Mother of Dragon’s Blood

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

Blood of the Dragon Styling GelAs I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy laziness. I usually shower at night, because I can go to bed with wet hair and it will be dry in the morning with no effort on my part. As I’ve also discussed, my hair is prone to frizziness…and frizziness + laziness = craziness. Fortunately, I’ve found a Method for solving this equation.

I could write individual posts for most of the items in the Morrocco Method line of hair care products (and I just might), but their Blood of the Dragon Styling Gel has been a workhorse for me this summer and deserves its moment in the sun. My hair dries quickly in the arid heat of Southern California, so I’ve been massaging a dollop of the gel into my wet hair and allowing it to dry naturally during the day. The Light/Medium hold of this non-greasy gel helps to define curls, smooth split ends, and bring out shine. While there’s nothing unusual about how it works—most hair gels can get the job done—there IS something unusual (and swoon-worthy) about the ingredients and the method by which it’s made.

Aloe Vera LeafOver the 50 years that Anthony Morrocco has been cutting and styling hair for celebrity clients, he’s learned that holistic care leads to beautiful hair. Dissatisfied with many so-called “natural” products on the market, he created his own pristine hair care line from pure plant botanicals and naturally-derived minerals. All MM products are synthetic-free, cruelty-free, gluten-free, sulfate-free, soy-free, Paleo, and raw. Blood of the Dragon Styling Gel is also wildcrafted and vegan (top that!). Made from a base of aloe vera and dragon’s blood powder, it has a neutral fragrance that won’t interfere with other scented products, washes out easily, and can be used with impunity, since it’s safe for you and the planet.

Targaryens and wild hair-ians agree: Blood of the Dragon is the mother of natural styling gels. So if you have an insane mane like me, apply some Method to your madness and take a summer vacation from bad hair days.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Morrocco Method Blood of the Dragon Styling Gel

 

PMS – ProMeno Swoondrome

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

(For men who think that this post does not apply to them, read or scroll to the end.)

ProMeno Women's Wild Yam CreamYears ago, I worked at an alternative healthcare center where a client casually mentioned to me that she actually enjoyed her monthly cycle, seeing it as a time of cleansing and renewal. I just sat there with my mouth agape. I had never before heard those words from another woman, particularly the ones in my family, whose hormonal fluctuations could give Six Flags a run for its money.

I mentioned this to my neighbor, who has a wealth of knowledge about biochemistry and natural remedies, having worked with a multinational nutraceutical company for the past two decades. She told me about a medicinal herb called wild yam that can help balance the endocrine system and smooth out the rollercoaster.

While researching the subject on my own, I came across MoonMaid Botanicals, a company that produces creams and salves containing wild yam, which, according to their literature, is most effective when absorbed through the skin. I read some compelling explanations of how wild yam can assist the body to produce progesterone—a balancer of estrogen and testosterone—but their products seemed to be marketed primarily to menopausal and perimenopausal women. Knowing (hoping!) that this was still years away for me, I bookmarked the website and moved on.

ProAndro Men's Wild Yam Cream

“I yam what I yam.” Even big, strong men like Popeye can benefit from the hormone-balancing effects of wild yam.

About a year ago, I suddenly started breaking out like a teenager and experiencing mood swings. Having just read about how women of all ages should use a progesterone cream due to the prevalence of estrogen mimickers in our food and environment, I decided it was time to get some wild yam and get off this wild ride. I found the bookmark and placed an order with MoonMaid Botanicals for their ProMeno Women’s Wild Yam Cream.

The first thing I noticed was that it had a lovely aroma and silky texture. After using it regularly for a few weeks, both my skin and my emotions began to settle down. My next “moon cycle” was a breeze, and each subsequent month has gotten easier. Coincidence? Conceivably. Placebo effect? Possibly. But when two women at work complained of hot flashes and I recommended ProMeno, they bought it and said that their symptoms went away. Why didn’t I discover this stuff in my teens?!

RadiantRose Nite CreamWild yam even has benefits for men, who can experience andropause and are exposed to the same estrogen mimickers as women. To help balance testoterone, MoonMaid Botanicals offers a ProAndro Men’s Wild Yam Cream, which also contains herbs that support prostate health.

