Making a mark: Safa Munafer on launching UAE’s first online henna store

Dubai Henna sells a number of varieties from organic Jagua henna to white henna

White henna is increasingly popular, and even used by Hollywood makeup artists. Courtesy Dubai Henna
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One of the many privileges of living in the UAE is that everything – from groceries to fuel for our cars – is literally just a few clicks away. And, it looks like henna has now joined that list of products available at our fingertips.

In May 2020, Safa Munafer set up The platform, which gives UAE residents access to different types of henna,  from organic Jagua henna to the increasingly popular white variety, as well as stencils and other accessories, also happens to be UAE's first online store exclusively for the product.

Munafer, who goes by the moniker Sara, says she started the platform just in time for Eid, but had not anticipated the reaction it would get. "We never expected it to [go] to viral in a short span of time. We actually had to stop taking orders after a few days because we could not cater to the demand," she says. "Professional henna artists, bloggers, influencers and beauty salons have all shown interest in the brand, while the luxury packaging made it an interesting Eid gift item. We have had extremely positive reviews."

Munafer started the brand Dubai Henna in 2016 to give artists and henna enthusiasts access to quality henna products. The idea came about when she noticed some salons using chemically fabricated henna with ingredients such as gasoline, kerosene or paint thinner to make the colour darker quicker.

As a henna artist herself, she saw the potential for a one-stop shop for unadulterated product, which led her to create Dubai Henna. "Our products are backed with 15 years of experience as professional henna artists, working with big brands. We are not just a brand, we would like to build a community to preserve the authenticity and, at the same time, innovate new trends."

According to Munafer, some of these trends, include an increased popularly for offbeat varieties, such as the organic Jagua henna, which leaves a black stain, and is made out of ingredients including genipa Americana fruit juice, henna powder and USDA-certified lavandula angustifolia oil. The outcome has the appearance of a black tattoo.

Safa Munafer, known as Sara, has started UAE's first online platform for all things henna. Courtesy Dubai Henna

Another trend that has been picking up steam over the past few years, and has been used by Hollywood make-up artists to create a 3D-like effect, is white henna. But Munafer says that their original organic henna has remained a bestseller due to its unique smell.

However, like many industries the world over, the henna business has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. "As a precautionary measure, henna services are still restricted and not allowed in the UAE. This has had a major impact among henna salons and freelance artists," she says Sara.

Dubai Henna delivers the product to customers's doorsteps. Unsplash

People may have stopped getting designs drawn on by others, but this has, in turn, has led to another surprising trend – the urge to learn to DIY. According to Munafer, a product that has risen in popularity lately is the henna stencil as artists and amateurs started to use them to create designs in the comfort of their home.

"Having immersed myself in the art of henna for half my life, I've always had the dream to serve the artistic community with authentic products," she explains. "I hope this gives the community what they need to pursue their creative interests."