Black Henna Tattoos May Not Be Safe

Posted on April 16 2013

‘Tis the season for body art with the nice weather on its way, but if you’re planning on tattooing your body with some henna art this spring or summer be aware of some crazy things making this otherwise safe procedure, completely unsafe. When you’re at the amusement parks or carnivals and see those cool tents with people giving henna tattoos the color of them is usually a light brown making it obvious that the tattoo isn’t done with real tattooing ink. Well, like many other things in this world, people have come up with a way to enhance the color, but have done so in a temporarily dangerous way.

The newest fad in henna tattooing is to add a new chemical called p-phenylenediamine, derived from a coal tar that can cause skin allergies. This chemical makes the ink black in color, making it look more like a real tattoo, and it also dries quicker than regular henna ink. This chemical is sold as hair dye and is not supposed to be used on the skin. The FDA has received several reports on this matter, one includes a story about a 5 year old little girl who suffered from blistering on her forearm after getting a “black” henna tattoo. The report also showed that the person giving this little girl the tattoo was a teenager whose back was blistered and raw. Gross, right? Anything to make an extra buck.

These problems have been arising for quite a while now because henna kiosks are popping up everywhere, like shopping malls and are becoming a staple of beach boardwalks and some immigrant enclaves from coast to coast. In 2008, a report from the New England Journal of Medicine stated that a Kuwaiti woman went to a London hospital after having henna applied to her hands for a wedding. The intricate designs, called mehndi, are traditional for weddings and other celebrations in the Middle East and South Asia. Little did this woman know that her henna was going to end up blistering in the exact shape of her graceful floral design.

Dermatologists say that natural henna, which is made from leaves of the Lawsonia bush, have been used for thousands of years with few problems. This “black” henna is a quick fix that stains within an hour and lasts longer than plant-based henna. Doctors have stated that, “Our forefathers appeared to be in less of a hurry to see results and apparently black staining was not the fashion of time”.

So now you know to be aware of those fun-looking henna kiosks that are becoming more and more popular. If the tattoos are a light brown color you should be safe from blistering and other allergic affects, but if you see people walking out with “black” tattoos that appear to be real, steer clear. Save yourself from painful blistering and purchase some sticker tattoos that wash off in a few days!


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