Black henna tattoos can cause allergies to hair colourants

If you’ve been on holiday to sunny exotic shores you may have been tempted to have a temporary black henna tattoo. They are banned in the EU, but you regularly see people offering them on the beach or poolside.

They are attractive, fun and only temporary, so what’s the problem?

Answer: If you colour your hair (at home or professionally) black henna tattoos can cause nasty allergic skin reactions.

Always let your hairdresser know

If you have had one of these tattoos applied on holiday and you have your hair coloured, then it’s essential to let your Zaks hair stylist know before your next colour service. Please tell us even if the tattoo (along with your holiday memories) has faded away.


Because even if you have had your hair regularly coloured, these innocent-looking tattoos can cause you to suddenly develop new allergic reactions to hair colourants.

What exactly are black henna tattoos?

Many temporary tattoos are created using genuine henna extract. The orangey-red paste is applied to your skin in a pattern which stains the skin as it dries. This stain or “tattoo” fades slowly and eventually disappears after a few weeks.

The problem occurs when tattoo artists use the much darker ‘black henna’. Unfortunately ‘black henna’ isn’t henna at all. Instead it may contain PPD (paraphenylenediamine) to give it the dark colour.

The use of PPD in tattoos is banned in the EU. It can be very harmful when applied directly to skin and may cause people to develop an allergy to hair colourants.

Is PPD alright for use in hair colour?

Whilst illegal for tattoos, PPD is used safely and legally as an ingredient in many hair colourants.

Even if your skin didn’t react badly when the tattoo was applied, the tattoo may still sensitise you to PPD. In turn this increases the likelihood of you reacting badly to the PPD in hair colourants in future.

This is why you should always tell your hairdresser.

In case you were wondering, the PPD in hair colourants is fully regulated under rigorous EU cosmetic regulations and is safe to use for this purpose.

Zaks Hairdressing value your wellbeing

If you think you’ may have had a black henna tattoo recently please let us know. We’ll then carry out a simple quick skin patch test. The skin test needs to be done 48 hours before your colour services appointment so mention it to our receptionist when booking your colour service. There is no charge for the patch test.