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Henna Tattoo Safety
"Black Henna" and Chemical Laced Henna (Benzene, Kerosene, Gasoline)

Is henna safe? Natural henna is safe. I've been doing henna since 1999 and I've never encountered an allergy to natural henna. There are a few things to be aware of regarding henna safety.


  • Avoid henna with any chemicals added.
  • Avoid henna without listed ingredients.
  • Avoid any "black henna" that lasts more than a day or two or is jet black.
  • NEVER henna infants.
  • Only henna children over 6 years old.
  • NEVER henna children with hyperbilerubenimia.
  • Avoid doing henna on adults with G6PD.
  • Avoid doing henna on severely anemic adults or children.
  • Review your henna ingredients with every client.
  • If doing henna on sensitive clients use mild essential oils, such as lavender oil.

So called "black henna" tattoos. Henna is NEVER black.Henna is NOT black.
So-called "black henna" is dangerous. Real, natural, SAFE henna will always leave a stain in the brown/red family. It will start off orange and darken over a couple of days to be a brown or brown/red.

I know, I know...most pictures that you see of henna are with the paste on the skin, and it looks black. Actually, the henna paste is a green or brown when it's wet, but as it dries, it starts to look black (especially in pictures). Most pictures of henna are taken right after the henna paste is applied, while the paste is still on the skin.

See the picture above? That is NOT henna!

The stain that safe henna leaves is NEVER black. It's possible to get very dark nearly-black stains on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, but no where else on the body can you achieve nearly-black henna stains. Even in these areas, you will see a red undertone to the henna.

Any "henna" that leaves a deep black stain that lasts for more than a couple of days contains dangerous chemicals and may not contain henna at all.

Wet Henna Paste Dry Henna Past Mature Henna Stain

Having never used unsafe henna, I have no pictures of my own to show you so the pictures below are from a MSNBC article on black henna. Horrible! Need to see more? Do a Google Images search for "Black Henna Scars".

Blisters from "black henna" reaction. Picture from msnbc.Why is black "henna" dangerous?
So-called black henna contains a toxin called para-phenylenediamine or PPD (coal tar) and benzene (yes, the same benzene that is found in gasoline and paint solvents) which seep into your bloodstream. Imagine mixing gasoline and black hair dye then applying it to your skin.

Para-phenylenediamine (coal tar) is most often found in hair dyes. In the USA, it is legal in hair dye at 6% or less and completely banned for skin use. It is illegal in many European countries for even hair use.

When PPD is used as "henna," it is typically in concentrations of 30-70% PPD. Think about that. With hair dye, it's not seeping directly into your skin for an hour and it's only at 6% concentration or less!

A reaction to para-phenylenediamine can include itching, a rash, full body hives, severe blistering, severe swelling, permanent scarring, liver damage, and life-threatening breathing problems. Progressive exposure to PPD and benzene has been linked to leukemia and other blood cancers. The big problem with PPD is that it doesn't go away when your stain goes away. It stays in the liver and builds up over time.

Black henna scars. Picture from ABC news.The allergic reaction that PPD can cause is similar that of an allergy to bee stings. You may know someone who has to carry around a life-saving syringe in case they are stung by a bee? A PPD allergy can develop at any time once you are sensitized to para-phenylenediamine, but may not show up for weeks, months, or even years. Every time you come into contact with PPD, the allergy will worsen considerably.

You will be sensitized to PPD for the rest of your life. Once sensitized to PPD you will be cross sensitized to many other chemicals. You will never be able to dye your hair again.

For more information about para-phenylenediamine, here is a link to the ScienceLab MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). Note the below warnings in Section 3 of the official Science Lab MSDS:

"Potential Acute Health Effects: Very hazardous in case of ingestion, of inhalation (lung irritant). Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator), of eye contact (irritant). Severe over-exposure can result in death.

Potential Chronic Health Effects: CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: A4 (Not classifiable for human or animal.) by ACGIH, 3 (Not classifiable for human.) by IARC. MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available. Repeated exposure to this highly toxic material may produce general deterioration of health by an accumulation in one or many human organs.

No black henna everrrrrrr!

If you have had a black henna tattoo in the past, do NOT dye your hair with a synthetic hair dye without getting checked for an allergy to PPD. To learn more about how seriously this sensitivity can effect your daily life, read
this short article by Perry Jackson about her experience of living with an allergy to PPD, that was acquired from hair dye.

This is serious. Using "black henna" could cause you to up with a life-long allergy, cause an immense amount of pain, lifelong scars, and/or liver damage. Combine this with other dangerous chemicals added to black henna and it get even worse.

Natural henna is SAFE...Fake "black henna" is NOT!

Adulterated Henna with Chemicals
Just because henna is labeled as red or brown, doesn't mean it's safe. Natural henna is safe, however there can be additives such as metallic salts, lead, benzene, kerosene, gasoline, and/or brown hair dye to get darker color quicker. Eww!

These additives are often found in pre-mixed cones label as "emergency henna". Unscrupulous people are getting smarter, now that the dangers of "black henna" are known to more of the general public.

Light scarring from benzene laced henna.Light Scarring from Henna Mixed with Chemicals
These are pictures of a customer who was exposed to henna mixed with benzene, kerosene, or gasoline while at a tourist spot in Georgia. This henna tattoo was done TEN MONTHS before these pictures were taken.

She said the henna had a painful burning sensation while it was on the skin. It left a nice deep brown color though it was only left on for less than an hour.

