According to Mark Papish, MD, Medical Director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a Member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, you should: ”Avoid getting henna tattoos if you’ve ever experienced a skin reaction to hair-dye products, sunscreen and sunless tanning products.”
While pure henna, a shrub-derived skin dye, is rarely a skin irritant, it is often mixed with a synthetic dye called paraphenylenediamine (PPD), to hasten drying and darken the color, Dr. Papish says. PPD is a common allergen found in permanent hair dyes and sunscreens containing aminobenzoic acids, as well as in the “black henna” that’s designed to stain the skin more dramatically. But it can also cause reactions such as redness, irritation and swelling. The FDA deems illegal any henna with a color additive and warns that in some cases “black henna” consists only of hair dye, taken from the package and applied directly to the skin. The best course of action is topical steroids (or oral steroids in severe cases), combined with Benadryl, to combat inflammation and itching.