Since I started this henna business, one of the thing I am always asked about is “BLACK HENNA”. Do I use it? No. The physical dangers are very severe and dangerous. Every time I get a chance, I always educate people to be careful, and cautious to not use black henna and why.
So lets talk about black henna and why its so dangerous. The pictures here are from the internet, I myself have never used black henna and never will. And any responsible henna artist with ethics will never use it as well.
Henna is not black. It is always going to be a reddish brown. If someone tells you they have black henna, that only means that they have added chemicals to the henna to turn it black. The chemical used is PPD, or paraohenylenediamine, and this is a synthetic coal tar dye, that can cause severe reaction in some people. There are other chemicals that can be used other then PPD, but none of them stain as fast or as long as PPD. The chemicals are absorbed into the skin, and enter the blood stream, and through the kidney and liver. People can have extreme reactions and a lifetime of complications. The chemical burn caused by PPD causes the skin to blister, swell and itch. You can have a permanently scar. You can also develop allergies to other things, even if you use it once. If a vendor tells you it’s food dye, they aren’t tell you the truth: Food dye will not make henna black. Food dye will not stain your skin for days. Food dye molecules are too big to penetrate skin cells, and therefore sit on the surface and can be wiped away with a wet cloth.
I know people may prefer the black color either because they want their design to look like a permanent tattoo, or they don’t like the reddish brown color. But is it really worth the dangers of Black Henna?
The allergic reaction that PPD can cause is similar that of an allergy to bee stings. A PPD allergy can develop at ANY time once you are sensitized to para-phenylenediamine, but may not show up for weeks, months, or even years. Every time you come into contact with PPD, the allergy will worsen. You will be sensitized to PPD for the rest of your life. You will never be able to use a hair dye or other commercial products containing PPD ever again.
A reaction to para-phenylenediamine can include itching, a rash, full body hives, severe blistering, permanent scarring, liver damage, and life-threatening breathing problems.In January of 2007, two families filed a lawsuit against a distributor of black henna after their children were scarred after receiving black henna tattoos while on holiday. The PPD burned and blistered their skin so badly that the children have been permanently scarred. So, don’t assume that black henna must be safe just because the tattoos are offered to children.
Some companies also sell henna in a rainbow of colors such as red, green and blue. While these henna pastes pose no danger due to the mild color additives, it should be noted that they are still a waste of money. The henna only retains the color while the paste is on the skin. Once the paste has been removed, the stain left behind will still be the orange/brown shade you would get from natural henna.
Henna art is meant to be what it is – a beautiful, natural, temporary stain. If you want a henna tattoo, appreciate it for its beautiful, earthy colors. If you want a tattoo that looks real – get a real one!