What was intended to be a harmless souvenir from Myrtle Beach, turned into a nightmare for a family visiting from Georgia.
A boy will likely be left permanently scarred from a temporary tattoo he says he got at a shop on Ocean Boulevard.
They're popular with tourists, but what are known as black henna tattoos can be dangerous. And if you're thinking of getting one of them, it's buyer beware, because they are totally unregulated.
Mason Adams, 13, of Ringgold, Georgia was visiting Myrtle Beach with his family last month, when he says he went to a shop on Ocean Boulevard to get a black henna tattoo.
By the next day, Mason was suffering from an intense reaction to the henna ink. "Later that night it started turning a lighter color and then the next morning, on Saturday, when he woke up there was actually small blisters there and no ink left," said Mason's mother, Dusty Murphy.
Pure henna is a natural plant-based mixture. But often what are known as black henna tattoos are made with a chemical called PPD, which is only approved for use in hair dyes and not intended for direct application to the skin. "When it's placed on the hair, it's supposed to be left 30 minutes, max. So here I left black hair henna dye on my son's skin for 6 hours," Murphy said.
PPD can cause painful, burning reactions in some people.
But the tattoos are unregulated, so all state health officials can do is give a warning to consumers. "They should just be very careful, be very cautious, and maybe go in and ask some questions before making the decision with the procedure," said Adam Myrick, SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control.
Mason's doctor says the boy will now have a lifelong susceptibility to products with PPD, including some medications with black printing on them. Mason got a tattoo of his last name and the logo for Fox Motorsports.
As painful as the scar was, he says, it could be worse. "I'm glad that I got this now so it wouldn't be like Spongebob or something silly, and that's what all my doctors told me," Mason said.
Mason's mother says she was assured by the operator of the tattoo shop that PPD was not an ingredient in her son's tattoo.
We tried to talk to the shop's owner Thursday, but she declined to comment.
State health officials put out a health advisory about the tattoos in 2005, after two boys in North Myrtle Beach were hospitalized from severe reactions.