Dermatologists report rise in reactions to 'black henna'

PPD based tattoos can increase risk of reaction to hair dye

The British Skin Foundation has reported an increase in the number of allergic reactions to 'black henna' temporary tattoos in the UK after surveying dermatologists working in their clinics.

Four out of ten dermatologists asked reported treating patients with skin reactions to black henna tattoos. One in 20 of those asked said that more than 80% of the reactions they had seen were in children under the age of 16. Around two thirds of those surveyed also reported an increase in patients needing treatment for reactions to hair dyes, many of these patients had also reported a reaction to black henna tattoos.

Holiday makers and festival goers are now being warned about the potential dangers associated with these type of temporary tattoo. Most black henna tattoos are based on para-phenylene (PPD) rather than henna. The chemical is usually found in hair dyes but it is not safe for use in skin contact products. Temporary tattoos based on this ingredient are currently ilegal in the European Union.

Not only can PPD cause painful burns and skin blistering, but consumers who react badly to it could be left with a lifelong sensitivity to the chemical. This increases the risk of later having a severe allergic reaction to hair dyes in the future.

Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Spokesperson, commented: "Black henna is well known to cause skin reactions and should be treated with caution, particularly in children."

The CTPA backed up the warning. Dr Christopher Flower, Director-General of the 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. This summer, parents will want to keep their children safe by steering clear of so-called 'black henna' tattoos."

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