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The City Council's Trading Standards Service is continuing to warn the public about dangerous 'black henna' (mehndi) products. Henna products are popular all year round. They can be found at summer shows and events in the form of henna tattoos, and are increasingly used around the Eid period by young children and adults to decorate hands, arms, and dye hair.

Henna is naturally a shade of orange/red, and in its natural form is perfectly safe to use, and a good alternative to chemical based hair dyes.

Henna has however been found on sale in premises in other parts of the country and these products have been found to contain additional chemicals. These chemicals are added to the henna to make it a darker shade/black. The additional chemicals are usually Phenol and PPD.

The Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013 SI 2013 No. 1478 (external site) do not permit the use of phenol in any cosmetic product. Phenol has been found to have a corrosive effect to the skin, and the side effects can remain for months after it has been used.

PPD is only permitted to be used in permanent hair dyes, and is not safe when used in non-permanent hair dyes such as henna, due to the lack of a suitable coupling agent. When used in non permanent hair dyes PPD has a sensitising effect. This means that users may be fine after the first few applications, but in some cases will gradually become more sensitive over time leading to allergies. PPD in this form has also been linked to mutagenic effects and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and in some cases can be fatal. It typically results in a number of symptoms including an itchy rash, throat swelling, and low blood pressure.

The safety message is clear. Use natural henna in its orange/red form and avoid darker shades of henna. It is also a good idea to carry out a patch test, to check for any reaction before applying any product to the hair or skin.

The City Council's Trading Standards Service has now undertaken a widespread inspection and sampling programme of retailers and wholesalers across Newcastle, which sell henna hair and skin products. Following the analysis of some 13 samples of products as purchased by officers, the Trading Standards Service has now advised all the retailers, where non compliant products were found in their premises to remove those products from sale. View a full copy of the report (pdf 475 kb).


For more detailed guidance on the requirements set out in the Cosmetics Products Enforcement Regulations 2013 (external site) go to our Guidance on Safety of Cosmetic Products webpage

To see information on a related issue go to our Safety of Skin Lightening Products webpage.

Copies of the legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed on the OPSI website.

This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help suppliers of all cosmetic products to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the Regulations for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.

For further information contact the Trading Standards Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH.
Phone: 0191 2116121
Email: tradingstandards@newcastle.gov.uk

Page last updated: 
9 November 2018
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