Woman who developed life-threatening allergy to black henna warns others of risks

As a child Tesni Williams from Anglesey was treated to a black henna tattoo while on a family holiday in Lanzarote.

The toxic levels of chemicals present in the black dye used in the temporary tattoos triggered an allergy that still blights 22-year old-Tesni to this day.


A few hours after I had the tattoo I started having an allergic reaction. My skin came up in big lumps and blisters which were very sore. It left me with a burn mark on my arm where the tattoo had been.



But her problems were only just beginning.

“As I got older and started experimenting with cosmetics and hair dye I started reacting to certain things.

“I had my hair tinted with a dark dye and the next morning my head had swelled up like a balloon, my throat was swelling – it was scary”, she said.

Tesni suffers from an extreme allergy to Paraphenylenediamine or PPD – a chemical widely used in permanent hair dye products.

When doctors at her local hospital diagnosed her allergy, Tesni said they were surprised at how serious the condition was.

“The doctors couldn’t actually believe how much of a reaction I had to PPD, I was completely blistered, red, so so sore, they couldn’t believe the severe reaction I’d had.”


In 2012, Julie McCabe died after suffering an extreme allergic reaction to a chemical in her L’Oreal hair dye.

An inquest into her death heard the same chemical was also contained in massive amounts in black henna tattoos – and that they increased susceptibility to an allergic reaction.

Julie McCabe

Her life is at risk if she comes into contact with any form of black ink or dye containing PPD.

But despite this, she has not let the condition stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming a beautician.

It is scary living with the allergy and working around products with PPD.

“I had two choices, to give up completely or work around it, All I can do is protect myself with gloves”

Black Henna is not to be confused with natural henna which is usually an orange brown colour and made of natural ingredients.

According to a recent survey by the British Skin Foundations around 20% of adults and 20% of children could be susceptible to a PPD allergy.

Under EU law black henna ink is illegal to use in direct contact with the skin. But despite this it is still widely used for tattoos here in the UK and abroad. And during the summer holiday season, Tesni wants to warn people of the dangers of black henna.

I live every day with a life threatening allergy. I really strongly advise parents to think twice before letting their children have these black henna tattoos, I really want to raise awareness as to how dangerous they can be.


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