Patrice Smith wanted to adorn herself with some temporary body art using henna, a plant-based dye frequently used in India and the Middle East for special ceremonies. “It's an exotic look and I wanted to try it,” she told KMSP.
Smith visited the Village Market's Nowal Beauty Supply in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to get henna done on her arms and hands, but a few days later, she says the dye began to change, blistering over the artwork.
“My arms were so swollen to the point where I couldn't close my hands.”
She says the experience was excruciating. “It woke me up out of my sleep — the burning sensation,” she said. “The itch, nonstop itch.”
The henna eventually scarred over and Smith thinks it might be permanent. “It could take up to a couple years for the scaring to actually start to fade,” she said.
Reactions like this are not uncommon in henna that contains para-phenylenediamene. This so-called “black henna” is only supposed to be used in hair dye. The Food and Drug Administration recommends individuals test the henna on their skin first and check the ingredients list.
Dr. Travis Olives, a Toxicology Fellow at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said reactions like this are not uncommon in unsuspecting consumers. “It's once every two weeks or so that we get a call about this,” Olives said.
Smith warned others to follow the FDA’s guidelines. “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,” she said.