An email to a black henna artist here in NYC - grrrr!
Posted by Anne Beltestad on June 19, 2002 at 18:42:33:Hello,
I am writing in regards to your webpage:
I believe I may have spoken to you last summer at a concert in
Prospect Park, at which I expressed concern about the chemical
additives you are using and calling "henna".
I am a henna artist myself and profoundly concerned about the growing
trend of para-phenylenediamine, also known as "black henna" (info at
I found the following on your page:
"Check out the newest and still totally natural way to tattoo and
beutify your skin." (referring to "black henna")
First of all henna is not a tattoo ("tattoo" refers to the repetitive
motion of needles entering the skin), secondly, as you state
"Henna alone does not produce a black stain. There are several
authentic additives or mixtures that give a black-dying henna,
especially in North Africa. "
While there *are* less- harmful ingredients used to make henna
darker, such as indigo or ammonia, henna does not dye black, period.
Therefore, it is not natural. Ammonia is not healthy for the skin,
and much worse are the kerosene, gasoline, and lighter fluid
sometimes used in North Africa.
"We now offer a very safe Black Henna for the skin!"
Unfortunately, your claims are not only false but dangerous. There
are no natural products which can produce a jet-black stain. PPD,
which will stain the skin, hair, clothing, and anything else jet
black, is a toxic chemical (another link:
Furthermore, it is illegal to apply PPD to the skin.
"Lasting 2-3 times longer than traditional Mehndi, Black Henna gives
a deeper look to the designs. It's ideal for the gentleman or those
who want the "real tattoo" look. Black Henna is also easier for those
who bring their own designs so we can get it closer to the design
Natural, real henna is also ideal for all these situations. I can do
almost anything freehand in henna, and henna men (my brother and
brother-in-law included) all the time using real henna.
If you want to do temporary tattoos, there are a number of products
which are safe, FDA approved, and give that "fake tattoo" look.
Henna is not a temporary tattoo, and treating it as such leads to the
desire for "black" and to the use of harmful chemicals.
Unfortunately by continuing to apply a product to the skin containing
PPD, you are not only harming your clients, but harming yourself.
The types of reactions this chemical can produce are not always
visible, but include sensitization to PABA (in sunscreen), black dyes
(such as those used for black clothing but also most dark hair dyes),
liver and kidney damage, and cancer.
The following link provides summaries of medical papers outlining the
health risks of PPD:
I understand why you might have chosen to use "black henna" - when I
first started as a henna artist, I tried "Rainbow" brand "All-Natural
100% Black Henna" which, to the best of my understanding, is a result
of grafting indigo into the henna plant so that it can be labelled as
such. The results were disappointing, and luckily I discovered real,
safe, natural henna.
On my palms henna can stain a dark black-cherry color which is
completely safe and natural. I love it, and I am glad to be offering
my clients something that is not only harmless but links them to a
9000-year-old art form.
Please, for your own health as well as your clients' please, stop
using PPD! I have seen too many chemical burns, heard too many
horror stories, and worry that this toxin being passed off as henna
is harming the art that I love.
Please respond and let me know your thoughts on the matter. Again, I
cannot adequately express my profound concern about the use of PPD or
any "black henna" product, but I am open to discussion as well as to
showing you some of the lovely results that can be obtained with
fresh, real henna.
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