Not all henna tattoos are safe, FDA warns

Posted at 4:30 AM, Jul 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 07:38:16-04

CINCINNATI -- Henna tattoos are intricate works of art that can take just as long to apply as their subcutaneous cousins, but they fade far more quickly -- depending on your skin type and where your henna is applied, it could last from one to three weeks.

It might seem like a shame to let such intricate body art fade, but the FDA said in a recent statement that efforts to extend the life of your tattoo can badly damage your skin.

Mass-produced or "black" henna often contains the chemical p-Phenylenediamine, or PPD, with which you might be familiar if you've ever dyed your hair at home. Although PPD is safe to have in your hair for limited periods of time, the FDA says it's not safe on skin -- that's why you've got to wear gloves when you update your shade.

PPD can make "black" henna tattoos stain darker for longer, but it's simply not safe, body artist Rita Killinger said. 

"A lot of people may think it's an attractive idea because it'll stain more black, but henna should never, ever be black," she said.

Authentic henna dye is made from all-natural ingredients, according to Killinger. At Hot Henna, she makes her henna paste from leaves of the mignonette tree, natural oils, sugar and water. 

"You always want to make sure that whenever you're getting henna done that the artists you're getting it done from either makes their own paste with completely natural ingredients or you know that the person has purchased the paste from a reliable retailer," she said.