'Black' Henna Tattoos & Hair Dye – Allergic Reaction Link

Black Henna Tattoos & Hair Dye
There was a terribly sad story in the papers today about a mother who died (5 years) after a black henna tattoo triggered massive allergic reaction to her hair dye.

Expert evidence said the tattoos contained massive amounts of paraphenylenediamine (PPD) – the chemical in the hair dye which is thought to have caused her reaction – and that the tattoos increased susceptibility.

Coroner Geoff Fell  ‘People think it’s a good idea to let their children have a black henna tattoo. That child could go through life 10, 15, 30 years and the first time that child dyes its hair there could be an anaphylactic reaction.’

It should be noted that this is a very rare occurrence, with only one other death of this type being recorded. Also, the woman in question knew she had an allergy to the hair dye, but she continued to use it.


Henna is a natural product prepared from a flowering plant. This reddish-brown dye is used all over the world and is an important part of cultural rituals, hair dye and body art.

There is no ‘black’ henna. Problems occur when chemicals are added to henna to deepen the colour and turn it black. This transforms henna from a natural product into an artificial one, and it is these additives, specifically paraphenylenediamine, widely used as a permanent hair dye, that could potentially increase susceptibility to reactions to hair dye.


The lesson to learn here is to always do a patch test 48 hours before using any new product. Note I didn’t say hair dye product, because I include skin care in this category. Anything that you apply to your skin and scalp should be tested first.

It doesn’t matter how inconvenient it is, or if you’ve used the product a hundred times before (the manufacturers might have changed the formulation) – be aware and be safe.

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