Women rushing to beauty salons ahead of Eid-Al-Fitr have been warned against using black henna, with authorities and dermatologists saying the “chemical-loaded” beauty product damages the skin and could even harm one’s kidney.
During Eid, Omani women are known to decorate various parts of the body, such as hands, nails and feet, using black henna in designs, which is mostly procured from Sudan.
“Black henna is a permanent dye. The Omani women use it to make it appear brighter and darker… sometimes the manufacturers use some newspaper ink too… There are many patients I am seeing for blisters, such as bubbles and burnt allergies in their hands,” Dr. Ashok Thomas Mathai, specialist dermatologist at KIMS hospital told.
He said, “If one continues using henna, it can get absorbed systematically and can damage the kidney. There are such possibilities. It’s due to the chemicals present in it.”
This week, the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP), also issued an advisory urging women to shun the usage of black henna. The advisory came with photographs showing hennaed hands and arms wrought with red blisters. Other pictures showed a floral pattern of infection in the hands and legs.
“Please beware of applying black henna to your skin, eye lashes, and eyebrows. It’s proven that it’s harmful to the skin,” the advisory warned.
Mathai said the disease does not spread.
“It’s a patterned allergy. It’s called henna-related allergic contact dermatitis. It appears according in a floral pattern. There are cases where it has left permanent scars and marks, which are hard to get rid of. It depends on your skin type. Fair-skinned people get this allergy quickly,” the dermatologist said.
Mathai said it’s hard to say what ingredients are included in the composition of the black henna “because sometimes it comes in a paste format.”
“And people blindly use it,” he said.
He further said such instances mostly come to light during festivals and parties attended by Omani women and are mostly healed with steroid creams and antibiotics, but warned that UV light could also trigger a reaction.
Dr Aliya, a dermatologist at Star Care hospital in Muscat said that such patients should avoid sunlight and UV rays.
“If they are exposed to the high sun and UV light, it will affect… causing blistering and sun burns,” she told.
Other health experts suggested that tested henna should be used instead of randomly selected brands.
“Henna could be tested for two days. One can apply two dots of it at the elbow and two behind the ear and check after 24 hours if the skin is sensitive,” Dr Vandana, skin care specialist at the Apollo Hospital told.
In case of blisters and swelling, she said patients should keep their hands in ice cold water or apply refrigerated calamine lotion.
“Women are even using henna in the nails, which comes with fungal infections. These days I see five to seven patients a day for fungal infections,” she said.
Dr Vandana further pointed out that black henna comes with para-henylenediamine (or PPD)—a chemical substance that is widely used as permanent hair dye.
“This chemical is made from coal tar that includes benzene, naphthalene, phenol, aniline. Its contact with the skin should be avoided,” she said.
Henna has silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, and disperse orange dye, which she said has been found to cause allergic reactions and chronic inflammatory reactions.