The company sells a number of other bath and skincare products, my favorite of which is the RadiantRose Nite Cream—a rich, fragrant moisturizer with a natural pink blush that will make your skin petal-soft—but they are small potatoes next to the wonders of wild yam. So whether you’re having hot flashes or you’re just a hot mess, get a case of ProMeno Swoondrome and chill out.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

ProMeno Women’s Wild Yam Cream
ProAndro Men’s Wild Yam Cream
RadiantRose Nite Cream

 

MoonMaid Botanicals’ all-natural creams do not contain synthetic preservatives, so I like to stay extra chill and protect my products by storing them in the refrigerator.

 

The One Hair Product I Can’t Live Without

Author: Kirsti Kay, Beauty, Fragrance

Lush R&B 1How does a relatively sane person end up going around to all the people she knows and asking them to smell her bangs? How does a mild-mannered girl from the Valley sit smugly at a concert silently thinking, “You’re welcome,” because we are packed in like sardines and everyone is able to breathe in the intoxicating aroma of her fragrant hair? Is it weird to wake up in the night and smile because your awesome-smelling hair woke you up, and then fall back into blissful dreams of jasmine petals and orange blossoms?

Our story begins on a rainy winter’s day in Portland, Maine. After a wonderful visit, our dear friend Treena dropped my husband and me off at the bus station, where we were catching a bus to the Boston airport. It was gray and drizzly and we were sad that our trip had come to an end. When it was time to queue up for the bus, there was an adorable gal with a service dog in front of us in line. Aaron asked if he could pet her dog, and as we started chatting, I was suddenly overcome with the most delicious scent. I could barely concentrate on our conversation because I was just breathing in this strange, invisible perfume that wafted from this woman, hypnotizing me with its floral majesty.

It turns out she was heading to L.A. with her sweet dog Lula to live with her boyfriend in Sherman Oaks. Wait. Sherman Oaks is about 15 minutes away from where we live! And, you say…your boyfriend works in the entertainment industry? Aaron works in the entertainment industry! Oh, and you’re obsessed with your dog? We’re obsessed with our dog too! And, hey, you smell so good and I happen to love good smells! By the time we got on the bus, we were friends.

I said to Aaron, “Wow, didn’t she smell amazing?”
“I guess,” he said.
I thought about it the whole flight home.

Lush R&B 2

The contents of this tiny tub will Revive & Balance your hair while enveloping you in a heavenly floral scent.

The first time she came over with her boyfriend and Lula, I gave her a hug, and not-so-subtly buried my face in her hair like a woman-starved pirate from a cheap romance novel. “Wow, you smell so good,” I said like an idiot. She casually mentioned it was a hair conditioner from Lush. As I poured the wine, I made a mental note to GET THEE TO THE NEAREST LUSH, ASAP!

The next morning, I went straight to Lush’s website, but they had so many conditioners I had no idea which was the one that had bewitched me body and soul. I was going to have to ask her again. I had anxiety. Some people don’t like to reveal their recipes or the name of their perfume…could conditioner fall into this quagmire of personal secrets? Would I be gauche for asking AGAIN?

The next time we met, I was slightly sweaty with anxiety. But the moment I got into her car and smelled that now familiar floral cloud, I just blurted out, “Please tell me again what that conditioner is!” She laughed the confident laugh of a woman who knows how good she smells and said, “It’s from Lush and it’s called R&B.”

I immediately went online when I got back to my office and discovered that R&B is actually a hair moisturizer, not a hair conditioner. The website also said it’s good for curly or African American hair, which was a little concerning, because I have the finest baby hair in the ENTIRE WORLD. Whatever, it shall be mine! And it was.

Lush R&B 3

Just a dab of this Lush-ious styling cream will tame flyaways and smooth curls.

At $24 for 3.5 oz., it’s not cheap, but a little goes a long way. It is very thick, almost like body butter. At first, I put a little bit on my freshly washed hair as a leave-in conditioner and it was too much for my baby fine hair. The best way to use this product is to apply it to dried hair as a styling cream. If you have wonderfully thick and curly hair, this will cradle each curl in fragrant shine and softness. If you have fine hair like me, rub about a pea-sized amount into your hands and smooth down flyways. I also rub a bit into my bangs since that hair is the closest to my nose. Immediately, I am enveloped in the scent of angels, if angels lived in a hair product inside a mall store. The ingredients are vegan and mostly natural, featuring orange flower absolute, Indian jasmine absolute, and organic avocado butter. And, like all of Lush’s products, R&B is cruelty free.

