The dangers of black henna temporary tattoos

Thousands of British holiday makers are set to go on holiday this year and most will return with fantastic stories of sun, sea, sand and great friends they met along the way, but sadly many are returning with permanent skin damage from “temporary” black henna tattoos.

Henna tattoos have been around for several centuries and there are reports of people from ancient Egypt and India using this natural form of temporary tattoo for religious ceremonies, wedding festivals, and in many cases for simple body adornment.  Some people even dye their hair with henna.

But what is henna?

Natural henna dye is derived from the plant, Senna italica. This type of henna is a naturally occurring compound which leaves an orange/brownish mark on the skin when applied as a tattoo.

Natural henna tattooing is still used widely today and, correctly handled, can be a wonderful cosmetic compliment to a person at a religious ceremony or wedding.

Black henna

However, there is another form of henna tattooing that can be highly dangerous – “black henna temporary tattoos” (BHTTs). Organisations such as the British Skin Foundation (BSF) strongly discourage people from getting this type of tattoo. The reason BHTTs are so dangerous is that most contain a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD).

PPD is found in many beauty products such as hair dyes, where it is non-harmful, legal and safe to use.  However, PPD as a compound of henna dye can be extremely harmful to the skin. For that reason, it is illegal in the European Union.

Examples of harm that can be caused by skin contact with PPD include:

  • Painful skin burns.
  • Long term temporary scarring.
  • Permanent scarring.
  • Leaving the person with a lifelong sensitivity to PPD which in turn can increase the risk of a severe allergic reaction when using hair dye products in the future.

Below is an example of a painful reaction that someone has had to black henna.

The BSF originally launched a campaign in 2015 under the hashtag #AvoidBlackHenna. The campaign has now been re-released in 2017 owing to an increasing number of BHTT injuries being seen by British dermatologists.  The decision to re-issue the campaign in 2017 is also backed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA).

The message is clear:

“Having a “black henna” temporary tattoo presents a significant risk of a very nasty, adverse reaction to the tattoo itself.  It also increases the risk of either not being able to use most hair dyes in the future or having a bad reaction to them if the warnings are ignored.  Most importantly, parents will want to safeguard their children this summer by steering clear of so-called “black henna” temporary tattoos.”

Dr Christopher Flower, Director-General CTPA

Of course, scars can occur in a number of ways, including cuts, burns, electrocution and chemical reactions.

It is important, if you have a scar injury, that you are fully aware of what steps can be taken not only to treat the initial injury, but to care for it in the future.

Scar tissue care, treatment and rehabilitation should be carried out under medical advice but can include:

  • Education and therapy on how to cope with the psychological effect of scar injuries.
  • Education on how to physically care for scar tissue.
  • Laser treatment.
  • The application of creams.
  • The use of special make up products to camouflage the scar.
  • Plastic surgery to lessen the visual appearance of the scar or replace the scarred tissue.

Boyes Turner Personal Injury specialists see a number of injuries each year where people have been left with painful and unsightly scars, many of which will also leave the victim with psychological damage. Once liability has been established for the injury we can help assess the best options for future care through our network of expert therapists, dermatologists and plastic surgeons and recover reasonable treatment costs through interim payments and final settlement awards.

The service was personal, professional and considered. I was treated so kindly and in the end I knew that not only had I found the right organisation but also the right person.

Boyes Turner client

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