Yes, you can have an allergic reaction to a henna tattoo

Yes, you can have an allergic reaction to a henna tattoo

The additional ingredients in colored henna can irritate your skin.

Tattoos have burst forth in popularity in recent years. Anyone can tell you that sporting fantastic skin art is no longer the exclusive realm of sailors and people in motorcycle gangs. Modern permanent tattoos are now found on people of all ages, from many walks of life, just about everywhere! Made using heavy metals and preservatives that sink into your skin via hundreds of tiny pinpricks, permanent tattoos are now a solid part of everyday modern life.

Most people who get a tattoo have a safe experience and go onto love their new skin art. But the  U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it’s received numerous reports of people having adverse reactions to temporary tattoos. Black henna tattoos in particular can cause problems.

How can you protect yourself? Here’s what to know and the steps you can take to stay safe.

Black henna is approved for use as a hair dye but not on skin

Henna tattoos have been part of ancient cultural practices for over 5000 years. These often black or brown inkings form an impermanent and painless type of art on your skin using ink derived from dried Lawsonia tree leaves.

Originally used to help cool the skin in hot climates, henna tattoos are now applied when people celebrate occasions like weddings and birthdays. Known for their ornate twists and turns, these tattoos are beautiful works of art that cover hands and arms with intricate, lacey patterns.

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Because henna comes from a direct natural source, it’s often seen as “healthier” than other types of ink and dyes. But is it? That depends. Black henna is approved for use by the FDA as a hair dye. It isn’t actually approved for being applied to your skin, however. This means engaging in the practice of Mehndi with this type of henna can be risky.

What’s causing the problem? The trouble lies in the extra ingredients that are added to henna to produce other colors besides its typical, natural orangish-brown color. Black henna, for example, often contains coal-tar hair dye. This contains p-phenylenediamine (PPD), an organic compound used in permanent hair dyes. This stuff is fine on your hair, but it can irritate your skin and cause dangerous reactions. So, depending on the circumstances, it may be best to avoid it.

Ingredients in adulterated henna can cause an allergic reaction

Not everyone is affected by alternatively-colored henna and some people will apply black or blue henna to their skin and not have any trouble. Others, however, can experience allergic reactions. These can result in:

  • irritated skin
  • rashes
  • painful sores
  • additional skin problems

Ingredients lists can be iffy at best

The FDA doesn’t require cosmetic products and ingredients to be approved by them before being sold or used on consumers. Add to this the fact that companies like hairdressing salons and other places that might apply temporary tattoos don’t need to report their safety information or any complaints made against their products, and you have to be careful.

The oversight for temporary tattooing differs in the US from one state to the next and some places don’t have any laws in place at all. This means it’s possible there are no standards in place when you get your temporary tattoo and no one is checking to see that things are being done safely.

If you’ve had a problem with a temporary henna tattoo, you can report it. To do this you can:

Stay safe and stick to natural brown henna. It’s beautiful and, furthermore, it shouldn’t cause you complications.

photo credits: Belish/

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