"Black henna" temporary tattoos are often sold and applied by artisans at markets, fairs and amusement parks in Canada, as well as holiday or foreign travel destinations. But these tattoos can cause severe allergic reactions and have been banned in Canada.
Natural henna is redbrown in colour and is safe to use directly on skin. Black henna, on the other hand, is produced when a colourant is added to natural henna. Some colourants are safe to add, but others, like paraphenylenediamine (PPD), are not. PPD may be added to natural henna by mixing it with hair dye. In some cases, hair dye is applied directly to the skin instead of a henna paste.
The use of PPD in cosmetics that are applied directly to the skin (like temporary tattoos) can cause serious allergic reactions and present a risk to the health and safety of the user. Therefore, cosmetics containing PPD that are applied directly to the skin are banned from sale in Canada.
Allergic reactions to PPD may occur within 2 to 10 days following application. Reactions may include red skin rashes, itching, blisters, open sores, and scarring. These allergic reactions may also lead to sensitivities to other products like hair dye, sun block and some types of clothing dyes.
PPD is an acceptable ingredient for use in hair dyes that are rinsed off after a maximum of 30 minutes. When used correctly, hair dye does not come directly into contact with skin for prolonged periods of time.
Before getting a temporary tattoo, ask the vendor to confirm that PPD or hair dye was not added to the ink or paste. Health Canada allows the use of natural henna and other safe dyes in cosmetics. Cosmetic products sold in Canada must have ingredient labels. Ask the vendor to see the ingredient label for the ink or paste. If there is no label, do not get a tattoo.
The following are some hints that an ink or paste being used for "black henna" temporary tattoos may contain PPD:
Note that even brown shades of ink/paste may contain PPD in order to make the temporary tattoo darker or last longer.
Please contact your nearest Health Canada Product Safety Office if you think that PPD is being used by a local vendor, or if you suspect you have suffered a side effect (adverse reaction) from a "black henna" temporary tattoo. Call toll-free 1-866-662-0666 or send an email.