Thinking about getting a temporary tattoo over spring break, just for fun? Think twice, warns the FDA. Temporary tattoos don't carry the same risks as the real deal, and they're certainly not as painful to etch on your body, but tattoos marketed as "henna" can cause adverse reactions in some people.
"Just because a tattoo is temporary it doesn't mean that it is risk-free," said Dr. Linda Katz, director of FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, in a statement the FDA released Tuesday.
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Side effects include redness, blisters, raised lesions, loss of pigmentation, increased sensitivity to sunlight and permanent scarring. Some cases occur immediately, and some not for weeks. Some require emergency care.
While real henna, the reddish-brown dye made from a tropical plant, has safely been used for thousands of years to dye skin, hair, silk, and wool for cultural celebrations, today's temporary tattoo stands may be marketing "black henna" that is actually hair dye, or a mix of henna and other ingredients to make the tattoo last longer. That extra ingredient if usually a hair dye that includes p-phenylenediamine. By law, it's not supposed to be in cosmetics applied to the skin, the FDA said. Regulations over temporary kiosks near beaches and boardwalks vary by state.
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If you have a reaction from black henna, contact your doctor; the FDA is also asking to report to MedWatch.