Why you should avoid 'black henna' temporary tattoos this summer

A 'black henna' temporary tattoo might seem like a good idea at the time.
A 'black henna' temporary tattoo might seem like a good idea at the time.

Holidaymakers and festival-goers have been warned to avoid 'black henna' temporary tattoos this summer.

Research among dermatologists has revealed they are seeing an increase in reactions at their clinics across the UK, according to the British Skin Foundation.

Festival-goers or parents thinking about treating their children to a temporary tattoo on holiday or at a funfair may not realise the dangers of what purport to be 'black henna' temporary tattoos (BHTTs).

The majority of BHTTs are not based on henna at all, but a substance called para-phenylenediamine (PPD) which is found in hair dyes.

PPD is allowed for use in hair dye, but its use for skin contact products such as temporary tattoos is illegal in the European Union, as it can cause blistering and painful burns and may even lead to scarring.

It can also leave the person with a lifelong sensitivity to PPD, which increases the risk of a severe allergic reaction when using hair dye in the future.

So-called 'black henna' temporary tattoos can cause blistering, burns and permanent scarring.

So-called 'black henna' temporary tattoos can cause blistering, burns and permanent scarring.

The BSF survey found:

* Four out of 10 dermatologists have seen patients with skin reactions to BHTTs.

* One in 20 said that more than 80% of the BHTT reactions they had seen were in under 16s.

* Around half of the patients got a BHTT outside the EU, where the legal status of PPD is not always clear; the other half got a BHTT within the EU - 27% in the UK.

* Two-thirds of dermatologists have seen an increase in patients with reactions to hair dyes, many of whom have previously had a BHTT.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, a spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation spokesperson, said: “Black henna is well known to cause skin reactions and should be treated with caution, particularly in children.”

The decision to issue the warning is backed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association, whose director-general Dr Christopher Flower 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.

"Most importantly, parents will want to safeguard their children this summer by steering clear of so-called ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos.”

* Have you had a bad reaction to a 'black henna' temporary tattoo? We'd like to hear your story.