Henna tattoos are a popular temporary way to decorate our skin. The traditional name is called Mehndi and is a centuries-old practice that originated in the Middle East, Southern Asia and Africa. Henna tattoo designs are usually ornate, brown in color and can stay on for a few weeks before eventually fading from the skin. However, an allergic reaction can occur from an additive to the henna and create skin sensitivities, which can be permanent.
Henna comes from a small shrub or tree that is grown in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southern Asia and around Australia. A paste made from the dried leaves is ground into a powder then mixed with a mild acid solution such as lemon juice or tea to create the henna colored dye.
The henna paste is then applied to the skin with a brush or other method to create attractive patterns. The longer the henna is in contact with the skin the longer it will take the henna to fade so the tattoos may last as long as two to four weeks.
How does henna cause an allergic reaction?
Henna is typically an earth orange to brown shade though some types may have burgundy hues. There is no such thing as black henna. Black-appearing henna has the chemical PPD or Para-Phenylenedimine added to make it appear that color. PPD is what can cause an allergic reaction to occur. Skin that reacts to PPD appears red and swollen with itchy raised areas that may follow the contour of the tattoo.
Some people want to use darker colors in their tattoo so it looks more real instead of a henna-appearing one but the risk of a skin allergy is high when PPD is applied to the skin. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved the use of henna dye as an safe substance to be applied to the skin at all; they have only approved henna to be used as a hair dye.
Precautions for getting a henna tattoo:
Only receive a henna tattoo from someone who is experienced. Consider doing a skin test before having one done, especially if you have sensitive skin. Do not get a dark or black henna tattoo and question the artist if the tattoo appears dark as to what exactly is in the dye.