Why I’ll never get a henna again

While I love the idea of getting a tattoo, sadly I’m too much of a wuss to go through with it. So when I went on holiday to Morocco last year and saw a chance to get a henna, I was happy. The look of a tattoo without the permanence. What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out, quite a lot.

You see, my henna took 10 minutes to draw onto my skin. My henna took 2 weeks before it started to fade.

And then, my henna took me all the way to hospital.

Unknowingly, instead of the traditional henna I’d believed I was getting, what I was actually having put on my skin was black henna, a substance that contains PPD (essentially hair dye) in a high concentration that would go on to cause a severe skin reaction akin to a chemical burn.

A word of warning to the squeamish among you. I’m about to show you what it did to my arm. And sadly, this isn’t even the burn at its worst. I just couldn’t bare to keep looking at it when it got to that point, let alone take pictures.


My wrist and hand swelled up, making it painful for me to use them. My arm itched like crazy, 24 hours a day. In the day I tried to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn’t feel the need to scratch, already terrified I’d be scarred for life. In the night, the itching feeling would make sleep impossible.

For the weeks it was at its worst, I walked around in a daze, sleep-deprived and high on anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy medication.

I’ve written this not to scare anyone, but to highlight what can happen if you get a black henna. Before this, I had no idea it existed, believing all hennas were the same. If I’d known this could happen, I would never have even risked it.

What bothers me most is that no one gave any warning of it when we were away. Of course, not everyone reacts, but the chance of such a strong reaction surely means the holiday companies that operate in these areas have a duty of care to inform you of potential consequences.

I reached out to our holiday company several times since it happened, begging them to add a warning to their welcome meeting, but they stopped replying after fobbing me off with an email saying they’d look into it. I really hope they did, for the sake of everyone, especially the children we saw asking their parents to let them get one.

I’d love to finish this saying that it’s all in the past now, but it isn’t. I’m still in the middle of being tested and checked to see what other effects it’s had on me, and what else I could be allergic to. It’s extremely difficult for me to dye my hair now, which might seem like a silly thing to get upset over, but it’s such a normal thing to want to do it’s frustrating knowing I can’t. Anaesthetic may also become a problem for me.

If anyone takes anything away from this, please let it be this: stay away from black hennas. Allergies to substances like PPD can happen at any point, and mine isn’t the most severe I’ve seen when I’ve been researching this. Don’t do it; it’s not worth it.




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