Culture

Umm, Why are White People Putting Henna on Their Lips?

South Asians are shook by a video of a Chicago-based beauty blogger using henna to get “perfectly tanned lips”.
October 27, 2020, 1:51pm
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Images: Brianah Christianson's video

South Asians on social media were definitely not impressed when they saw a viral TikTok of a beauty blogger using henna (or mehendi as it’s more commonly called in the Indian subcontinent) in a tutorial on how to get a “henna lip stain”.

While henna freckles have been around since a while and can make any self-respecting South Asian cringe, no one saw this lip tutorial coming. Uploaded by Chicago-based model and beauty blogger Brianah Christianson, it shows her telling people how to apply henna on their lips with a brush, wait for an hour, and then take it off to reveal “perfectly tanned lips”.

Obviously people were pissed or at the very least, confused. Though the use of henna for body art goes back centuries to even ancient Africa, the Middle East and India, it is widely used today by women in South Asia during celebratory occasions like weddings, births, festivals and religious holidays. White backpackers might leave India with a temporary reddish-brown mehendi tattoo which we have kind of wrapped our heads around but a lip stain is just a bit… much? Some people online have even pointed out in response to Christianson’s video how modern ways of making mehendi see toxic chemicals making their way into what was originally a plant-derived dye.

In another tweet, user @fannaforbooks shared “I could feel my lips burning and hear my mom screaming. 😭” Some called it “colonising” too.

Some even recoiled at the idea of smelling mehendi on your lips, and even tasting it, which TBH does sound far from appealing.

After the video was widely shared, the beauty blogger posted another update saying the colouring vanished after two days, and it had been brought to her notice that the cones contained harmful chemicals. 

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