Getting a henna tattoo may seem like a completely innocent and commonplace way to have fun and express yourself. For most people, there is nothing permanent about them.
However, one family had an experience with henna tattoos that may have made a permanent impact on their 7-year-old daughter, Madison Gulliver. It all started after her mother fell ill on a family vacation.
While staying at a hotel in Hurghada, Egypt, Mom Gulliver suffered from a gallbladder infection and had to go to the hospital. Her son and daughter stayed by her side without complaining.
As a reward for tending to their mother so well, their father took them to the hotel salon to get temporary, black henna tattoos. Madison’s brother, Sebastian, 9, complained that his tattoo was itchy, so they washed it off.
Madison did not have any complaints until they arrived home in England. She began to complain that her tattoo was itchy, and her parents noticed that a red rash was developing on her arm.
When it started to blister, her parents became very concerned. They began doing some research which prompted them to take her to the doctor.
After steroid cream was not effective, she was rushed to the emergency room and then to the Salisbury District Hospital burn specialists. The doctors found para-phenylenediamine in high levels in Madison’s burns.
PPD is commonly added to henna to make the tattoos appear darker. Apparently, there was enough PPD added to the henna used on Madison’s tattoo that it caused an adverse reaction.
The blisters on Madison’s arm were so thick that burn specialists actually had to cut off her blisters in order to treat the burns underneath. Madison’s dad said she was very brave through the whole ordeal.
“She wanted to see what they were doing so we couldn’t get her to look away. She was really good and kept saying, ‘you’ve missed one,’” he said.
A similar case occurred in Morocco in April. The morning after getting a henna tattoo on the street, Sophie Akis noticed horrible blisters all over her hands.
She had no means of visiting the hospital in Morocoo, so pharmacists bandaged her hands for the long trip home. Akis is now warning others about the dangers of black henna.
The FDA has been warning people for several years to be very cautious about using “black” henna, which really isn’t henna at all. While the traditional reddish-brown henna used in Africa and Asia is generally harmless, black henna uses chemicals that have been banned from use in hair dye.
That chemical is PPD, the chemical that caused Madison so much pain. It is important to be very wary of black or blue henna tattoos, and to make sure that the formula being used does not contain any harmful chemicals.
Poor Madison has suffered a lot because of her injuries, but she has been brave through it all. Her parents hope that speaking about their scary experience with black henna will help other families to avoid the same fate!