Watch: ‘A henna tattoo on holiday left my hands scarred for two years’
A woman has revealed how a severe allergic reaction to a henna tattoo caused her hand to blister and remain scarred for almost two years.
Laura Velaye, 25, from Nottingham, was on holiday in Greece in 2021 and decided to treat herself to a henna tattoo – a temporary inking – from a local art stand that she spotted while out on a walk.
But shortly after getting her hand tattooed, Velaye noticed she was having a reaction to the dye, which was causing her skin to look and feel irritated.
In the following days, the reaction grew progressively worse, with huge blisters forming on the henna patterns.
Velaye was eventually forced to seek medical attention from doctors, who pierced the blisters and dressed her hand with bandages, which she wore for two weeks while waiting for the wounds to heal.
However, two years after receiving the tattoo, Velaye's hands are still scarred from the reaction.
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Recalling her decision to get a henna tattoo while on holiday, Velaya says: "We just walked past and I decided that I wanted to get a Henna done.
"But about half an hour later, it started itching me."
Having driven back to her hotel and washed her hands to try and "scrub it out", Velaya started to worry she may have a reaction because she says her skin is quite sensitive.
"But I'd never had one in the past to henna in England, so I didn't really think too much of it," she ads.
At first she says her hands just started to feel itchy, but gradually it got worse and more consistent until she was unable to sleep because of the itching.
"The next day, I woke up and there were little balls of puss and blisters," she continues. "From then, it just started getting worse and worse.
"The burn was really bothering me and I was struggling to bend my fingers because the blisters were so big.
"As soon as I bent them, they popped and then they just came back.
"It was really upsetting," she adds.
Despite seeking medical treatment and being referred to a burns unit, Velaya says her fingers remained scarred for the next two years.
Now that her fingers have finally healed she wants to share her story to help make people aware of the risks of allergic reactions to henna.
"It has definitely made me more cautious on my future actions," she says. "At the time I was really upset and didn’t know how it was ever going to end."
‘Black henna’ temporary tattoos: the facts
While many people may opt to get temporary tattoos while on holiday or at a festival, there are some risks associated with so-called ‘black henna’ temporary tattoos (BHTTs) .
According to the British Skin Foundation real henna is orange/brown in colour, but the majority of BHTTs are not based on henna, but a substance called paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which is found in hair dyes.
While PPD is allowed for use in hair dye, its use for skin contact products such as temporary tattoos is illegal in the European Union.
The British Skin Foundation explains that when PPD is used on the skin in this way it can cause blistering, painful skin burns and may even lead to scarring.
It can also leave the person with a lifelong sensitivity to PPD, which increases the risk of a severe allergic reaction when using hair dye in the future.
Recent research found that four out of 10 dermatologists polled had seen patients with skin reactions to BHTTs.
What to do if you experience a reaction to ‘black henna' tattoo
The British Skin Foundation advises seeking medical advice from a doctor or dermatologist immediately.
Dial 999 for an ambulance if you think you or someone you’re with is having a severe allergic reaction.
If you think you're experiencing a reaction to hair dye but it's not an emergency the NHS suggests:
Washing your hair and scalp thoroughly with mild shampoo to remove any excess dye
Try gently applying an emollient (moisturising treatment) such as aqueous cream or petroleum jelly to the affected skin
If you develop a reaction to hair dye, even just a mild one, the NHS advises should stop using products containing PPD altogether, as there's a risk you could develop a more severe reaction in the future.
Try switching to a safer alternative, such as a non-permanent, PPD-free hair dye – but be aware that it's still possible to develop a reaction to this.
More information about skin conditions:
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Mandy Moore on battling eczema: ‘I had to find some semblance of relief’ (Motherly, 4-min read)
Google says ‘Lens’ can now search for skin conditions based on images. Here’s how (The Independent, 2-min read)
Additional reporting Caters.