FDA Warns Temporary Tattoos Far From Harmless

April 10, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about certain types of temporary tattoos that are causing bad skin reactions. It's something dermatologists at the University of Virginia have been seeing for years.

"If your kid is going to a birthday party or on spring break and they want to get one of these temporary tattoos, my advice is, don't do that," said Dr. Thomas Cropley, the chair of the dermatology department at UVa.

The black chemical dye used in some temporary tattoos and henna body art can cause a serious allergic reaction, called contact dermatitis. Symptoms can include blisters, open sores, and permanent changes in skin color.

"It's a very easy diagnosis that the doctor can make because there is nothing else that can do this," said Cropley. "The patient will have had a temporary henna tattoo applied to their skin...and after a few days, the black color of the tattoo starts to be joined by redness and swelling and blistering in the exact pattern of the tattoo."

But there is a difference between the black henna dye that causes skin irritation and authentic body art dye and henna. Nancy Miner is a body artist and owns a company called Metamorphosis! Art for Your Body. Miner says she is booked for events like children birthday parties and corporate events, alike. Miner only uses authentic henna, not the black henna and says it important to ask a body artist before getting any work done.

"That's always something you want to ask," Miner said. "Anybody that's going to put anything on your skin, be it a makeup artist, a body painter, or whatever. What are you using?"

If you have a reaction to a temporary tattoo, the FDA asks you to report your case at this link.

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