British Skin Foundation warns against use of ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos

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The British Skin Foundation has issued a warning against the use of socalled ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos (BHTTs) after a survey it carried out among dermatologists found that 40 per cent of them had seen patients with skin reaction to BHTTs.

The Foundation is warning that there is an increase in BHTT reactions with parents agreeing to treat their children to a temporary tattoo on holiday or at the funfair. BSK’s survey found that 1 in 20 dermatologists revealed that over 80% of the BHTT reactions they had seen were in children aged under 16.

The Foundation notes that people are not realising the dangers of BHTT for lack of awareness.

According to BSK, majority of BHTT 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.

When PPD is used on the skin in this way it can cause blistering, painful skin 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

Dermatologists asked confirmed that around half of the patients got a BHTT outside of the EU, where the legal status of PPD is not always clear; however the other half got a BHTT within the EU, with 27% of these in the UK.

Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Spokesperson reinforced the findings saying, “Black henna is well known to cause skin reactions and should be treated with caution, particularly in children.”

The decision to issue this warning is backed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA).

“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. This summer, parents will want to keep their children safe, by steering clear of so-called ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos.” Dr Christopher Flower, Director-General CTPA