Skip Nav
Beginner Fitness Tips
4 Things You Need to Know Before You Run Outside
Intermediate Workouts
A Total-Body Workout With Just 6 Moves
Healthy Recipes
32 Vegan Lunches You Can Take to Work

Are Henna Tattoos a Health Risk?

Summer festivals are in full swing, and one thing I see at many of them is women applying Henna tattoos. Also known as Mehndi, these tattoos are not actually permanent and only last between one and three weeks, depending on your skin and the quality of the henna. The tattoo is applied in the form of a paste that looks like chocolate frosting made by grinding up dried leaves from the henna plant and is mixed with water, lemon, and essential oils. After the paste dries, it's peeled or picked off after about 24 hours and you're left with an orangey-brown stain tattoo on your skin.

Since it's made from a plant, it has to be safe, right? To find out


Henna is perfectly safe, when mixed with lemon, water, and other natural ingredients such as eucalyptus oil. The problem is, some henna artists apply something called black henna. This type of henna is dangerous because it contains para-phenylenediamine (PPD) hair dye. When applied to your skin it leaves a black stain, but can cause blisters, open sores, and scarring.

How can you tell if a henna tattoo is safe or not? Traditional henna paste will look dark green, khaki, or greenish brown, not black, so if a henna artist is applying a slick black paste, do not get a tattoo from them. You can also ask the artist how long you're supposed to leave the paste on. If they say less than one hour, they're using PPD. Traditional henna doesn't stain your skin that quickly. Also ask the artist what color the stain will be once the paste comes off. If the answer is black, walk away. Henna will leave an orange stain that will darken to red brown or dark brown, but it's never black. If you're just not sure, it's best to skip out on the henna tattoo. If you're set on getting one, buy a henna kit ($24) and do it yourself.

brick164 brick164 8 years
hmm, i wonder if using henna hair dye is safe then, cause i plan on trying it.
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 8 years
Wow, I've never heard of/seen black henna before - my friends have done it for years, and it's always been a green paste! That PPD stuff sounds pretty scary!
BalooB BalooB 8 years
Last year when I was in India for a wedding and got mehndi, I thought something was amiss because the skin on my hands literally started peeling off. It was so painful. But the colour was not black, it was still the deep orange, so I'm not sure about what it was. It was so out of the ordinary for me, because I've literally had mehndi done dozens of times and this never happened. Interesting though.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 8 years
I LOVE Henna tattoos. I love the idea of marking your skin, but not permanently, with the natural inks. I don't mind waiting for it to dry because I always enjoy the color that is revealed after the green is peeled off. I try to keep it on as long as possible to get a darker stain :) I hadn't heard of black henna before, so thanks for the warning Fit!
cg130 cg130 8 years
Weird, all the things you don't know...I've always wanted to get a henna tattoo..maybe I'll DIY-it!
Kimpossible Kimpossible 8 years
I think they're gorgeous. Have always wanted to get one.
Beaner Beaner 8 years
I have a friend who knows how to apply henna, so I've had it at least 15 times. And I think it's a fun and safe way to decorate your skin, and feel like you have a tattoo without the pain or permanence of a real one. And I'm glad you're taking about Black henna because it gives all natural henna a bad reputation!
tsesci tsesci 8 years
wow nice tattoo
patiwroblewski patiwroblewski 8 years
I could never consider getting a henna tattoo, bc its ugly to me.
Natural Treatment For Bloating
Healthy Work Lunches
Healthy Pumpkin Spice Foods
30 Days of Snacks
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds