News and Features

BBC reports again on the dangers of ‘black henna’

The BBC’s ‘Fake Britain’ reporter Matt Allwright has been investigating two aspects of the ongoing story of the illegal and dangerous use of ‘black henna’ products.

The first involved the Loxham family who were on holiday in Spain. Walking along the beach at Malaga they spotted a tattoo bar and thought it would be a bit of fun if their two boys, Gabriel 6 and Reuben 4, had ‘temporary’ tattoos. Gabriel chose a scorpion and Reuben a skull and crossbones. The family returned home, all was well, and the boys enjoyed showing off their tattoos.

A week later, though, as Gabriel’s tattoo started to fade, his skin started to swell and blister, and his arm soon became a weeping sore. His doctor put him on antibiotics and the family now fear that Gabriel will be permanently scarred. He may also now be sensitised to PPD, the ingredient in ‘back henna’ which is used in illegally high concentrations. “It’s something he’ll have to be careful about for the rest of his life” says his father Simon.

The second ‘black henna’ investigation was closer to home and covered the use and sale of ‘black henna’ paste in tattoo salons in the UK. One customer told of the 2 weeks of pain, swelling and burning she had suffered after being tattooed on her arms. She too may have permanent scarring. Trading Standards Officers from Newham Council in London were filmed visiting tattoo parlours and confiscating packets of paste.

PPD is used legally in a whole range of hair and beauty products, but its concentration is very carefully limited. Where the concentration is over the limits then its use is illegal and can be dangerous, with unpleasant and permanent results, as the BBC’s continuing investigations into ‘black henna’ are showing.