My dialogue with a "black henna artist," pt 3

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Posted by Anne Beltestad on June 21, 2002 at 14:28:50:

It took me some time (and a good soccer game) to calm down enough to
compose a response to the woman using "black henna" which she claims
does not contain PPD.
At least she is willing to listen. Let's see if this convinces her;
I think it's quite good myself. ;)


Hi Kathleen,

Thank you for taking the time to respond; I appreciate your
willingness to discuss this matter.
If you are affiliated with the woman I saw at Brooklyn gay Pride
several weeks ago, whose name I believe is Nina, then she told me
that the product was "not Bigen but contained a very small amount
of PPD" - which she erroneously claimed was "safe." She said she
bought it from "a woman in New York" and I put two and two together
and think it must be you.
Regardless of the amount, regardless of the brand name, PPD is still
PPD. It's toxic. There is nothing else that "is darker than the
red and produces the stain faster."
AS for its being a "pro formula" I am not sure what you mean. As
far as I'm concerned anyone selling henna as a professional has
the duty and obligation (moral and otherwise) to not falsely
Henna is henna. Chemicals are chemicals. Henna plus chemicals
still is chemical.
I also teach classes, have been a professional henna artist for
over four years (mostly with Gilded Lilies in Seattle WA) and in
that time have hennaed thousands of people. I know what I'm talking
about. I've seen the chemical handling specifications for PPD and
they are not pretty. Nina, if she's the same woman I talked to,
described her hand "puffing up" from "the black" - demonstrating
with a gesture that indicated the flesh had swollen an inch or two
above normal. This means that it the toxin has built up in her
system, and everytime she handles the product she is getting another
dose in her liver and her kidneys. I have seen people with chemical
burns from PPD, including a very small boy.
Unfortunately PPD does not produce a reaction every time, nor is
the reaction immediate. This is perhaps why you have not had a
complaint. It doesn't make it right, though. In "high traffic
resort areas" people often do not come back a week later to find
the artist who applied the PPD to their skin. I have ended up doing
damage control on many occasions for just this sort of incident,
explaining it was not henna that gave them a rash, etc.
I strongly urge you to educate yourself using the information I
have provided, and find out the side effects of what you are using.
It is not enough to say it's a "pro formula." That means nothing.
What does mean something is to commit to using only real, safe,
natural henna, to make that guarantee to yourself and your clients.
Ignorance or denial are not legitimate excuses.
If you can show me *independant* laboratory results that show that
what you're using does not contain any PPD, then I will perhaps
be open to believing that you are not using toxins. Until that
time, I will do everything I can to ensure the safety of my clients,
the general public, and the continuance of the ancient art form
I love. However, even if your product does not contain PPD, which
I doubt, you are still contributing to a very dangerous misconception
by continuing to further the myth that henna "comes in black,"
and thus adding to the PPD plague.
However, I would be very happy to show you the results that can
be obtained with real henna. If Nina's reaction to the color of
the design on my hand is any indication, you will be pleasantly
You can reach me at ***-***-**** or this address, and please feel
free to look at the information on my webpage at



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