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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Myrtales
Family: Lythraceae
Genus: Lawsonia
Lawsonia inermis
Henna is a dye made from the dried leaf and petiole of Lawsonia alba Lam. (Lawsonia inermis L.). It may be identified by its characteristic odor (which smells slightly like soapy cow dung) and by characteristic plant histology. Henna in its common form is a greenish-brown powder, which is mixed with water to form a mud-like paste prior to application. Lemon juice and essential oils are often added to extract the dye from the leaves.

Henna is traditionally used as a hair dye and temporary skin dye in India, Pakistan and North Africa, and in expatriate Indian and Pakistani communities. As well as adding a deep red tint to the hair, henna improves the condition and shine of the hair. As a skin dye, it produces a dark brown stain which lasts for about a week. Henna is used by women in these cultures to create traditional hand and foot decorations known as mehndi.

Henna is only approved for sale as a hair dye in the United States, and is not approved for any other use in the United States. Some unapproved henna products (sometimes sold under the name "black henna") have been adulterated with unsafe chemical dyes such as paraphenylenediamine, and should not be used for any purpose.

Henna decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, as a form of body decoration that did not involve permanent marks, unlike tattoo.

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