Little Girl ‘Potentially Scarred for Life’ After Black Henna Tattoo Erupted in Blisters

August 11, 2019 Updated: August 11, 2019


Temporary black henna tattoos containing paraphenylenediamine (PPD) are a health hazard and can cause permanent scarring experts warn after a then-7-year-old suffered severe chemical burns.

Madison Gulliver, then 7, and her brother Sebastian, then 9, were holidaying with their parents at a plush hotel in Hurghada, Egypt, in July 2017. Their mother, however, suddenly fell ill with a gallbladder infection. The children were very good and stayed by their mother’s side in the hospital to keep her company.

For being good, Dad treated them to a temporary black henna tattoo at the in-house salon just for a bit of fun. Sebastian complained of itchiness, so his pattern was washed off immediately. Only after arriving home in England on July 25, 2017, did Madison complain that her tattoo was itchy.

Her pretty-looking tattoo that ran from her fingers to her elbow progressed from a red rash, after trying to wash it off, into erupting blisters.

“It started to blister so we started looking on the internet about black henna tattoos and that’s when we realized all the worrying things,” Madison’s father, Martin, told The Metro.

The father, who was also the manager of Royal Mail, further added, “I think it’s partly my fault because I didn’t know about it, but also the fault of the salon because they are using dangerous chemicals on children.”

What was meant to be a treat ended up with a visit to the burns unit (WARNING – graphic images).

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Steroid creams were prescribed by doctors for application, but when the blisters did not subside, Madison was rushed to A&E and later transferred to Salisbury District Hospital burns specialists.

Her dad said: “We started to panic. They had never seen it before, and each time we went in they were trying different things but it was getting worse and worse.”

A high level of the chemical called paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, which is added to henna, making the tattoos appear darker, was found in the blisters on Madison’s arm.

“Medics at a specialist burns unit had to cut them off. They decided to treat the skin by removing the blisters, so they could access the burned skin underneath,” said Martin. “She is potentially scarred for life after getting a black henna tattoo.”

“They thought they would be able to soak the blisters and rub them off, but that wasn’t possible as they were so thick, so they had to cut them off.”

However, Dad says Madison was very brave, “She wanted to see what they were doing so we couldn’t get her to look away, she was really good and kept saying ‘you’ve missed one.’”

After this incident with his daughter, Martin took to warn others about the potential danger of black henna tattoos.

“We have emailed the hotel but they said there’s nothing wrong with the henna, and it must be a problem with my daughter,” Martin said. “When I responded I sent back a link to the dangers of it and told them to talk to their own doctor, who was trained in the UK.”

The hotel in Hurghada apologized and said they’ve stopped offering the tattoos.

According to reports in 2017, Madison’s mother, Sylvia, said that the doctors hoped that the scarring would disappear within two years.

Madison’s ordeals were also experienced a year later by another child. In August 2018, a then-7-year-old boy named Owen Richardson had a black henna tattoo done during his holidays in Salou, Spain.

A week after he returned home from his vacation to Consett, County Durham, the black-colored pigment started to scrape off and looked like painful chemical burns and caused blisters to erupt in his body.

The distraught mom, Leanne Richardson, told The Sun: “We knew nothing about the dangers of black henna tattoos when I finally Googled it my blood ran cold.” The mom revealed that the boy got three tattoos done including a dragon outline and a paw print on his right arm plus a tribal design across his chest.

Within a week, the little boy was taken to A&E. Medics at University Hospital of North Durham dressed his blistered skin with huge bandages. In addition to that, the little one was given a steroid cream, a course of antibiotics, and allergy tablets.

“They told us about PPD in black henna and dressed all his burns, he was covered in bandages like a little mummy,” Leanne shared.

According to Owen’s mother though, the burns didn’t cause him any pain; however, he was left feeling “self-conscious.” Owen would wear long-sleeved tops to cover his scars.

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