Even Temporary Black Henna Tattoos Can Still Be Painful

Avoiding needles may increase the appeal of temporary tattoos, but some physicians have warned against the use of black henna tattoos.

Avoiding needles may increase the appeal of temporary tattoos, but some physicians have warned against the use of black henna tattoos.

In a study recently published in BMJ Case Reports, researchers from the UK treated a 10-year-old boy for an allergic reaction that manifested four days after the application of a temporary black henna tattoo. The child was on vacation in Spain.

The young boy appeared to have redness, itching, and small inflammatory irritated spots on his partially crusted skin lesion.

The lesion followed the outline of the tattoo, and the surrounding skin was red, hot, and painful to touch.

According to the researchers, the reaction was likely caused by paraphenylenediamine (PPD) — a textile dye typically added to henna specifically to blacken the pigment and speed up drying time.

PPD is also referred to as a contact allergen, since its concentration and exposure period can often trigger a reaction.

In this boy’s case, doctors suggested treatment with antibiotics, topical corticosteroids, local anesthetic, and moisturizing creams.

A significant improvement was noted 48 hours later, particularly around the inflammation.

While allergic reactions are a case-by-case scenario, the researchers concluded, “Skin tattoos with black henna should be avoided, especially during foreign travel, as this can make the tracing of the vendor and any subsequent public health management challenging.”