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Henna Tattoos; do your research first!

This article appeared in the Western Morning News on 26th September 2013

I’m always amazed at the array of tattoos that people have and because of the potential risks with conventional methods ‘temporary’ henna tattoos has grown hugely in popularity in recent years.  However the number of reports of people suffering quite serious side effects from ‘black Henna’ tattoos is on the increase and along with this has been a rise in the number of people seeking compensation for their injuries.  This is probably not a huge surprise when you consider that one in ten Britons has had a tattoo and many of these are carried out abroad.

With the traditional tattoo method the ink is injected under the skin whereas the henna type is drawn or stencilled onto the skin’s surface.  Traditional ‘henna’ is a reddish-brown colour and is made from a flowering plant of the same name.  It grows abundantly in the subtropical regions of Africa, Asia and Northern Australia and its use for dying skin, hair and fingernails has been practised for centuries.

Some shops are advertising ‘Henna’ tattoos but actually using black henna which obviously darkens the colour and contains other ingredients including PPD [para-phenylenediamine] that could cause dangerous skin reactions.  The dye poses no risks if used safely and legally but putting it directly onto the skin can be very risky.  You don’t have to carry out too much research to find dozens of examples of people that have suffered extreme reactions which left them with blisters, open sores, acute sensitivity to other products that might contain PPD, severe inflammation and permanent scarring.

Artists who use PPD in their products in order to offer the ‘Black Henna’ tattoo option are potentially putting their customers at risk of serious harm if they fail to offer proper advice and guidance prior to any treatment including a skin sensitivity test.  Failure to do so, which leads to a customer suffering an allergic reaction, could also lead to an allegation of negligence in that the artist failed in their duty of care not to cause harm by their actions.  The manufacture and supply of cosmetic products, including hair colorants, is covered by stringent safety laws and the EU Cosmetics Directive, so knowing about it and advising customers about the potential risks should be a matter of routine.

If you are considering having a henna tattoo be thorough and do your research, ask plenty of questions from your tattoo artist, make sure that a skin test is conducted prior to the treatment and seek immediate medical advice if you develop a reaction.  If you have already had a black henna tattoo and have suffered any kind of reaction which has left you with a permanent disability, sensitivity or scarring then you should seek professional legal advice from a firm that specialises in personal injury claims of this type.  Even if you had your henna tattoo done whilst abroad you may be eligible to claim compensation from your UK Tour Operator or Travel Agent if the henna tattoo artist was offering their services within the hotel complex and as part of the all-inclusive holiday package.  The next time someone tells you that “beauty is only skin deep” remember that it can be a much more serious an issue than that!

Harris Fowler has a team of specialist personal injury solicitors who can offer advice to anyone who has suffered adverse effects from a Henna tattoo.  Free and confidential legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit our website

Harris Fowler is a trading name of Harris Fowler Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority no. 558271.