Henna - When All Natural Isn't All That
The ProcessSkin-protective gloves were donned as we mixed and applied the greenish-looking mud to our hair. Heated towels were wrapped around our heads and changed regularly to ensure maximum effect. Rinsing out the mixture proved to be time consuming, required extensive cleanup and resulted in permanently stained towels. All in all, it was a lengthy project. Nonetheless, we were pleased as punch at having achieved the coppery tone that was the 'it' hair color of the moment.
After that first experience, the thought of repeating the arduous and messy process kept me from more than a very few repeat performances. In retrospect, I'm quite pleased I was such a lazy susan, because henna carries all kinds of warnings I was blissfully unaware of at the time.
How Henna WorksHenna is able to dye or stain because of its natural content of lawsone. Lawsone is an organic compound that binds naturally with protein, and then reacts with the keratin in skin and hair. It is this reaction that causes the coloring. This is nothing new. Mankind has known about hennas abilities to color since the Bronze Age.
As far back as around 1200 BC, henna has been used to dye skin, hair, fingernails, and even textiles such as silk and wool. It may actually be the first nail 'polish' in history. The ancient Egyptians dyed their fingernails with henna. Traces of it have been found on the hands of mummies that were several thousand years old. The decoration of skin with henna has functioned as part of religious, spiritual and cultural traditions for centuries.
Henna – Are You Sure?The henna name is from the Arabic word hinna. Over time, this name has made its way on to a selection of products that unfortunately don't have much to do with henna. True henna has only one color – a relatively light terra cotta shade. Any other 'henna color' has additives. If you are presented with a range of 'henna colors' to choose from (such as 'black henna', 'burgundy henna', 'brown henna') it's probably a wise idea to be on your guard.
Some henna dyes have been found to contain additives that cause inflammatory or late-onset allergic reactions. These additives include such things as silver nitrate, carmine, orange dye, chromium, or the suspected toxic pyrogallol. Most of these extra ingredients have been found in pre-mixed body dye pastes, but that doesn't mean you can feel 100% confident if you're working with a powder.
Beware the VayCay Henna TattooHaving a henna tattoo done while vacationing may seem like a bit of fun, but be aware that some henna tattoo artists add petroleum to the henna so the color will 'take' better. Petroleum is absorbed into the skin along with the color, and can give serious and irreversible reactions that may show up within a few days, but may also take up to 10 years to surface.
'Black Henna' - The Worst News of All'Black henna' in particular has been found to contain all kinds of undesirables that can cause severe allergic reactions and even permanent scarring. The most undesirable ingredient of them all is p-phenylenediamine – also known as PPD.
PPD is illegal to use on skin in most western countries. You will, however, find it in hair dye where it is allowed with a maximum dosage of 6%. Hair dyes that contain PPD also come with warnings that the dye must not touch the scalp and must be rinsed off quickly.
Black henna skin tattoo pastes have PPD dosages from 10% up to a whopping 80%. Couple that with the fact that the paste is left directly on the skin for up to half an hour and you are begging for trouble. A black henna tattoo may very well leave your skin blistering after a few days. To add insult to injury, sensitivity to PPD is lifelong. A person with PPD sensitivity may have future allergic reactions to everything from perfumes and printers ink to dyes and sunscreen – and even some medications will provoke reactions.
I'm Using 100% Real Henna. Then There´s No Worries, Right?Well.... have you ever gone swimming in the sea? Then you've experienced firsthand how salt water wreaks havoc on hair. The henna plant – lovely as it is – has a very high natural salt content. So, even if you have done your homework and are absolutely certain you are using 100% natural henna coloring, you are not benefiting your hair or scalp with it.
There is a chemical similarity between the lawsone in henna and PPD. Cosmetic scientist Colin Sanders writes, in a post entitled Can Your Hair Dye Kill You? :
A Final Caution (You Mean There's More?!)
"The lawsone found in henna has enough similarities to p-Phenylenediamine that there is still a risk that it would provoke the same reaction."