June 2018

A recent British Skin Foundation survey has found that 20% of children could be in danger of having serious reactions to black henna temporary tattoos.

20% of adults have also put themselves at risk by having the temporary fashion accessory which is popular at overseas holiday destinations, festivals, funfairs and the British seaside during the summer months.

Real henna is orange/brown in colour. Black henna tattoos are not based on henna at all, but a substance called paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which is found in hair dyes. PPD is allowed for use in hair dye, but its use for skin contact products, such as temporary tattoos, is illegal in the UK & Europe.

Shockingly, three quarters of people surveyed were not aware that black henna tattoos contain PPD and that when it’s used on the skin it can be dangerous.

Three quarters of people were unaware that having a black henna tattoo can drastically increase the risk of allergic reaction when using a hair dye in the future.

Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson says, “It’s worrying to see that the public just don’t realise the danger PPD can pose when it is used on the skin. We really want to get the message out there that so-called black henna tattoos are not safe for the skin and should be avoided at all costs. Parents, teens and even adults should stay well away from black henna tattoos this summer on holidays abroad, at festivals, funfairs or the British seaside – it’s simply not worth the risk.”

Above, Nathaniel's back; top, Kane's arm

Brothers Nataniel, 13, and seven-year-old Kane recently asked their parents for black henna tattoos on the last day of their family holiday in Majorca as a treat. But eight days later, they found their skin was blistering, sore, red and itchy. After a trip to the burns unit, the boys were confirmed to have chemical burns from the black henna.

Their mum, Carrie Archibald said "The last few weeks have been really bad, really stressful – you never ever want your children to suffer like that. If we had any suspicion that henna was dangerous to the skin then we certainly wouldn't have let our boys get anything like that."

She is sharing their story to warn other parents during the summer months.

The scar James was left with on his face 

Student James Colley, 19, got a black henna tattoo on holiday in Zante last summer. What was meant to be a bit of holiday fun left him with a scar on his face.

James says, “Had I known the dangers of black henna tattoos I would have stayed away. It never crossed my mind that it might cause such a severe reaction. There was a lot of pain involved in the aftermath which is still fresh in my memory. My advice to people this summer is to stay away from black henna tattoos– no matter how much fun it seems at the time, you will regret it.”

Dr Christopher Flower, Director-General CTPA says, “There is no such thing as ‘black henna’.   A large number of people are not aware that so-called black henna temporary tattoos may contain the hair dye PPD.  In the UK and EU, this use of PPD is illegal.  Black henna temporary tattoos can cause serious issues.  Not only can they trigger extremely painful damage to skin, they may also result in life-long allergy to hair dyes.  We want to warn of these dangers, and what may seem to be harmless fun for children could have serious long-term consequences.”