Is henna harmful? Know the side effects of chemically-made Mehndi


New Delhi: Mehendi or Henna is part of the Indian tradition, and is carefully applied on hands, feet, and even hair for the beautiful, natural colour that the extract of the leaves renders to the skin. Various designs and patterns are made with henna on arms, legs, palm, shoulder, etc to make the hands look prettier, and to ring in the festivities.

Henna also has a scientific relevance and is applied for the cooling effect it has on the body. It helps relieve stress, headache, fatigue, etc which are common during weddings or festivals. Henna is applied on occasions like weddings and during festivals such as Diwali, Rakshabandhan, Eid, Karwa Chauth and others. It is applied on the hair for its properties like conditioning, and it even acts as a natural dye for grey hair.

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However, recently, many people have complained of itching, redness, and peeling off of the henna from the hands. The ideal way that henna comes off is that the colour gradually fades over days, even weeks. However, with all the chemicals being used in Mehndi which is available in the market, it is causing certain reactions with the skin. These chemicals may have certain reactions with the skin and be harmful to you.

According to a report in the TOI, henna sellers have started using para-phenylenediamine (PPD) in the mixture. This chemical is widely used in hair dyes, fabric dyes, and even makeup products. It is used in these products in quantities less than 3 per cent, while when used in the Henna mix, it makes up ten to forty per cent of the whole mix. This chemical can adversely react with the skin. Some people have experienced restlessness, redness, itching, blisters, etc due to the presence of PPD in the Mehendi mix. According to, the use of PPD on the skin is prohibited by the FDA. They have also replaced essential oils that were used in the Mehendi mixture with white oil, to increase the darkness of the colour. Essential oils are safe for use, and in fact, have a few health benefits. White oil, on the other hand, is not healthy for the skin or the body.

Other adulterants used in henna are carmine, pyrogallol, orange dye, chromium, silver nitrate, etc, all of which help in enhancing the effect of henna colour on the skin. Some manufacturers have started using only chemicals that stain your skin in the mix and not the henna. Henna is added to the mix in very small quantities, which helps to increase the shelf-life of these products. Such henna is also called ‘imitation henna’, as it hardly contains any real henna leaves. Imitation henna can contain substances as harmful as kerosene, gasoline, lighter fluid, benzene, paint thinner and others, all of which can adversely react with the skin.

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