FDA has received reports of adverse reactions to some “decal,” henna, and “black henna” temporary tattoos

FDA has received reports of adverse reactions to some “decal,” henna, and “black henna” temporary tattoos. Here is information about the safety of these products and how they are regulated. Learn more: https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Products/ucm108569.htm

“Decal” Temporary Tattoos

Decal temporary tattoos are used to decorate any part of the body, including areas of the face and around the eyes, and may last for a day or up to a week or more. They are especially popular with children and at Halloween.

There are two kinds of decal tattoos:

  • Some are images attached to a removable backing. The decal image is removed from the backing by wetting, and the image is then applied directly to the skin.
  • Others have a backing that adheres to the skin, creating a partial or complete barrier between the skin and the dyes used in the image.

The difference is important, because not all dyes are known to be safe for use on the skin. While an adhesive backing may protect the skin from unapproved colors, there may be other ingredients on or in the decal to help the image adhere better either to the backing or to the skin that may cause problems for some people.

FDA has received reports of reactions to some decal-type temporary tattoos. Before using a temporary tattoo on your face, it may be a good idea to try it on a less conspicuous part of your body.

Henna, or Mehndi, and “Black Henna”

Henna, a coloring made from a plant, is approved only for use as a hair dye. It is not approved for direct application to the skin, as in the body-decorating process known as mehndi. This unapproved use of a color additive makes these products adulterated. It is unlawful, for example, to introduce an adulterated cosmetic into interstate commerce.

Because henna typically produces a brown, orange-brown, or reddish-brown tint, other ingredients must be added to produce other colors, such as those marketed as “black henna” and “blue henna.” Even brown shades of products marketed as henna may contain other ingredients intended to make them darker or make the stain last longer on the skin.

The extra ingredient used to blacken henna is often a coal-tar hair dye containing p-phenylenediamine (PPD), an ingredient that can cause dangerous skin reactions in some people. That’s the reason hair dyes have a caution statement and instructions to do a “patch test” on a small area of the skin before using them. Sometimes, the artist may use a PPD-containing hair dye alone. Either way, there’s no telling who will be affected. By law, PPD is not permitted in cosmetics intended to be applied to the skin.

FDA has received reports of injuries to the skin from products marketed as henna and products marketed as “black henna.” For more information on Henna, see the consumer update: Temporary Tattoos May Put You at Risk.