April 12, 2021/Skin Care & Beauty

Are Temporary Henna Tattoos Safe?

Ink may cause serious skin reactions to tattoos

Bad Reactions to Temporary Henna Tattoos

For those who don’t want a permanent tattoo, there’s another option: temporary henna tattoos. It sounds like the perfect idea, especially if you don’t want to worry about tattoo regret or taking the time to figure out what you want on your skin for the rest of your life.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Yet even with temporary tattoos, you need to be sure of what you’re getting into. Dermatologist Christine Poblete-Lopez, MD, shares a few tips on what you need to know when getting henna tattoos done and what to stay away from.

Steer clear of black henna ink

Henna has been used by different cultures for centuries and is usually brown or orange-brown in color. It’s made from grinding dried henna leaves and then working it into a paste.

These temporary, safe tattoos usually last about two weeks until they begin to fade. Artists use temporary henna tattoos to create beautiful artwork on the skin to symbolize anything from wedding celebrations to the birth of a baby.

Natural henna takes a few hours to be absorbed into the skin and causes few allergic reactions, according to one study. While traditional henna is considered safe to use in temporary tattoos, watch out for black henna ink.

When other ingredients, such as p-phenylenediamine (PPD) are added to it, the result is marketed as “black henna”, which is often used in the tattoos to help make them darker and longer-lasting.

The Food and Drug Administration warns the ink in some temporary tattoos can cause serious allergic reactions. The FDA says people are reporting these bad reactions after they received temporary tattoos that contain black henna ink.

Some of these reactions may cause serious effects that can outlast the tattoo itself:

  • Redness.
  • Blisters.
  • Raised red weeping lesions.
  • Loss of pigmentation.
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight.
  • Permanent scarring.

“Henna tattoos by themselves aren’t necessarily the problem,” says Dr. Poblete-Lopez. “It’s when they add other components to make them darker or react more quickly, that poses the problem.”

PPD can cause permanent scarring

P-phenylenediamine (PPD), is a common allergen found in hair dyes. PPD can cause dangerous skin reactions in some people, such as those mentioned above, like permanent scarring, and can even cause death. By law, PPD isn’t allowed in cosmetics that are intended to be applied to your skin, according to the FDA.

If you do get a temporary tattoo

If you’re set on getting a temporary tattoo, make sure to do your research as thoroughly as possible. This means asking what kind of ink is being used by the artist and steering clear of black henna. If the henna mixture smells like chemicals or gas, turn around and walk out. These ingredients can be used to make black henna and should be avoided at all costs.

“If you do get an allergic reaction, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible,” says Dr. Poblete-Lopez. “You’ll typically be treated with a topical steroid and you may be asked to report the problem to the FDA.”​​​

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

woman with tattoos on arm
December 2, 2020/Diabetes & Endocrinology
I Have Diabetes. Can I Get a Tattoo?

Body art and managing tattoo risks

Tattooist artist paint woman body
October 15, 2019/Infectious Disease
Are Home Tattoo Kits Safe?

The dangers of self-tattoo kits. Yes, we’re wincing

Person holding jar of moisturizer, with moisturizer on fingers
May 15, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
7 Tips for Treating Dry Skin on Your Face

Deal with dry skin by preserving your skin’s moisture, using moisturizing products and taking preventive action

Gloved hands using a tattoo iron to apply a tattoo
May 7, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Tattoo Aftercare Tips From a Dermatologist

Help your ink heal by keeping it moisturized and protected from the sun

female examining neck wrinkles
April 29, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Neck Wrinkles? Here’s What Can Help

Give the delicate skin on your neck some TLC by wearing sunscreen every day and trying a retinoid or topical antioxidant

Acrylic nails being filed by manicurist
April 24, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Are Acrylic Nails Bad for Your Nails and Skin?

Before your next manicure, weigh the reward against the risk of infection, irritated skin and damaged nails

Medical technician looking through large, lighted magnifying glass, working on patient's foot
April 23, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
6 Benefits of Medical Pedicures: Should You Try It?

Safety, hygiene and technician training are among the biggest benefits of a ‘medi pedi’

Moisturizer being applied to older hands
April 22, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
How To Make Your Hands Look Younger

To help keep your mitts feeling and looking their best, moisturize, exfoliate, wear sunscreen and eat a healthy diet

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad