Henna body art has been a celebratory tradition in many countries for centuries. But as it grows in popularity, more and more people are being exposed to “black” henna dye, which can cause serious side effects.
A young British girl is the latest victim of a bad reaction to a black henna tattoo. Seven-year-old Madison Gulliver was on a vacation in Egypt with her mother, father and older brother when she got the tattoo as a reward for being so well-behaved during the trip. Done at their hotel’s spa, the tattoo didn’t appear to be problematic at first.
However, when the family returned home to the UK shortly after, Madison’s skin started to blister under the henna.
“We noticed there was a small patch on the top of the tattoo that was raised but we couldn’t see any redness,” Madison’s father, Martin, told Metro. “The next morning the whole tattoo was starting to get itchy, so we washed it off which revealed a rash in the outline of the tattoo.”
Despite steroid creams and ointments, Madison ultimately had to visit burn specialists after a test of the liquid in the blisters showed an unusually high pH level — an indication that she was suffering from chemical burns.
“They thought they would be able to soak the blisters and rub them off,” Martin recalled, “but that wasn’t possible as they were so thick, so they had to cut them off.” It was the only way they could access and treat the burns underneath.
“We were entirely unaware of the dangers,” he said, those dangers being that black henna often contains high levels of a chemical called paraphenylenediamine, or PPD. Although small amounts of PPD are commonly found in other cosmetic products, like hair dye, the level found in black henna has been shown to allergenic and hypersensitive reactions, especially in children.
However, adults are not immune to the potentially harmful effects of black henna. Just a few months ago, a 22-year-old woman experienced a similarly horrific reaction to a black henna tattoo she received in Morocco.
“While PPD is an approved permanent hair dye ingredient, FDA has openly warned against its use on skin in temporary tattoos and has directed consumers to report any negative reactions through its MedWatch Hotline,” explains Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Health, Beauty and Environmental Sciences Lab. “According to 2013 North American Contact Dermatitis Group data, about 5.5% of patients who were patch tested with PPD had an allergic reaction.
Her advice? Avoid black henna tattoos, especially overseas, since cosmetic regulations can vary from country to country.
After initially denying there was anything wrong with the henna, the hotel’s guest relations manager sent an email to the family apologizing and saying they will no longer offer black henna tattoos.
“We know this does not help your daughter,” the email reads, “but we wish her to get well soon.”
Madison has a long road ahead, however, wearing a compression bandage on her arm for at least six months.
“We don’t want compensation,” Martin said. “The main thing is to care for Madison and minimize the scarring because we don’t want her growing up with a scar for the rest of her life.”
From: Good Housekeeping US
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