Little-regulated Henna tattoos can create permanent scars


Henna tattoos are almost a rite of passage for Myrtle Beach tourists. The temporary ink designs can be purchased at a number of shops on Ocean Boulevard, applied relatively quickly and will last for up to 60 days.

But for some, the effects can be longer than that.

The FDA is warning consumers about a potentially dangerous chemical found in some black henna dyes called paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a coal-tar hair dye that serves as a color additive. PPD is approved as a hair dye, but not for the skin.

If PPD comes into contact with someone who is allergic, it can cause a burning sensation that causes the skin to bubble and scar.

Related: Teen has bad reaction to henna tattoo

Currently, the FDA cannot regulate PPD as long as the label on the bottle contains the following statement:

"Caution - This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dyeing the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness."

The FDA also does not regulate tattoos, instead deferring to states. ABC15 reached out to DHEC, and was told that henna tattoos do not meet the state's definition of a tattoo. Therefore, DHEC does not regulate henna.

In fact, the only ordinance we could find that regulates henna tattoo shops on Ocean Boulevard belonged to the City of Myrtle Beach.

It requires stores to display a sign warning people about the dangers of henna dye, and provide a receipt for the tattoo before it is applied.

"We've had years ago a complaint or two about someone who's skin was damage from one of the temporary tattoos, so we made sure that we had the store owner put a notice up saying that it's not approved for this use," Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said.

Our crew was asked to leave all but one henna store when they identified themselves. When we asked about the ingredients in their products, one employee said they didn't know what was in their dye.

Most other stores said their dyes were made from jagua, a South American plant that, when combined with a few other natural ingredients, makes black ink.

Only the store at University of Rock N Roll showed us a bottle with the label printed on it, proving that they actually use jagua ink and that their tattoos are safe.

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