With Eid Al Fitr just around the corner, may residents have already set appointments to have their skin decorated with henna, a beautiful art form of intricate patterns and designs that has been a part of the joyous celebration for centuries.

A dermatologist, however, warned that the trendy adornment – particularly the synthetic chemicals found in black and white henna – can have serious risks that could harm your skin.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr. Eman Kotb, a specialist in Dermatology & Aesthetics at Medcare-Dubai, said: "There is no such thing as black or white henna. Real henna is orange/brown in colour, but the majority of black henna are made from a chemical known as para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can be found in hair dyes."

High chemical concentration

PPD is a common chemical in hair dye but the concentration is normally less than 3 per cent and there is a warning not to allow it to touch the scalp. The PPD content, however, in some black and white henna can go up between 10 and 40 per cent, depending on the brand and source.

Dr. Eman noted PPD at high concentration, when applied to the skin, can cause redness, swelling, blistering, painful chemical burns, and even scarring.

She warned that some reactions might take months to heal, leaving the person with a tattoo-shaped scar that may never fully disappear.

Natural henna is extracted from a plant called Lawsonia inermis. When it is applied on the skin, it gives a reddish colour that would last for four or five days, with no harmful effects. Synthetic henna, however, lasts for more than a week.

Not entirely risk-free

White henna, meanwhile, has also gained popularity as a temporary body art option among women but it's not entirely risk-free. Although white henna doesn’t stain the skin and is considered safer than black henna due to the absence of PPD, Dr. Eman emphasised: "White henna acts more like sticky body paint, lasting on the skin for 1-3 days and completely vanishing when the white coating peels off. “

But Dr. Eman warned white henna is not natural. She noted: “White henna is created using synthetic chemicals, which may not be as safe as natural henna tattoos, which have been around for a very long time.”

Use natural henna

Dr. Eman cautioned women against unfamiliar substances. She said henna tattoos are always safe, as long as they are made from natural henna."

Individuals are advised to stay away, if in doubt, and to contact a dermatologist right away if any skin reactions are detected.

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