Lakaye Studio Brings Henna and Jagua Tattoos to the Masses


Mehndi, the practice of temporarily staining the skin with plant-based dyes – usually ground henna leaves – is an ancient art with origins in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many people associate mehndi with India, where pre-wedding celebrations often include ceremonies to paint intricate designs on brides (and sometimes grooms). In the 1990s, mehndi became popular in the West, largely due to being seen on celebrities like Madonna and Liv Tyler, and is now appreciated by a new wave of patrons and practitioners who often call the designs "henna tattoos." Along with using henna that results in a reddish-brown stain, Lakaye Studio offers jagua, a gel that develops into a blue-black color.

The husband and wife team of Pascal Giacomini and Carine Fabius launched Lakaye Studio in 1997. Pascal and Carine are mehndi experts who have traveled the world in search of ingredients for their unique formulas. Pascal first worked with a Berber family of farmers in Morocco for Lakaye's henna line. He later traveled to the Peruvian Amazon to learn about jagua from the Matsés Indians; his adventures there are chronicled in the documentary film Land of Jagua: A Trip into the Heart of the Amazon. Carine wrote two books about temporary tattoos: Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting and Jagua: A Journey into Body Art from the Amazon. Lakaye Studio gives back by helping the Berber henna farmers when needed, and by donating a portion of their proceeds to the Matsés people for healthcare.

Lakaye Studio has developed a line of products and kits available under
the names Earth Henna and Earth Jagua. They sent us their Earth Jagua Premium Kit ($23.95) which includes the following: 9g jagua base gel, 2g freeze-dried jagua base juice, 1 applicator bottle, 3 different size tips, 4g eucalyptus oil, tooth picks for touch-ups and 40 reusable stencils.

The directions were easy to follow and were presented two ways: one side of the sheet had the directions in text; the other side had text AND step-by-step photos. The stencils transferred clearly and the jagua went on smoothly. I used the applicator bottle's thinnest tip to do my first few designs, but I'll use the other tips to fill larger areas in future tattoos. After the design is complete the jagua takes 30-40 minutes to dry, another 2 hours to set, 24-48 hours to fully develop its indigo color (when the jagua gel is first rinsed off the stain will be light), and it lasts 7-15 days on skin.

The design will smear if you're not careful, so it’s best to apply the jagua gel when you have time to relax. The directions point out that jagua gel stains quickly and suggest that you wear plastic gloves when mixing. We also suggest covering your work surface - we used wax paper. Once the formula is mixed (just add water) it will last 2-3 months in the refrigerator.

It is important to note that jagua IS NOT black henna as there is no such thing - henna leaves are green and the stain they leave on skin is reddish-brown. Before jagua was in use, some people who wanted a darker stain used para-phenylenediamine (aka PPD – it's used in chemical hair dye, which is not meant for skin) and called it black henna. Using PPD led to adverse reactions including rashes, burns and scarring. Jagua gel is ENTIRELY different from that; it is made from the juice of the jagua fruit (Genipa americana). Allergic reactions to jagua are rare, but everyone should do a patch test before applying a full design. People who are allergic to fruit, pollen or latex shouldn't use jagua tattoos – for more info click here.

For henna and jagua tattoos, the main thing is to select a design you fancy. However, if you're interested in the mystical aspects of your choice, some mehndi users believe that body placement carries meaning: palms signify your offering to the world; the back of the hand denotes protection; feet are where the body and the earth meet. The list of symbols is long (and the representations are subjective), but to name a few: birds represent freedom; butterflies represent transition and change; flower buds represent new beginnings; the lotus represents spiritual awakening; vines represent longevity; mandalas represent the universe…

Freshly applied jagua gel
Freshly applied jagua gel
Ultimately, it comes down to what the design means to YOU. I'm an avid organic gardener and my husband and I raise butterflies, so I placed a butterfly above my wrist. I used to live in Atlantic City, NJ, so I used the seahorse stencil on my ankle to honor my roots (it takes a bit of flexibility to do your own ankle; I'm teaching my husband how to apply mehndi so he can help with hard-to-reach spots).

I did well with my first attempt – I didn't get it 100% perfect (my butterfly's body and antennae came out thicker than the stencil; the dots in my wings aren't completely round), but mehndi is a forgiving art form and even the mistakes look cool.  Despite my fledgling skills I've received numerous unsolicited compliments, and people are already asking me to do temporary tattoos for them. I'm going to get the henna kit so I can offer tattoos in both colors.

Designs can also be done freehand - I'm working on an original drawing and I'm going to use a similar placement to the Goddess Isis tattoo Rihanna has on her chest. Regarding Rihanna, it’s interesting to note her tattoos are permanent, but her gorgeous hand tattoo was inspired by mehndi.

For more information about henna kits, jagua kits and other items including henna haircare and makeup offered by Lakaye Studio visit – the site is loaded with tips, techniques, articles, photos and videos.

Photos ©Lakaye Studio except butterfly photo ©Reese Amorosi

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2016