Henna tattoo reaction leaves woman swollen, blistered

Henna, temporary tattoo applied for ceremonial rituals for thousands of years, is used all over the world. Popular in Northern Africa and the Middle East, is is often applied before weddings.

“It's an exotic look and I wanted to try it,” said Patrice Smith whose henna experience will most likely not be temporary.

Recently, Smith went into Village Market's Nowal Beauty Supply in Minneapolis to get the tattooing done and she had nothing but high expectations.

“Unfortunately it was beautiful that turned into something truly ugly and painful,” Smith said.

Two days after Smith had the henna applied, the areas of her hands and arms covered by the ink started to change.

“My arms were so swollen to the point where I couldn't close my hands.”

Swelling, burning and blisters took over the artwork.

“It woke me up out of my sleep -- the burning sensation,” She continued. “The itch, non-stop itch.”

After seeing a doctor Smith now treats the tattoo-turn-blisters that are expected to leave behind long-lasting scars.

“It could take up to a couple years for the scaring to actually start to fade.”
Doctor Travis Olives, a Toxicology Fellow at Hennepin County Medical Center, says when it comes to adverse henna reactions Smith is not alone.

“It's once every two weeks or so that we get a call about this,” Dr. Olives said.

The Minnesota Poison Control System has gotten just over 100 calls from those who've suffered allergic reactions to the ink over the past 5 years. Most because of a particular ingredient found in some henna ink called Para-Phenylenediamene (PPD) which is typically added to the black henna.

Now both Olives and Smith hope those interested in getting inked in this way make an informed decision.

“Before you do it you want to test yourself and you don't want to experience what I experience because it's not easy. It's painful, truly painful.” Smith warned.