The Florida Department of Health urges individuals to be aware of the risks associated with getting a "temporary black henna tattoo." The department has received reports of allergic reactions and injuries, including permanent scarring of the skin from temporary black henna tattoos that are popular with those who want to enjoy a "temporary" tattoo.
Natural henna tattoos have been applied to human skin for hundreds of years. The application is usually for ceremonial purposes, such as a wedding, and natural henna tattoos are not known to produce any unfavorable health problems. The product used to apply natural henna tattoos is a dye paste made from dried and ground leaves of a henna plant mixed with water and a natural dye fixative. Natural henna tattoos are temporary and they are not applied with a needle, as are permanent tattoos. Many natural henna artists prefer to use a free hand design. However, some henna tattoos are achieved by tracing over a design stencil that has been applied to the skin. The tracing may be done using a dispensing applicator bottle or a brush. The end tattoo design is either brown or reddish brown in color. A little known fact is that the only approved use for henna by the Food and Drug Administration is in hair dye, not in products intended for direct application to the skin.
In recent years, "black henna tattoos" have become popular, particular in beach resort communities. Black henna tattoos, unlike natural brown or reddish brown tattoos, are not always safe and are known to have produced from minor to serious adverse health effects in children and adults. The black henna tattoos are applied using the stencil method. The unsafe black henna paste produces a black design because para-phenylenediamine (PPD), a toxic chemical which is exempt from approval by the FDA and is included in small amounts in black hair dye, has been added to the paste. The addition of PPD dyes the skin quicker and makes the tattoo look more like a permanent tattoo.