Three years ago, the Groves family decided to take a vacation to Egypt for the Easter holiday. Liam, who was 13 at the time, and Owen, who was 11, pressed their mother Alison to allow them to get henna tattoos at their hotel. When she finally obliged, the boys sat down with the artist, who worked at the resort, to get the fake tattoos on their backs. To the family’s horror, the fake ink wound up leaving some gruesome permanent scars.
Henna is a generally a harmless product used to create beautiful brown temporary designs on the skin, but when Liam and Owen groves got their henna tattoos, the artist, unbeknownst to them, used black henna that’s made using hair dye and contains chemicals that can cause irreparable damage to the skin.
“The boys had been asking for henna tattoos and I gave in and we had them done by the man running the gift shop in the hotel,” said Alison Groves. “We sat in the gift shop whilst he did them. Now I wish I had never let them have them done.”
On the journey back to their home in the UK, both boys started to experience discomfort that eventually turned into severe itchiness and burning. Eventually, they discovered that the ink had burned their skin, and three years later, the family is in an ongoing legal battle with the travel company.
“As a parent I was mortified and devastated by what I saw,” continued Alison. “They had pussed and swelled up massively. I wish I had never let the boys have them. It was a huge mistake. I would ask any other parent to think twice before letting their children have them done. I can't believe it [the lawsuit] has dragged on this long. The pain and suffering my boys have been through I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. “
Virgin Holidays, the travel company that runs the Egyptian resort, has reportedly been less than helpful to the family since the ordeal.
“But all that is compounded by Virgin and their reaction,” continued Groves. “Their behaviour has been awful and that have treated us with contempt throughout this process. They are in the wrong but they think they can drag this out and we will just go away. But it's just not right that they can allow this sort of thing to go on in their resorts then cover it up as if nothing ever happened.”
“It is disgraceful that UK Tour Operators continue to allow Henna tattoo artists to operate within these resorts unchecked knowing that the ink they're using can lead to horrific scarring and disfigurement,” said the family’s attorney Nick Harris.
Virgin did release a statement via a spokesperson, which said, “Virgin Holidays were concerned to learn of the reaction that these customers experienced following the henna tattoos they had during their holiday to Egypt in 2011. Virgin Holidays takes the well-being of all of its customers very seriously. However, as this matter is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings we're unable to comment further.”
Three years later, the brothers, now 16 and 14, are still suffering from the effects of the black henna, and reports say they will never be able to get any permanent tattoos or piercings because of their reaction to the chemicals.