Paying the Prize for Beauty




Introduction: Paying the Prize for Beauty

About: I like to make things more simple with easily available resources. My favorite quote: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write...

The picture you see here has been going viral in Facebook for the past few weeks.

The story as appeared with the photograph was of a girl about to get married, applied Black Henna on her hands and got infected severely, and the doctors were trying to save her life by amputating the infected hands (which may not be true...). However, by looking at those blistered hands, it seems that the girl has paid a heavy prize for beautifying her hands with Black Henna.

What is Black Henna...?

Pure, natural henna paste when applied on hands and feet gets oxidized and gives a deep mahogany red stain on the skin where ever it is applied. This stain lasts for about two weeks and then starts to fade. The natural henna does not have any side effects.

To get a thicker stain which lasts longer than the natural henna, a toxic chemical known as ParaPhenylenediamine (shortly called as PPD) is added to the henna paste. The resulting stain on the skin is almost black.

The toxicity of ParaPhenylenediamine as mentioned in the "International Chemical Safety Card" by "National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health" are as under:


The substance is irritating to the eyes . Inhalation of dust may cause asthmatic reactions. Swelling of mouth and throat may be observed following ingestion. The substance may cause effects on the blood , resulting in formation of methaemoglobin. Exposure may result in death.


Repeated or prolonged contact may cause skin sensitization. Repeated or prolonged inhalation exposure may cause asthma. The substance may have effects on the kidneys , resulting in kidney impairment.

Many young girls and married ladies are very eager to apply Mehendi on their hands and feet. Even men use black henna to dye their hair. But most of the store-bought Mehendi cones are adulterated with PPD

So, what to do...? Choose your Mehendi cones with caution. Check to make sure that they are not mixed with PPD. Also, buy only those cones which contain the manufacturer's label and address mentioning that it contains only natural products. Otherwise, make your own Henna paste.

I have already published an Instructable named "Indian Mehendi Art: Decorating your hands with Natural home made Henna paste", which you can access here.
However, after seeing that picture above, I felt it necessary to post details of making natural henna paste at home once again here.

This is not to destroy the livelihood of so many Mehendi artists out there, but to educate everybody about the ill effects of Black Henna.

Step 1: The Henna Tree : Lawsonia Inermis

The Henna tree (Botanical Name : Lawsonia inermis) is a small multi-branched tree. The leaves grow opposite to each other on the stems and have depressed veins on the upper surface. The tree flowers in bunches which are very fragrant. The henna tree can be propagated by cuttings or from seeds. You can grow it in a very limited space also.

The henna tree you see here is growing in our back yard. Our children use the natural henna leaves only for making the mehendi paste.

Step 2: Collect the Leaves

To make the mehendi paste, collect the fresh leaves from the henna tree

Step 3: Add Few Drops of Lemon Juice

Wash the henna leaves and place them in a mixer / grinder. You can add a few drops of lemon juice, which will help in enhancing the color

Step 4: Make Paste

Using the mixer / grinder, make a paste of henna leaves. Your mehendi / henna paste is ready for applying on your hand

Step 5: Make Cone

The mehendi paste can be very easily applied to the required design on the hands by using a cone made with non-absorbent paper. make the cone and fill with mehendi paste

Step 6: Apply on Your Hands

Using the mehendi cone, apply on your hands to the design of your choice

Step 7: Leave It Overnight

Leave the henna paste on your hands overnight. You can wash the dried out henna paste in the morning. The outcome may not be as dark and as deep as the Black henna, but it is very safe.

Enjoy the mehendi design made with home-made henna paste without any side effects



    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest

    30 Discussions

    Oh horror, so sorry, spelt Instructables wrong!!! So ashamed. Love you people!

    Oh horror, so sorry, spelt Instructables wrong!!! So ashamed. Love you people!

    Checked the 'herbal' product I was using to go blue-black and now I am grovelling at your feet in ludicrous gratitude. The second ingredient down was p-Phenylenediamine. I would have continued using it, as it seemed to leave my scalp and hair in a better condition than the any other product. But kidney impairment, you say? Well, my beautiful boyfriend of 13 yrs died Friday 2 wks ago from that and its not something I would hope on anybody or family. Thank you again, and thank you Instructabled for making it possible for posts such as these to be put on the net.

    This is why I make all of my henna pastes personally. OUCHIES

    Remembering childhood days when my mom and sister used to make it using leaves .. Now it became rare...

    My grandma used to do this when I was a kid and she used to make small circle shaped discs of henna and place it in our palms (that was the design :-) )and also cover all our finger tips.

    1 reply

    that was the design used in earlier days... the invention of cone has changed all that and now you can draw any design you want using the henna filled in cones

    When i was way younger i got a henna tattoo of a dolphin on my ankle, at first i didn't understand the concept so i was scared it was going to hurt, now i look back and laugh at myself lol (i was probably around 7 years old i believe)

    1 reply

    The use of the term black henna isn't only for ppd based products. Here in Kuwait, black henna is used to refer to any black color applied to the skin or hair in the same designs as the actual natural red henna plant. Mixing indigo with henna to make black is still called black henna, jagua gel is called black henna (حنه سوده). Even using inks or other black colored dyes in designs is still called henna soda or black henna.

    Perpetuation of the myth that ALL black henna is PPD is as false as the myth that black henna is lawsonia. Black henna in Arabia refers to black designs used like the red henna is.

    1 reply

    I hope all those black henna packs sold in Kuwait contains a label that lists the ingredients used to make them. Anybody can check that and make sure they do not contain ppd irrespective of what they are called

    ahh the pretty red colour.. BTW what is used for the traditional red colour?

    1 reply

    we use fresh lime juice, few drops with the mix or applied over the mehendi decoration with a cotton bud

    Oh my gosh thank you so much for creating this post. I deleted my Facebook a while ago and I'm pretty antisocial, so I haven't heard about this story at all. Tomorrow I was planning on using black henna I bought but now I'm throwing it away and I gonna start growing my own. this was so helpful. thank you!

    1 reply

    good you did not use the black henna you bought... always use the natural henna leaves. The color may not be that much attractive but it is safe

    The doctors were trying to save her life by amputating the infected hands (that needs confirmation...).

    Those hands aren't infected, they're blistered. She is suffering a reaction to the paste that is clearly freshly-applied to her hands. She is either allergic to one of the ingredients of the henna, or the henna has been contaminated by something corrosive.

    Use it as a demonstration of why you shouldn't get your hands henna-ed by a street vendor, but, please, don't perpetuate a myth.

    4 replies

    Thank you Kiteman...

    I do not perpetuate a myth, but given a rough translation of what is given under the picture in Urdu in this page :

    I do not believe that myself, that's why I have mentioned in parenthesis (that needs confirmation...).

    PPD is indeed the irritant. It's a common component in modern hair dyes (and is similar to colour photographic film developers). Many people are allergic to it, and it's sensitising as well (which means repeated exposure can cause you to become allergic to it). The blistering is due to this allergy — similar to poison ivy.

    Because PPD is sensitising, it's possible that you can use it on your skin for some time without seeing ill effects, but on a later application, develop an allergic reaction. This is why gloves are used when dying hair (and those in the beauty industry must avoid direct contact, since becoming sensitised to something so necessary to their work may cause them to need to change careers entirely.)