The Possible Dangers of Henna Tattoos and How They Can Sometimes Cause Painful Chemical Burns

The FDA says black henna should be avoided as it can often contain harmful chemicals.

Henna tattoos are wildly popular, with even celebrities like Ariana Grande and Beyoncé getting them. The temporary tattoos made out of a natural plant are supposed to disappear after a week or so. But some people say their black henna tattoos turned into a nightmare.

Emma Evans says her right hand erupted in blisters after she got a black henna tattoo at a popular shop in Virginia Beach. Her hand felt like it “was on fire,” she told Inside Edition. She eventually sought treatment and was told she had third-degree chemical burns.

Just a month after her incident, 6-year-old Peyton Knauer got a temporary black henna tattoo at the same shop, hoping to match his dad's real tattoo. But his mother says the spot where the henna was applied itched terribly and red, raised marks soon appeared on his skin — and wouldn't go away.

“It literally looks like my child was branded,” his mom, Emily Knauer, told Inside Edition.

The scarring lasted almost a year, she added.

“I don't want this to happen to other kids,” little Peyton warned. 

Both Evans and Peyton say their black henna tattoos were done by the same artist, Amanda Marano at Karma, a shop in Virginia Beach. 

“I’m probably the best henna tattoo artist you'll ever meet,” Marano told an Inside Edition producer posing as a customer.

New York City dermatologist Dr. Doris Day says the FDA has issued warnings about the use of black henna on the skin because it can often contain harmful chemicals.  “It’s not intended for use on the skin,” she told Inside Edition.

When Inside Edition producers recently visited Karma, they found black henna advertised on the wall. 

“The black one takes like a hour to dry and it stays a lot longer,” Marano said of why she offers it along with other henna colors.

She insisted, however, that the henna she uses is safe and gave a warning to watch out for chemical black henna used by other stores.

“They put something like hair dye in it, which the FDA says you're not allowed to put that on your skin cause it can cause irritations and burning,” Marano said. 

But Evans and Knauer’s mom say Marano used black henna.  

“We were never told it was black henna. We were never given any warning,” Knauer said. 

Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero asked Marano about the sign in her store offering black henna.

“Are you advertising black henna here? Isn't that dangerous?” Guerrero asked. 

However, the artist hid behind the front counter instead of answering.

“She’s actually ducking behind the counter. That's how much she doesn't want to talk to us about this,” Guerrero said. 

Today, Evans' hand has healed and so has Peyton’s arm, but his mom has a message.

“I want to stand outside of every henna store with pictures and say this could be your kid,” Knauer said. 

The boy's family is suing Marano. She denies any wrongdoing.