Here’s why you should NEVER let your child get a black henna tattoo

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A horrifying allergic reaction in a little girl draws our attention to black henna tattoo risks and the harmful chemical black henna contains

Henna tattoos look so pretty and are very appealing to young girls as an ‘acceptable’ way of getting a tattoo. However, you might want to think twice about letting your daughter get one – especially if it’s black henna – after reading this story. 

A holiday gone wrong

Seven-year-old Madison Gulliver was on holiday in Egypt recently with her mum, dad and 9-year-old brother Sebastian.  They were having an awesome time until their second week in Egypt, reveals dad Martin to Metro. 

Mummy Sylvia came down with a gallbladder infection and had to be rushed to hospital where the family had to stay for two days until she recovered. 

As a reward for the kids’ good behavior, Martin decided to allow them to get black henna tattoos which were on offer in the hotel they were staying in. 

Almost immediately after getting his tattoo, Sebastian started to complain of itchiness, so his tattoo was washed off promptly.

But Madison had no such complaint…

Until she returned home to England

When the family got home after their holiday in July, the little girl started complaining that her tattoo was itchy. When she was taken to the doctor, she was given a steroid cream to treat the itchiness, but it was ineffective. 

Soon after, her tattooed skin erupted in red blisters resembling burns. The panicked family rushed her to hospital where she was given various creams and ointments in an attempt to treat the blisters. Nothing worked. 

black henna tattoo risks

Black henna tattoo risks: see how the damage resembles a chemical burn.

Finally, she was referred to burns’ specialists Salisbury District Hospital. There, tests were carried out on the liquid that was coming out of the blisters. Doctors were shocked to find a high PH level reflected in the test results, which was indicative of a chemical burn. 

Following this, they decided to surgically remove the blisters so they could treat the damaged skin underneath. 

A toxic chemical in black henna

Mums and dads, you must be wondering now what could have caused this drastic reaction. Well the answer is a poisonous chemical sometimes found in high levels in black henna, known as paraphenylenediamine (PPD). 

PPD is legally used in cosmetic products such as hair dye and sunscreen, but in minute quantities. The problem with black henna is that it may contain this toxic chemical in large, unregulated quantities. 

Dr. Chris Flower, director general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association in the UK, explains:

“PPD is safely and legally used in permanent hair dyes where clear instructions are given, and where the maximum level is controlled by law. But black henna often contains PPD at high levels, to give a dark colour quickly.

When applied to the skin in the form of a black henna temporary tattoo, PPD can cause chemical burns and lead to allergic reactions.”

Kids are especially vulnerable to this chemical, which can cause severe hypersensitivity reactions, as seen in the case of Madison. 

black henna tattoo risks

On the left: Madison’s tattoo before the reaction. Right: with her blistered arm.

Scarred for life…

Reports say that little Madison is on the road to recovery. But the skin on her arm is most likely scarred for life. Her father says: 

‘The tattoo was done in the hotel’s salon and they claim it’s not the henna and that it’s my daughters skin. She has blisters from her finger to her elbow and is in so much pain.

‘We were entirely unaware of the dangers and I think they should warn of this in the brochures. 

‘I think it’s partly my fault because I didn’t know about it, but also the fault of the salon because they are using dangerous chemicals on children.

‘We would have thought that the travel agents would have had concerns about this. We want to get the message out to other people about this.’

‘We don’t want compensation, the main thing is to care for Madison and minimise the scarring because we don’t want her growing up with a scar for the rest of her life.’

The hotel meanwhile, has apologised and said it no longer offered the tattoos.Mr Max Shoukry have spoken with the owner of the beauty center to stop the offer of any henna tattoo.

The difference between natural henna and black henna

Mums and dads, keep in mind that this strong warning is largely for black henna tattoos. 

Natural henna dye, which is made from the dried leaves of a plant found in Africa, Asia and Australia, will only stain the skin orange, red or brown. It is considered to be very safe when applied to the skin as allergies to natural henna dye are generally very rare. 

Still (and like with any product you apply on the skin) you should always do a patch test even with natural henna dyes, should you or your child want to get one. 

We hope you found this article useful in creating awareness and keeping you and your family safe!


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