Henna should not burn. It may feel a little itchy on the skin as it dries since it is shrinking, and it may make your skin feel cold, but it will NOT burn.

Light scarring from benzene laced hennaHenna should have a natural scent and you will likely smell the essential oils mixed in the henna.

~ It should NOT smell like chemicals.
~ It should NOT burn.
~ Anyone worth getting henna from, WILL be happy to tell you the ingredients in their henna.

Be Smart! Be Safe!

There aren't as may warnings or pictures of damage from henna with additives like benzene, kerosene, and gasoline as there are for black henna. The real danger with these additives is that they are carcinogens (cancer causing and cancer spreading agents), and they build up in your blood stream and liver. They don't just go away when your henna tattoo goes away.

The fact that they can leave a color similar to natural henna is tricky. Look for tip-offs such as only needing to leave the henna on for a short period of time, really long lasting henna, full color immediately after paste removal (henna will always start off orange and take a day or 2 to darken to full color), or an artist being vague about the ingredients in their henna. If an artist doesn't know what is in their henna or will not tell you what's in their henna paste, do NOT get henna from them. Henna mixes are not a secret.

It's important that you only use natural henna from a source that knows what they are doing. If you are buying ready-made paste you need to know the complete ingredients in the paste. Never buy henna from a grocery store or any store that is not storing the henna properly. Just because the package says all natural, does not mean it is safe or of good quality.

Jody and Asad, owners of Beachcombers Bazaar in College Park, Orlando.Not to worry, you are in good hands with us at Beachcombers! We source our henna from reliable manufacturers that provide us with high quality pure unadulterated henna product. All of our henna is express shipped to us and stored properly. This ensures that you get the freshest possible product and not something that has been sitting in the belly of a hot ship for a month or something with unsafe additives.

Our powder hennas are pure henna with no chemicals or colorants added. Our ready made henna paste is made especially for us and express shipped to us frozen. As soon as it arrives to us, it’s checked for quality and stored in our in-house freezers. We put serious effort into offering a ready-to-use henna paste that is as fresh as possible while still containing all natural ingredients and absolutely no harmful chemicals.

Beachcombers Henna Paste Ingredients:

  • Pure Henna Powder
  • Mineral Water
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Clove Bud Oil
  • Xantham gum (Sugar

More About PPD (Paraphenylendiamine)

  • PPD is a common additive for hair dyes in the USA.
  • PPD is only approved in the USA for use on hair if less than 6% and is banned for all skin use.
  • When used as “henna” PPD ratios are typically 40-70% and the PPD seeps directly into the bloodstream.
  • PPD is so dangerous, it is banned in many European countries including France, Sweden, & Germany
    even for hair use.
  • PPD builds up in the liver and other internal organs causing many adverse health effects.
  • Once sensitized to PPD, you can become cross-sensitive to other PPD-like additives that include…
    ~ Black clothing dye (imagine not being able to wear black for the rest of your life!)
    ~ Black rubber
    ~ Pen ink
    ~ Some food colorings and preservatives
    ~ Some prescription and over-the counter medications
    ~ Sunscreen containing PABA
    ~ Hair dye (you'll never be able to dye your hair again!)

More About Benzene
Benzene is sometimes mixed into regular brown/red henna. Henna mixed with benzene, kerosene, or gasoline, will have a chemical smell (that may be masked with essential oils), may feel like it is burning the skin (because it is), and will leave very quick, dark color.

  • Benzene is a component in crude oil, gasoline, plastics, harsh solvents, and other petroleum products.
  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services classifies benzene as a carcinogen (cancer causing and cancer spreading agent)
  • Benzene causes Leukemia and is associated with other blood cancers and pre-cancers of the blood.
  • Make sure the henna about to be applied to you smells earthy and the artist tells you that the henna should stay on as long as possible.

Other Henna Safety Precautions

NEVER henna infants!

Hyperbilirubinemia and G6PD:
There are a couple of disorders that can make henna dangerous for children or adults: Hyperbilirubinemia and G6PD. In cultures where henna is done often, children are screened at birth for these disorders, but here in the US, we are not.

Hyperbilirubinemia can cause severe anemic reactions in children exposed to henna. The younger the child, the more severe the reaction. If a baby was jaundiced at any time, do not henna them. Most reputable henna artists avoid doing henna on kids under 6.

G6PD is a disorder that can potentially cause issues in adults that get henna. For small amounts of henna, exposure is not normally an issue, but very large amounts such as wedding henna can cause problems. Other items people with G6PD are often sensitive to are aspirin, fava beans, and mothballs.

Henna on Sensitive Clients:
If you henna children, pregnant women, cancer patients, or other sensitive individuals, consider making your henna mixture as mild as possible. Avoid harsh oils in your henna mix. If you use oil, I suggest lavender oil, as it is very mild. I normally use an equal mix of lavender and tea tree oils. On cancer patients only use lavender oil. Have a complete list of your henna ingredients ready and review these ingredients with every person you henna.

Nearly all reactions to henna, are not a reaction to the henna itself, but to an ingredient in the henna mixture.


  • Avoid henna with any chemicals added.
  • Avoid henna without listed ingredients.
  • Avoid any "black henna" that lasts more than a day or two or is jet black.
  • NEVER henna infants.
  • Only henna children over 6 years old.
  • NEVER henna children with hyperbilerubenimia.
  • Avoid doing henna on adults with G6PD.
  • Avoid doing henna on severely anemic adults or children.
  • Review your henna ingredients with every client.
  • If doing henna on sensitive clients use mild essential oils, such as lavender oil.

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