I’m sure I seem like a ding-dong asking my friends and co-workers to smell my hair, but all of my lady friends have swooned right along with me. I made sure to give everyone clear instructions on how to buy and use it. I’m ready to pay it forward, one awesome-smelling set of bangs at a time.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice in this post:

Lush R&B Hair Moisturizer
 

A Brush with Greatness

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

Today is Earth Day, which serves as a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to protect our environment through the choices we make every day. Many people are concerned about their carbon footprint, but what about their plastic bite mark? One billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone. These products do not biodegrade and often end up in our oceans, negatively impacting seabirds and marine life. Less than 20% of people recycle their plastic toothbrushes, and recycling does not halt the production of new plastic, but there is a healthy, effective, and attractive solution.

A Brush with Greatness 1

Essentials for a swoon-worthy smile: tongue cleaner, dental floss, tooth powder, and a Brush with Bamboo toothbrush.

I take dental hygiene seriously. I use a tongue cleaner every morning and floss daily—sometimes twice—without fail. When it comes to brushing my teeth, I typically spend far longer at it than the two minutes recommended by most dentists. I have never purchased an electric toothbrush, preferring to keep things simple and low-tech, but I still used to worry about what happened to all the toothbrushes I had to throw away or recycle every every few months…until I learned about Brush with Bamboo. This plant-based toothbrush has a natural bamboo handle and BPA-free bristles that are made primarily from castor bean oil. While the bristles do contain a certain percentage of plastic, they are recyclable, as is the paperboard box and compostable wrapper.*

A Brush with Greatness 2Bamboo is a sustainable plant that grows quickly without the need for fertilizers or pesticides. It is also beautiful, with an earthy look that complements my wooden hair and body brushes. The non-toxic bristles of a Brush with Bamboo tootbrush get the job done as well as any plastic brushes I’ve used in the past, but I have greater peace of mind now that I’m using a biobased product to clean my teeth. When it’s time to replace the brush, I pull out the bristles with a pair of tweezers and toss the handle into my curbside green bin. This is a minimal effort to have clean teeth AND a clean conscience.

To celebrate Earth Day, consider making a change in your daily routine by switching to a plant-based toothbrush. Small actions can have a big impact over time, so when you Brush with Bamboo, your teeth are sure to make a good impression.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Brush with Bamboo

 

 

*Learn about Proper Care & Disposal of your Brush with Bamboo toothbrush.

 

Untangled

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty

I have long hair, and while I generally swoon over luxuriant tresses, I keep mine long more out of convenience than aesthetics. While there’s a lot of it, my hair is fine and prone to tangling, so I usually brush it out in the morning and twist it into a bun to keep it from ratting up during the day.

Untangled 1

My own personal weather barometer.

My hair falls somewhere between wavy and curly, but not the smooth, glossy waves you see in a shampoo ad. I sport a perpetual halo of frizz that has defied all attempts to tame it. There are times in my life when I’ve worn my hair short, but it’s typically an unruly mess. I’m fortunate to live in Southern California where the air is dry. On those occasions when I’ve visited areas with high humidity, I look like Monica from The One in Barbados.

Untangled 2

photo credit: Melissa Elliott

I have painful—literally—memories of having my hair brushed as a child, and both combing my hair when it’s wet and brushing it when it’s dry have been a chore for most of my life…until, that is, I found two miraculous products that have turned this child’s nightmare into child’s play.

The first is the Hair Fitness® Detangling Comb. It has rounded metal teeth that move independently of each other within the plastic base of the comb. As a result, they “dance” around tangles instead of forcing their way through and making things worse. It’s always best to work from the ends of the hair up, and it may take a minute or two to unravel the worst of the knots, but once you do, the comb just glides through the hair like a hot knife through butter.

Untangled 3Recently, I discovered the Wet Brush. I was looking for a new hairbrush to replace my unwieldy paddle brush and liked the natural bamboo of their Earth Collection, which complemented my set of body brushes. However, this brush turns out to be a champion detangler. It was created specifically to detangle wet hair, but its IntelliFlex™ bristles work equally well on hair that is dry—and frizzy.

With my Hair Fitness® comb in one hand and the Wet Brush in the other, I no longer tangle with tangles. There are no more tears or tears (get it?). If trying to detangle your hair causes you to snarl, stop tying yourself up in knots and snag one—or both—of these handy tools.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Hair Fitness® Detangling Comb
The Wet Brush

 

The Wet Brush is also available from Amazon.

