Henna Banned in New Jersey!

henna2.jpgWhat’s a Jersey Desi girl to do without her “henna tattoo”? The New Jersey Legislature today passed a bill, A940, which would prohibits application of certain temporary tattoos. (h/t inothernews). I was surprised that all hell didn’t break loose from the Jersey Desi Bridezilla population who had to rework the activity on their Mehndi night. Then I read the legislation.

Assembly Bill No. 940 prohibits body art establishments from applying temporary tattoos containing paraphenylenediamine (PPD), including “black or blue henna…

[U]nlike traditional henna which is made from an organic, plant substance, certain temporary tattoos contain additives, in some cases, PPD which can unknowingly cause permanent health concerns and scarring. Long term effects include severe dermatitis, eye irritation and tearing, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions and coma in humans…PPD is not approved for direct application to the skin. [njleg]

Phew! Y’all can relax.The ban is only on the black henna w/ PPD, not the traditional organic mehndi made from smashing up henna leaves. Though the South Asian subcontinent henna leaves all leave a deep red dying of the skin, the traditional black henna comes from Africa and the Middle East. It turns out black henna isn’t even derived from the same plant as regular henna is.

“Black Henna” is a misnomer arising from imports of plant-based hair dyes into the West in the late 19th century. Partly fermented, dried indigo was called “black henna” because it could be used in combination with henna to dye hair black. This gave rise to the belief that there was such a thing as “black henna” which could dye skin black. Indigo will not dye skin black.[wiki]

The lesson here, Mutiny? Don’t use henna/mehndi unless it is pure and natural, the kind from the motherland. And never get yourself tattooed at one of those beach side tattoo places. Desi, please. Everything-is-Indian Uncle now has another story to add to his list.

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

15 thoughts on “Henna Banned in New Jersey!

  1. Can you place that photo under the fold so that it is not on the front page. The scarring, infection, and boils are really disturbing.

  2. It only prohibits tattoo parlors (et al) from using it. Individuals can still use it to their heart’s content.

    And never get yourself tattooed at one of those beach side tattoo places.

    God, don’t even step foot in those. Beaches are disgusting enough.

  3. Oh, god, Neha — I didn’t even realize the photo is of scarring and infection until I read your comment. That is horrifying.

  4. The scarring, infection, and boils are really disturbing.

    Now you know how being hennapecked feels like.

  5. Um, the henna in the motherland is laden with chemicals too. In fact, just recently, the girls at my cousin’s mehndi in Patna had a long, drawn out conversation about how commercial henna is no longer the natural stuff it used to be. It was mentioned that the new spiked henna (intended to darken quicker) fades away differently than natural henna, but no one reported any crazy skin problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, though. Safety standards, if they exist, are a joke in South Asia. Don’t get me started on what they put in commercial milk.

  6. Safety standards, if they exist, are a joke in South Asia. Don’t get me started on what they put in commercial milk.

    I heard that

  7. @Shurti #7

    That’s what I was going to say. Places in India advertise the “black henna” to unknowing folks as well.

    Sigh… so many problems… lead in your Holi powders, articles about lead in sindhur and spices (/www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1971906,00.html?artId=1971906?contType=article?chn=sciHealth) , and dangerous henna. It’s katarnak to be a lady these days.

  8. It’s sad to hear about the risks in commercial henna. Are people aware of a henna supplier/ brand name henna product that doesn’t carry the “lead in your toothpaste” risk?

    I liked the offhand “Everything is Indian Uncle” reference-well played.

  9. I used to think my family didn’t have an “everything-is-Indian-Uncle.”

    Then I realised: it’s me.

    So anyway: is there a reliable source for how to make one’s own henna?

  10. ente, try hennapage.com. They are super-aware of the dangers of black henna and other additives, and they have a store attached to their site. (Disclaimer: I’ve never ordered their powder or paste, but I have bought other supplies from them.)

  11. It’s alright, what matters most is that your still alive. It could be worse, just stay alive.. :D

  12. Henna has no PPD. Henna is not being outlawed, but rather those products with PPD or those who use PPD trying to pass it off as henna. No henna artist who has integrity uses any product with PPD. This is a good law as it protects everyone.