Dialog Box

Skin Health Institute

Beware the Black Henna Tattoo

Travelling to Bali?

Beware the black henna dye.

Tourists are advised to avoid ‘black henna’ tattoos when travelling, particularly to Bali and other destinations in Asia and the Middle East.

These temporary tattoos can cause severe allergic reactions in tourists who choose the black dye over natural henna.

Henna is a natural reddish brown, but sometimes p-phenylenediamine (PPD) or other ingredients are added to change the colour to black. 

PPD is the main allergen in permanent hair dye and is known to cause severe allergic contact dermatitis in some people.

These additives can cause severe reactions - blisters, burning, weeping lesion and scarring.

Developing an allergic skin reaction to a so called ‘black henna’ tattoo can be an unpleasant end to a wonderful holiday. But for a hairdresser or beautician who works with PPD daily, it is absolutely devastating, and can really affect their livelihoods"

Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon

Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc.

But even more concerning, is that once allergic to PPD, a person is sensitised for life. No desensitisation is available for this type of allergy.

This lifelong allergy can prevent future use of hair dyes, eyebrow and eyelash tints, which are all based on the same chemical, PPD.  There can also be a cross-reaction to dyes used in clothing, but this is rare.

PPD is listed in the Australian Poisons standard, the Standard for Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons, and is banned for use in skin colouration products in Australia.

The Foundation advises people to avoid temporary tattoos when travelling, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.

28 July 2019
Category: News