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Danger, Danger!



Whoa! Wait a minute! You’re telling everyone henna’s safe and then all of a sudden there’s a post on the dangers of it? Yes and no. Henna, as I talked about in earlier posts is perfectly safe, no question about it. What I’m talking about now is something else called ‘black henna’ (and now I’m not talking about the indigo-variant). Some sellers experiment with henna by adding chemicals too it, in an effort to quickly make jet black temporary body art and calling it black henna. One of those chemicals is p-phenylenediamine, or PPD! The downside of this little devil is that it can also cause severe allergic reactions, blisters, intense itching, permanent scarring and permanent chemical sensitivities, such as against coal tar derivatives. In between 3 to 15% of people have these allergic reactions, so it’s pretty much a no go. A lot of people, however only find that out when it’s too late. Since p-Phenylenediamine is also often used in permanent hair dyes, now is a better time than ever to switch to henna! Let’s keep in mind that henna does not cause these adverse reactions, it is the PPD that does!

There are also other forms of so called ‘black henna’ made with gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, benzene and lighter fluid. Just to give you an idea what kind of nasty stuff they’re trying to mix in it. These substances have even been linked to adult leukemia, so stay away from it! There is no such thing as ‘black henna’ for body art!

Other places you can find p-Phenylenediamine

At work, PPD can be found in:

  • Printing inks
  • Photographic developers
  • Dyes and coloring agents for textiles, furs and other products
  • Permanent and some semipermanent hair dyes
  • Black rubber products and equipment parts

At home, you could find PPD in:

  • Printing inks
  • Permanent and some semipermanent hair coloring products
  • Textile and fur dyes
  • Coloring agents for facial hair

How to avoid p-Phenylenediamine?

Since p-Phenylenediamine can be found in a lot of products it can be quite tough to deal with an allergy to it. I thought it’d be best to give you some tips on how to avoid it all together.

  • The first one is obvious: only use products without PPD or related chemicals! If no information is given (I would already find that very suspicious), speak to your local pharmacist or doctor.
  • Tell everyone that needs to do something or prepare something for you (hairdresser, physician, pharmacist, dentist, beautician, veterinarian, …) that you’re allergic to PPD and should take this into account.
  • If you still want to use chemical dyes, test them on a small patch of skin first, according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Being PPD-allergic means that you could also react to certain textile dyes. Therefore ask your physician which clothes, fabrics and furs you should avoid.
  • If for some reason you have got to come into contact with PPD, use protective gloves, preferably disposable gloves made of natural or synthetic rubber or vinyl.
  • Speak to your employer if you come into contact with PPD at your work. If this is indeed the case, ask if it’s possible to use another product or consider wearing gloves.

Last word of advice

If you’ve come into contact with p-Phenylenediamine and start to notice any swelling, itchiness, redness, blistering or abnormal reaction, immediately contact your physician to get proper treatment! So keep in mind that Henna is a healthy way to color hair, as long as no metallic salts are used!


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