Are Temporary Henna Tattoos Safe?

Ink may cause serious skin reactions to tattoos
Bad Reactions to Temporary Henna Tattoos

You’re on spring or summer break, walking the beach and boardwalk with your friends. You spot a temporary tattoo kiosk. You think, “Why not?” Get some cool body art to show off — and all without dreaded permanent Tattoo Regret.

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Yet even with temporary tattoos you need to be sure of what you’re getting into.

Dangers of black henna ink

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.

Traditional henna is considered safe to use in temporary tattoos. When other ingredients are added to it the result is marketed as black henna, which now often used in the tattoos to help make them darker and longer-lasting.

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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

What’s in black henna tattoos

Dermatologist Jennifer Lucas, MD, says “Henna tattoos by themselves aren’t necessarily the problem. It’s when they add other components to make them darker or make them react more quickly.”

Dr. Lucas says one extra ingredient in black henna ink is p-phenylenediamine (PPD), a common allergen found in hair dyes. PPD can cause dangerous skin reactions in some people.

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If you do get a temporary tattoo

If you’re set on getting a temporary tattoo, be sure to ask what kind of ink is being used — steer clear of black henna.

If you do get an allergic reaction, go to a healthcare professional. You’ll typically be treated with a topical steroid. You’re also asked to report the problem to the FDA.

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