Our yearly jam-packed shaadi season has arrived. December holidays are right around the corner which means we’re in for multiple weddings every other day.
Whether it’s your own wedding or someone else’s, there’s one thing all weddings will have in common-
Mehndi is the traditional art of painting the hands, feet or body with a paste made from the powdered, dried leaves of the henna plant. We’ve all grown up totally covering ourselves with Mehndi every wedding or eid season. It’s been something that everyone has done for generations and some people even have a whole event where attendees of the wedding can come get their Mehndi done before the wedding!
Traditionally, you’d have your mehndi done and you’d have to keep it on you for hours and hours to achieve a deep stain, anyone remember keeping hands in front of heaters or even blow drying your henna? The countless totkas of applying oil, vicks, lemon juice, sugar and god knows what else to ensure the color comes out dark?
But, ever since the 2000s rolled around there’s been a switch in the Mehndi market. In the past decade everyone was like ‘I ain’t got time fo dat‘ and wanted to get to the black color without the khawaari of leaving it on for the whole night (and didn’t want the ever looming risk of waking up with the design printed on your face).
Thus, we created the market for “black henna”
Black henna promises a stain that’s going to always be well, black as the name suggests. It’s usually applied with a special syringe like applicator and is a thin watery-gel like liquid. This gives you an instant stain on your hands.
Why would you ever want to try something else?
Well, being in Pakistan we know very well that actual henna will always be somewhat green, we know what it smells like and we know that it would never wash out black, it always developed to that stage over the course of a day or two.
Which begs the question : How can black “henna” even have henna in it?
The answer: It doesn’t.
The black paste used in this may contain high levels of a chemical dye so powerful and toxic that it is illegal to use it on the skin in this way.
Yes you read it right.
Black hennas main ingredient is a chemical called paraphenylenediamine (PPD). PPD is used in permanent hair dyes. Although hair dyes contain a small controlled amount of it in them.
Dr Chris Flower, director general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association, explains: “PPD is safely and legally used in permanent hair dyes where clear instructions are given, and where the maximum level is controlled by law. But black henna often contains PPD at high levels, to give a dark colour quickly”
What Makes Black Henna So Toxic?
When applied to the skin in the form of a black henna temporary tattoo, PPD can cause chemical burns and lead to allergic reactions.
It’s not necessary that the first time you’re exposed to PPD you experience an allergic reaction.
The first symptoms of a PPD reaction are itching, tingling – progressively these can also be painful stinging, bruising, swelling, redness and blistering of skin.
At one of its worst stages, the reaction can burn the outline of your design permanently on the skin.
What to do if you have a reaction?
If any of this happens to you, rush to the nearest hospital. You’ll need treatment for chemical burns. If possible, take the tube of “black henna” with you in case the burns are extreme and the doctors need to know exactly what’s in the liquid that caused it.
Apart from the direct immediate reaction, there’s also the risk of becoming sensitized to PPD. Meaning, even if you come in contact with PPD far into the future, even years later, you can have a severe reaction to it. You might not even realize you’ve become sensitized to it until it’s too late. Even if you haven’t had a reaction to your hair dyes you need to always do a patch test. There’s no knowing when you have become sensitized to the PPD.
Caution for all the Brides:
This especially goes out for the brides, as you might already be going through several treatments to prepare for your big day that you haven’t tried before, do not throw potent PPD into the mix. You won’t have much knowledge about every single ingredient that is being used on you throughout the wedding preparation and a potential allergic reaction is the last thing you’d want.
We Pakistanis have a habit of not taking things very seriously. Kuch nai hota puri zindagi kuch nai hua but with things like this we need to be careful. A quick tattoo isn’t worth risking your health for.