Image sourced from Canada.ca
Let's face it. Nothing is more icky than being in a fair or festival and be joined by another artist who's using black henna, right?
Not only is it frustrating because black henna gets generally more demanded than natural henna, but you just hate having to witness someone else using something that poses as a serious health risk! I'm not even mentioning the fact that you yourself are being associated to that.
I can tell you from experience, when I first started to do henna in Egypt (before even moving to Toronto), no one knew the difference between black and natural henna. The minute I got a potential client, I'd make it VERY clear that I only used natural henna which was brown in color - not black. I always encouraged them to Google the harmful effects of black henna. Heck, I even wrote an article about it in a popular Egyptian online news segment that appeals to the millennial. So many times they turned away initially, thinking I was just pushing a sale. But more often than not, they'd come back to me claiming that they've actually researched it and that built my credibility. This also helped spread the word of mouth about it, especially it being so unknown in a third world country like Egypt.
So what should you do when you're faced with another artist who's using black henna, without coming off as competitive or condescending? Here are the tips that I've used in the past and recommend...
1) BE FRIENDLY & IMPRESSIONABLE!
Last year, I was at a local fair thrown by the Toronto Police Department that encouraged neighbourhood safety tips to families. So yes, there were A LOT of kids! I was joined by another henna artist who used black henna and my heart just sank to my feet.
I approached her with the hugest smile on my face, introduced myself and showed genuine interest in her art and designs. I even offered her some valuable advice on how she can land more clients seeing as she had just moved to the city.
When you offer valuable advice to them initially, they will be MUCH more likely to hear you out after.
So before even mentioning the harmful effects of black henna, I was trying to build rapport between her and myself so that there's genuine talk there. Building trust is very essential, because if you dive in to attacking them for their use of black henna, they'll be easy to assume that you're just being defensive and competitive.
For all you know, they probably just didn't know or were brought up in an environment that promoted black henna, which brings me to my next point...
2) GIVE THEM THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Do not assume that the other artist is aware about black henna dangers. Most of the time they actually just don't know. I used to be one of those artists. When I first expressed interest in doing henna, first thing I did was go to a pharmacy and purchase those chemically produced black henna for hair dyes, put it in a cone and started practicing on paper.
Thankfully, before taking it to someone's skin or body, I did A LOT of research. So I was lucky to have this pop up in my search. Had I not initiated that research, there's no way I would have known especially that the henna community was greatly lacked in Egypt.
So be sure to give that artist the benefit of the doubt and reiterate that you know they have no intention of harming others.
By emphasizing the fact that you know they have good intentions, they'll be so much more likely to actually hear you out rather than take a defensive approach.
The first thing you'll hear from that other henna artist will be: "Well, you know, I've never had any complaints.". I usually respond by saying "That's absolutely great! But do you really want to wait around for one? It only takes that one mistake that can really pull down your business, you don't have to believe me now, but I encourage you to do a Google search about it when you have the time."
90% of the time, this will trigger them to actually search about it. Even if they haven't took your advice on spot, at least you expanded their mind at a later time. And I always say "better late than never."
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3) ASK FOR FEEDBACK FROM THEM
I know this is hard to believe, but if you ask for advice from them on how you can improve too, they will feel that you're not attacking them - that you actually know there are more ways for you to grow as a result of advice from them too.
Again, this falls under building a rapport and a genuine relationship with them.
And you know what, you actually might learn a thing or two from them. I know as natural henna artists we're not always prone to listening to black henna artists, but if you develop a ground work for some give and take, you are so much more likely to penetrate their stubbornness of using black henna.
4) OFFER THEM FREE HENNA CONE OR POWDER SAMPLES
The reason a lot of black henna artists are resistant to switching to natural henna is because it's more expensive - and with good reason given the amount of effort and time to make them!
Black henna is generally cheaper because it's mass produced, but if you peak their interest and give them one of your cones or a small packet of natural henna powder for free, you've eliminated an expense for them.
There are almost little to no henna artists in Egypt, but when a friend shared another henna artist page located in Egypt to me, I was super excited to see that the community over there was growing. Sadly, she was using black henna.
I messaged her privately, introduced myself and offered to talk on the phone to give her advice on how she can grow her following (you see how I didn't even mention black henna yet?).
After I've built the rapport, I got into the black henna issue and promised her that once I was back in Egypt, I'd give her free natural henna cones and powder so she can play around with. And you know what, that's EXACTLY what I did.
We met in a nice little cafe, had an amazing conversation and I made a new friend. She was so thankful and even offered to help with my digital marketing platforms free of charge (given her digital marketing background).
By making it easy for her, I've opened her path to natural henna and steered her away from black henna.
See how easy this was! By just being your authentic self, people are waaay more likely to hear you out when you're friendly and genuine. So let's reiterate here:
Be friendly and impressionable. Don't instantly dive into black henna warning mode, but try to build a rapport with them first.
Give them the benefit of the doubt by not assuming they actually know the dangers of black henna.
Ask for feedback from them, this will make them feel less like they're being attacked and more like you're seeking guidance from them which would make them in turn want guidance from you too.
Offer them free henna cone & powder samples as a way to encourage them to actually use natural henna instead.