What is "Black Henna" / PPD?
"Black Henna" is either henna paste that has had high levels of PPD added to it, or simply black hair dye with no henna in it at all. This mixture creates a black stain on the skin, but can also cause some unpleasant and potentially permanent health conditions.
PPD is p-Phenylenediamine, is a chemical ingredient found in virtually all hair dyes, and is also used in rubber processing. The EPA has this to say about p-Phenylenediamine: "p-Phenylenediamine is primarily used as a dye intermediate and as a dye. Acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of p-phenylenediamine may cause severe dermatitis, eye irritation and tearing, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and coma in humans. Eczematoid contact dermatitis may result from chronic (long-term) exposure in humans." ("p-Phenylenediamine." US Environmental Protection Agency. 6 Nov. 2007. Web. 12 March 2010. <http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/phenylen.html>)
What this means for YOU:
To translate, PPD is a toxic chemical which can be absorbed through the skin and can cause any of the conditions listed above. (Dermatitis is skin inflammation. Gastritis: stomach inflammation. Renal failure: failure of the kidneys. Vertigo: dizziness.) PLEASE BE AWARE: these symptoms can show up hours or even days after the tattoo is applied. Also, some people experience no outward reactions at all, but PPD can cause damage to your internal organs, which may not become apparent until much later.
If you know you have had an allergic reaction to black henna, or had skin, eye, or breathing trouble in close relation to having a black henna tattoo, PLEASE let your doctor know. If you have had an allergic reaction to PPD, further exposure to products containing PPD has the potential to be life-threatening!
For more information, please read this article by the Canadian Medical Association: "Allergic contact dermatitis to paraphenylendiamine in hair dye after sensitization from black henna tattoos: a report of 6 cases." Yes, I know the title makes it sound long and boring, but the article really does give a very good description of what can happen from getting "Black Henna" tattoos, and shows the kind of scaring that can result from them as well.