Henna is a dye that is made from a plant and used to temporarily stain the skin, nails and hair. The colors can vary between orange, burgundy, yellow and dark brown. It is very popular in Indian tradition to adorn a future bride and her friends with intricate henna designs all over the body – especially the hands and feet. The reason is that the Henna dye stays longer (up to 2 weeks) thin skin. This dye is also become a popular temporary way of experiencing modern tattoos for people who are not ready to commit to real ink. You will find street artists painting henna tattoos on passersby’s in many Asian and Western countries. Beware that these artists do not always use the natural Henna dye.
Black Henna Tattoos
The traditional way of using Henna is completely safe and does not cause any irritation, in fact it has been used safely for thousands of years. However, there are some danger associated with Black Henna temporary tattoos that you need to know about. Some artists have started using a substance that they are referring to as ‘black henna’. They have added or are using what is typically Para-phenylenediamine or PPD which can be highly irritating to skin. PPD is a synthetic coal tar dye and it helps the artist achieve a black color in the dye, henna is never black.
Reactions to Black Henna
This unnatural substance has caused severe reactions in some people. Some people have developed large blisters or burns about 3-13 days after having a ‘black henna’ tattoo applied. There can also be itching, discoloration and can progress into open sores and scabbing. Anytime you have scabbing on your body, you are in danger of developing permanent scarring. Watch out for redness after the application and if you feel itching see a doctor immediately.
Identifying Black Henna Tattoos
It is best to avoid all black henna if you can. The first thing to notice is the color of the paste that the artist is using. As mentioned before, real henna is either brown, burgundy, yellow or red – it is never black, blue, purple or green. If you see this color it means that the henna has been mixed with an unnatural substance like PPD.
Some artists have been known to mix henna with acetone, lighter fluid, dry cleaning fluid, gasoline or turpentine to achieve a black color. If you smell this when the paste is near you, do not allow them to put this on your skin. Although it’s probably not PPD it is still really bad for your skin. If it’s already on your skin then wash it off as quickly as possible. Citrus oil is another substance that can help darken henna but it can also cause itchiness and a sensitivity to the sun – avoid any henna that smells like lemons.