35 Twin Cities 8th-graders sickened by black henna tattoo reactions


35 Twin Cities 8th-graders have reported experiencing allergic reactions -- including blisters and lesions -- the Minnesota Department of Health said today. And it suspects the reactions were due to a chemical commonly used to give henna tattoos their black coloring.

These tattoos, made popular by celebrities like Madonna and Vanessa Hudgens, and ubiquitous at fairs and outdoor concerts, are a lot more dangerous than, say, drawing on your arm with a ball point pen. And MDH has now issued an official warning against black henna.

The additive in question is para-phenylenediamine, a dye that the Food and Drug Administration has approved for use in hair coloring, but not on skin.

"PPD in cosmetics directly applied to the skin can cause allergic reactions that can result in intense itching, redness of the skin, blistering and in some cases scarring," according to the MDH report.

People who have allergic reactions to the additives in black henna might later experience reactions to similar chemicals, like those used in some sunscreens.

The traditional reddish brown-colored henna, without additives, is only approved by the FDA for use in hair coloring but has rarely been found to cause allergic reactions when applied to skin. Parents are discouraged from using even brown henna on babies and infants, but people who need to be told not to use their baby as a canvas probably have larger issues anyway.

The MDH is urging customers to check the ingredient list on boxes of black henna, and vendors to check with their suppliers to make sure PPD is not present in their henna ink.

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