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Black Henna - why you should avoid it

Natural henna or mehandi is never black. Black henna is dangerous and may harm your skin because extra ingredients or chemicals are added to make it black. Read the article below on what is black henna, how to avoid it and find natural henna.

Natural henna is never black !

Since the Bronze Age, people have used dried henna, ground into a paste, to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather, silk and wool. This decoration - also known as mehndi - is still used today around the world to decorate the skin in cultural festivals and celebrations.

Henna is made from a flowering plant that grows in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia. It is paste of crushed leaves mixed with natural oils like myrtle, lemon, clove, tea tree, or lavender. Henna powder and paste will have color of dark green, khaki, or greenish brown, not black.

After the application and when paste flakes off, henna typically produces a brown, orange-brown, or reddish-brown tint. This tint stays in the skin for 7 to 10 days. The color of henna and how long it will stay in the skin depend on many factors like, how fresh the henna product is, how it is prepared, what oils it is mixed with, the body part it is being applied, how long it is kept, how often it is washed with soap, the moisture level, how much you sweat and so on so forth.

color of natural henna powder when not mixed with anything
Original henna powder color is brownish green.

What is Black Henna?

If someone uses this term - Black Henna, also called "Kali Mehndi" (in Hindi) or "Piko", it is mix of chemical substances which are used for hair dye. There may be some actual henna added on the Black Henna mix but it is adulterated with toxic and harmful chemicals. Perhaps this black substance is called henna because it is used to dye the hair similar to natural henna. Application of this black material to the skin should be completely avoided.

If you see a shop or stall offering to paint black tattoos onto your skin, don't be tempted to get one. It could leave you scarred for life and put you at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Why black henna tattoos are so dangerous?
Mostly because it is mix of various chemicals, specifically, PPD (Paraphenylenediamine). PPD is a chemical substance that is widely used as a permanent hair dye. It may also been found in textile or fur dyes, dark colored cosmetics, photographic developer and lithography plates, photocopying and printing inks, black rubber, oils, greases and gasoline.
Think about applying these complex compounds into your body which immediately reacts with your skin and slowly gets into your blood stream. The hair dye is permitted in USA and European countries but when use is strictly controlled and by professional. When it is applied in hair, colorist wear gloves and it does not touch the scalp.
People who manufacture and sell the black henna are mostly undocumented. There is no control on how much PPD is being added. It may show immediate allergic reaction or may show up after weeks or months or even years in some cases. You may be happy to get black colored design in the short term but ultimate results may be devastating.
brownish green color of henna paste made fresh
Organic henna paste mixed with natural oils

Is Brown Henna safe?

Some time Benzene and it's variants like Kerosene or Gasoline are used to get quick and dark color out of henna. These are not as dangerous as PPD but still not good for you. When henna mixed with benzene is applied to you, you will get burning sensation. It will leave dark color quickly. Natural henna takes longer to give dark stain. Similar way, adulterated henna fades away faster than natural henna.

Most likely you can identify this type of henna by smell as the aroma will not be of natural oils. Benzene is a component in crude oil, gasoline, plastics, harsh solvents, and other petroleum products. When you go to the gas station you see a notice that long exposure to gas may cause cancer and do other harm. The same caution applies here too.
Fresh henna paste applied on the body is brownish green, it is not black
Natural henna color when applied is dark brown or brownish green

Henna safety tips

Here are some ways you can sense if the henna being offered is natural and good quality henna:
  • Ask the artist - what is henna paste made of
    First and foremost artist should know henna is crushed leaves of mehndi plant. Second, he or she should be able to tell, henna paste is mix of menthol, olive oil, clove oil, lemon juice, lavender, sugar, eucalyptus oil.
    If artist tells anything which you are not aware of like "mehndi oil" or just oil etc., be careful.

  • Ask the artist - what color my henna will be
    If the answer is, it will be black, you should NOT get henna from that place. Henna stain color is anywhere from orange to dark maroon. There are various ways to get the dark shiny maroon color from henna. Some of the tips to get dark henna you can find here.

  • Ask the artist - how long my henna will stay
    Natural henna takes longer to stain but stays longer too. In the contrary, henna mixed with chemicals, produce dark color very fast but also fade away soon. If the artist says - you can wash off henna paste in couple hours and henna stain will stay around 3 days, the ingredients are suspicious. There are various ways to keep the dark henna stain for longer duration in your skin. Here are some tips to keep the henna stain for long time .

  • Look for the color of henna paste
    In pictures henna paste looks black but it is dark green or brown in color. If you see the paste being applied is black, don't do it.

  • Sense and Smell
    The aroma of henna paste should be pleasant. It is mix of leaves with natural oil. If you smell chemical or gasoline, you are not getting natural henna. Application of henna is like applying toothpaste in your skin. There should not be any burning or weird sensation. The best is to test with small size or with dots. If everything seems fine then you should go ahead with complete design.

  • Be aware of what you are allergic to
    In rare cases I have came across clients who were allergic to clove oil or eucalyptus oil. If you are allergic to these, unfortunately, you should not get any kind of henna.
    Some people get itch after the paste is off due to their allergies with these oils. Coconut oil helps reducing the itch.

  • Is there any alternative of black henna tattoo
    We have seen Jagua Gel is used to get henna type designs and it is black. I do not use Jagua so do not have first hand experience but it is said that, Jagua Gel is a natural ink made with the extract of the jagua fruit. The fruis is edible and grows in rain forests of Central and South America. Traditionally Jagua fruis is used in the preparation for beverages, jams, liqueurs and to eat.
    Jagua gel may be natural and safe if no other harmful chemical is mixed with it.

Using above tips you can avoid any bad experience of getting henna. If someone fall in trap of getting black henna, there are many articles in the internet. Some good information here:

Getting henna is a fun and divine experience. That is how one should experience it.

If you have any other question, please do not hsitate to a ask us .
Disclaimer: All the information presented in the site is based on experience and other resources found on internet. We are not medical or legal professional and this article is just to make you aware of the harmful effects of black henna. Please consult with your medical or legal professional for further details.

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