Doctors issue ‘black henna’ temporary warning for parents, children and festival goers this summer

James Wilson (6) whose arms have blistered badley  after having Henna tattoos done whilst on holiday in Egypt. NW*23291
James Wilson (6) whose arms have blistered badley after having Henna tattoos done whilst on holiday in Egypt. NW*23291

The British Skin Foundation is warning the public of the dangers of so-called ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos (BHTTs).

Research among dermatologists in 2015 revealed they are seeing an increase in reactions at their clinics across the UK.

Parents hoping to treat their children to a temporary tattoo this summer on holiday or at the funfair and party-goers at festivals, may not realise the dangers of BHTTs.

The majority of BHTTs are not based on henna at all, but a substance called para-phenylenediamine (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 European Union.

When PPD is used on the skin in this way it can cause blistering, painful skin burns and may even lead to scarring. It can also leave the person with a lifelong sensitivity to PPD, which increases the risk of a severe allergic reaction when using hair dye in the future.

The BHTTs’ survey found:

A black henna tattoo

A black henna tattoo

* 4 out of 10 dermatologists asked had seen patients with skin reactions to BHTTs.

* 1 in 20 dermatologists approached said that over 80% of the BHTT reactions they had seen were in children aged under 16.

* Dermatologists asked confirmed that around half of the patients got a BHTT outside of the EU, where the legal status of PPD is not always clear; however the other half got a BHTT within the EU, with 27% of these in the UK.

* About two-thirds of dermatologists approached have seen an increase in patients with reactions to hair dyes, many of whom have previously had a BHTT.

Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson reinforced the findings saying: “Black henna is well known to cause skin reactions and should be treated with caution, particularly in children.”

The decision to issue this warning is backed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA).

Dr Christopher Flower, Director-General CTPA said: “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.”