Update 10/23/17: You can now by henna tattoos body stickers. They even come in metallics! They are less messy and easier to use, but you can be more creative with a henna kit.
Here’s a summary of information I found when I researched the subject:
Temporary tattoo decals, usually applied with water, contain color dyes that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) as cosmetics, meaning the agency has tested them and found them to be safe for direct dermal contact. The FDA has received reports of minor skin irritation including redness and swelling, but the cases are child specific and have resulted in no warnings to the general public. The FDA has in the past issued import blocks on products that do not comply with federal labeling laws, so check to see that the temporary tattoos you buy for your child clearly list the ingredients to be safe.
While temporary tattoos are fun for children, some of the potential side effects can cause a lifetime of misery. Be sure to check the types of dye listed as ingredients used to make the temporary tattoos and be on the lookout for paraphenylenediamine (PPD). This chemical has been found to cause severe allergic reactions in children and adults…
Common skin irritations and conditions caused by black henna include eczema, swelling, blisters, rash and scars. Eczema is a painful skin issue that causes swelling, peeling and dryness of the skin. Once this condition is diagnosed, it is common to have regular outbreaks throughout a lifetime. Swelling and blisters can usually be addressed by visiting your doctor, but the after-effects can be serious. After exposure to these, cross-allergies can occur after coming into contact with other items that contain similar chemicals, like hair dye, sunscreen and printer ink.
A doctor has issued a warning to parents when it comes to wearing temporary tattoos created with black henna. Dr. Sharon E. Jacob in a presentation to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that black henna commonly used in creating temporary tattoos, causes serious skin reactions…
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does prohibit the use of para-phenylenediamine (PPD) directly on skin. However, persons still add black henna to natural henna (which is safe) so as to make the markings more long-lasting.
The next time you go somewhere and want to allow your child or children to get those attractive temporary tattoos ask what ingredients are in the dye being used. If it contains PPD, you should just walk away. This doesn?t mean that all henna is dangerous and cause allergic reactions. Vegetable henna that has not been modified with the addition of PPD is safe for use.
The most common type of temporary tattoo comes as a decal. The tattoo is an image printed on water-permeable paper. You press the paper, ink side down, against the skin and dab the back of the paper with a moist towel or cotton ball, which transfers the image to the skin. The colorful cartoon-character tattoos aimed at toddlers are decals. The Food and Drug Administration requires that decal-type tattoos use only pigments that have been approved for use in cosmetics, meaning they are non-toxic and non-allergenic.
However, not all decal tattoos conform to FDA regulations. The agency has issued import alerts for certain tattoos made in China and Taiwan that include non-approved ingredients, don’t declare their ingredients or don’t display an “FDA Approved” ingredients label on the packaging. When choosing temporary tattoos for your toddler, the FDA advises that you look for such a label; at the very least, don’t buy temporary tattoos that give no indication of what’s in their ingredients.
Are temporary tattoos a safer option?
Rub-on decal tattoos are generally safe to use. People with sensitive skin may still develop a reaction, though. Foreign-made decals may contain colors that aren’t FDA-approved, so check labels carefully.
Henna tattoos contain dyes that are not approved by the FDA for use on the skin. Henna and some of the chemicals that are added to it to make it look darker blue or black are approved only for use as hair dye. These substances can cause serious skin reactions.
No tattoo – temporary or permanent – is completely safe. Knowing what to look for and what to ask before you get inked is the best way to protect your health and also the quality of the body art you get.
Do temporary tattoos lead to a desire for permanent ones? Probably not. I’m more concerned about what may actually be in those tattoos than my children will be covered in ink as adults.
U.S Food and Drug Administration: Temporary Tattoos & Henna/Mehndi
What about “decal”-type temporary tattoos?
Temporary tattoos, such as those applied to the skin with a moistened wad of cotton, fade several days after application. Many contain color additives approved for cosmetic use on the skin. However, FDA has received reports of allergic reactions to some temporary tattoos.
An Import Alert is in effect for several foreign-made temporary tattoos. According to Consumer Safety Officer Allen Halper of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, the temporary tattoos subject to the import alert are not allowed into the United States because they don’t have the required ingredient declaration on the label or they contain colors not permitted for use in cosmetics applied to the skin.
What about henna, or mehndi?
Henna, a coloring made from a plant, is approved only for use as a hair dye, not 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 and therefore illegal. An import alert is in effect for henna intended for use on the skin. FDA has received reports of injuries to the skin from products marketed as henna.
Since 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.” So-called “black henna” may contain the “coal tar” color p-phenylenediamine, also known as PPD. This ingredient may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. The only legal use of PPD in cosmetics is as a hair dye. It is not approved for direct application to the skin. Even brown shades of products marketed as henna may contain other ingredients intended to make them darker or make the stain last longer.
In addition to color additives, these skin-decorating products may contain other ingredients, such as solvents.
This may be another instant where I appear as a parenting hypocrite, as we have applied henna tattoos in the past but fear the transfer decals. It’s interesting that black henna contains PPD, but I think the henna tattoos we’ve used are safe.
I did allow my children to apply their Valentine decal tattoos. It’s a rare occasion, and I figure once won’t hurt them. Perhaps I should lighten up on my temporary tattoo stance, or perhaps not.
jenniferanayo / Pixabay