 

On the Mehndi

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Books, Literature, Nostalgia, Synchronicity

Mehndi 1Mehndi is the ancient art of applying a paste made from henna powder to the skin in intricate patterns, which creates a reddish-brown stain that can last for one to three weeks. Even though this form of ornamentation has been practiced in India, North Africa, and the Middle East for thousands of years, it didn’t become popular in the United States until Madonna and other celebrities started sporting henna designs in the 1990s.

Mehndi 2At the time, I was working for a skin and hair care company. We sold a book featuring cosmetic practices of different cultures around the world, which included pictures of mehndi designs. A co-worker and I were fascinated and wanted to try it for ourselves, so we picked up some black henna hair powder (not to be confused with PPD “Black Henna”, which can be dangerous) at a health food store, mixed it with water, and applied the paste to our feet to test it out. Nothing happened. We’d figured that black henna would create a darker stain, but without the Internet as a resource, we had difficulty finding answers to our questions, so we gave up.

Mehndi 3

photo credit: Christina Chico, model: Payal Patel, makeup: Shirley J. Arcia

In 1997, the movie Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love was released to much controversy over the erotic nature of the film. The trailers featured Indian women covered in mehndi, so I knew I had to see it. I sat alone in the theater with a bunch of pervy-looking men and, while they were salivating over the racy love scenes (which actually seem quaint by today’s standards), I was swooning over the henna designs on the women’s hands and feet.

Mehndi 4Earlier in the year, I’d read an article about mehndi in the January 1997 issue of Los Angeles magazine, which mentioned that henna artist Loretta Roome would be setting up The Mehndi Project at Galerie Lakaye in West Hollywood that month. When my friend Maggie was visiting from Seattle a short time later, I told her about it and she was interested, so I took her there to get a henna “tattoo”. I observed the process and took mental notes. It turns out that you must use red henna and you should mix the paste with lemon juice or a similar acidic substance to properly activate the lawsone dye in the plant, which produces the stain.Mehndi 5

When I got home, I searched out the tiny plastic bottles with their fine metal tips that I’d seen the artist use on Maggie, then bought some red henna from my local Indian market. I mixed it with water and lemon juice and applied a simple design on the palm of my hand. When I washed it off a few hours later, there was a pale orange stain, which developed into a dark reddish-brown over the next couple of days. I’d done it!

Mehndi 6I played around with mehndi off and on for a few years, reading some books on the topic and even making mehndi cookies at one point, but I’m no artist. I eventually became frustrated with my limitations and abandoned it, but I never stopped appreciating the beauty and artistry of the practice, so it was an act of serendipity that brought Prashanta from Divya Henna into my life.

Mehndi 7I met her three years ago and we discovered immediately that we had many interests in common, among them a love of mehndi. Unlike me, Prashanta is actually a talented artist who had been practicing mehndi informally for years, but wanted to do it professionally. She was just getting her career underway and was looking for a guinea pig on whom to practice new designs and techniques, so I volunteered. One of the things that Kirsti and I find the most swoon-worthy is synchronicity—that magical moment when things line up perfectly in ways you could never have planned or foreseen. After years of wanting to wear beautiful mehndi designs myself, I had a professional henna artist who couldn’t wait to paint me up one side and down the other!

Mehndi 8

Mehndi by Divya Henna from an original design by Ravie Kattaura.

Whenever I am adorned in one of Prashanta’s designs, I get stopped in stores, restaurants, and even on the street by people who want to admire her artwork and ask questions. She loves and respects Indian culture and prefers traditional Indian mehndi designs over the types of henna tattoos you typically see offered at fairs and along boardwalks. Nowadays, she is in demand as a mehndi artist for Indian weddings, doing elaborate and exquisite designs on brides that cover the hands, arms, feet, and legs and can take hours to complete.Mehndi 9

She doesn’t have much free time anymore to practice on me, but I’m still fortunate to get mehndi from her on occasion and to enjoy her company in the process. I am also routinely stunned by the precision and creativity displayed in the pictures she posts online of designs she has completed, a few of which are featured here. If you don’t live close enough for Prashanta to paste mehndi on your skin, seeing her masterful handiwork will definitely paste a smile on your face.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Divya Henna – Facebook
Divya Henna – Instagram

 

The book Mehndi: The Timeless Art of Henna Painting by Loretta Roome can be purchased at Amazon.

Visit Christina Chico Photography and makeup artist Shirley J. Arcia online.