Henna Tattoo allergy warningApril 4th, 2012 | Posted by in Drug Facts | Eczema | haircare | Illness | Prevention
With Spring Break here or nearly here and the weather turning warmer, many parents will be taking their kids to enjoy outdoor carnivals, fairs and other activities. At these events, there are often vendors peddling wares including temporary tattoos comprised of mostly black henna ink. While most parents deem them as a safe alternative to the dangers of the traditional needle-and-ink tattoo, nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is that these black henna tattoos contain p-phenylenediamine (also known as PPD) – a dangerous black dye which has been shown to to cause allergic contact dermatitis, with reactions ranging from mild eczema to blistering and and even permanent scarring. Signs of an allergic reaction include redness and itching, bumps, swelling and blisters. PPD is added to the natural henna in the tattoo to extend the longevity and the deepness of the tattoo’s stain. Interestingly, the FDA warns against the direct application of PPD to the skin and has in fact only approved its usage in hair dye products.
“Perhaps the most alarming issue we are seeing with black henna tattoos is the increase in the number of children — even children as young as four — who are getting them and experiencing skin reactions,” Sharon E. Jacob, MD, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine (dermatology) at the University of California, San Diego. She continues, “Kids make up a significant portion of the population that receives temporary tattoos, because parents mistakenly think they are safe, since they are not permanent and are available at so many popular venues catering to families. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.”
So, how would a possibly unsafe henna tattoo be identified? According to the FDA, “cosmetics including temporary skin-staining products that are sold on a retail basis to consumers must have their ingredients listed on the label. Without such an ingredient declaration, they are considered misbranded and are illegal in interstate commerce. FDA requires the ingredient declaration under the authority of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA).
Because the FPLA does not apply to cosmetic samples and products used exclusively by professionals–for example, for application at a salon, or a booth at a fair or boardwalk–the requirement for an ingredient declaration does not apply to these products.”
Thus, it seems like the entire process of selecting a safe temporary tattoo is “caveat emptor” – or “buyer beware.” Jacob sums it up nicely, “If you want to get a henna tattoo, make sure that it’s only vegetable henna, not PPD-adulterated henna. “Unless the artist can tell you exactly what’s in the tattoo, don’t get one.”