A seven-year-old girl recently experienced chemical burns after getting a black henna tattoo while her family was on vacation in Egypt. Madison Gulliver asked her father if she could get a temporary tattoo on her arm at a four-star hotel. Not long after the tattoo was finished, she began to complain about it being itchy. Soon, painful blisters covered the area.
Madison was taken to a specialist burns unit where she had to have the blisters cut away. The procedure left scars up and down her arm. It turns out that black henna tattoos can contain high levels of toxic chemical dye, including an ingredient called paraphenylenediamine or PPD. This chemical is normally illegal to use on the skin.
The young girl’s father said, “She is potentially scarred for life after getting a black henna tattoo. The tattoo was done in the hotel’s salon and they claim it’s not the henna and that it’s my daughter’s skin. She has blisters from her finger to her elbow and is in so much pain.”
He continued, “We were entirely unaware of the dangers and I think they should warn of this in the brochures. I think it’s partly my fault because I didn’t know about it, but also the fault of the salon because they are using dangerous chemicals on children. We would have thought that the travel agents would have had concerns about this.”
The family is sharing their story to get their message out so the same thing doesn’t happen to another child. Mr. Gulliver explained that the family had been having a great trip until his wife, Sylvia, had to be rushed to the hospital due to a gall bladder infection. She recovered after spending two days in he hospital. Because the children were so well behaved, Mr. Gulliver decided to treat his son and daughter with black henna tattoos.
Madison’s brother, nine-year-old Sebastian, instantly complained of itching, so the pattern was scrubbed from his arm. But when the skin under Madison’s tattoo started to bubble, the family rushed her to the emergency room.
Doctors found high PH levels in Madison’s blisters, indicating a chemical burn. They removed the blisters to help treat the burned skin underneath. After the procedure, Madison was referred to a scar management unit. She has to wear a pressure bandage for at least six months to help minimize the scars that currently cover her arm.
Doctor Chris Flower, Director General of the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association warned the public about black henna tattoos. He explained, “PPD is safely and legally used in permanent hair dyes where clear instructions are given, and where the maximum level is controlled by law. But black henna often contains PPD at high levels, to give a dark color quickly. When applied to the skin in the form of a black henna temporary tattoo, PPD can cause chemical burns and lead to allergic reactions.”
Dr. Flower added, “Real henna is never black, but is orange-brown.” Lisa Bickerstaffe from the British Skin Foundation said, “Check the color if a product is described as ‘henna.’ Henna is an orange-red color, so if you are offered a temporary tattoo with ‘black henna’ it isn’t actually true henna. If in doubt, stay away.”