Henna powder can be purchased at Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores, natural food stores and through mainstream retailers, such as Sally Beauty Supply or Walgreens. It can also be found through online retailers, particularly in kits for use in body art. The highest-quality henna is used for body art. A lesser grade is used for hair dye.
Henna powder is made from the dried, ground and sifted leaves of the Lawsonia inermis plant. The leaves contain lawsone, a red-orange dye, which stains hair, skin, fingernails and fabric. Henna is traditionally used for cosmetic enhancement, particularly in India and throughout much of the Middle East. Elaborate designs are painted on the body as part of wedding and holiday celebrations by skilled artisans.
Henna powder is perishable. The fresher the batch, the better the staining power of the lawsone. The dried and powdered leaves degrade with exposure to light, air and heat. If kept in porous packaging, the powder lasts about three months. Henna powder kept in an airtight container and stored in the freezer can last over a year and still provide a dark, rich dye. Once applied to the skin and allowed to mature, henna powder designs last about three weeks and fade through the natural exfoliation of the skin.