10 August 2017

As the holiday season reaches its peak in July and August, skin specialists report that they are seeing more and more patients who have had a bad reaction to a temporary ‘black henna’ tattoo.  This can cause them to develop an allergy to hair colour, also used for lash and brow tinting.

The risks of ‘black henna’

So-called ‘black henna’ may contain a substance called PPD (paraphenylenediamine) and the use of this chemical in temporary tattoos and in high concentrations is illegal in the EU.  But having a temporary tattoo applied on the beach or by the pool is often seen as a harmless bit of holiday fun. 

A spokesperson from the British Skin Foundation said: “What might seem like pretty body art can quickly turn nasty with horrific blistering, permanent scars and in the most severe cases, life-threatening allergic reactions.”

However, the use of PPD in cosmetic products is strictly regulated to ensure that it’s a safe and legal ingredient in hair dyes. 

The NHBF’s allergy alert test consultation cards

The NHBF allergy alert test consultation cards, backed by Coversure’s Salonsure insurance policy, assess risks client have been exposed to and whether an allergy alert test (sometimes called the patch test) is needed every time hair colour is applied.  One of the key risks is whether a client has had a ‘black henna’ temporary tattoo, because even if they didn’t immediately have a bad reaction, they can develop an allergy over time.    

NHBF president Agnes Leonard said, ‘When you’re talking to clients about their holiday plans, it’s worth warning them of the rising risks of ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos.  When they return from holiday, do check whether they’ve had a temporary tattoo before you go on to apply hair colour. Not only could they experience a severe reaction, but your insurance will also be invalidated if you haven’t checked and carried out a patch test if needed.’