Child’s Bali Henna Tattoo Scare Sparks Mother’s Public Warning

Kaitlyn Salzer, a Melbourne mother and father of four, was on Kuta Beach in Bali with her family for the first holiday when two henna artists approached them.

One of the two quickly grabbed Imogen, a nine-year-old girl, and a large black henna wolf pattern began to be drawn.

It began to blister within days, leaving behind a scarred area. Salter discovered that the henna paste contained dangerous chemicals.

Salter said they had never been to Kuta Beach and didn’t realize how crowded it could be.

Salter claims that the nine-year-old picked out a turtle-shaped design from a book while sitting on beach chairs.

A second henna artist approached Imogen and placed his design on top of the first artist’s. She was told to go with a wolf pattern instead.

“She’s pretty easygoing, so (she) was just like, ‘OK, I’ll just get the wolf’. He had already started the wolf tattoo on her arm before we knew what was happening.

Imogen was in pain for two days, as if she’d been doing handstands.

Salter explained, “I applied some antiseptic to it, and all the blisters were open and oozing the next morning.”

Salter's nine-year-old daughter Imogen got a black henna tattoo in Bali. She didn't realise a dangerous chemical in the henna would cause potentially permanent scarring.
Imogen, a nine-year-old daughter of Salter, got a black Henna tattoo on Bali. She didn’t know that the henna contained a chemical that could leave permanent scars. Credit: Facebook

The wound improved with antibiotics, Betadine daily washes and antiseptic lotion, but it began to itch when they returned to Australia.

Salter stated that the welted-up area was scorching and felt like it had been burned.

She wants to rip off her skin, which has been so itchy.

Salter says that despite adding a stronger dose of antibiotics and two antihistamines in addition to a special burn cream, “it still looks like keloid-like scarring.”

It’s still there.

Salter, a registered nurse, said Imogen didn’t worry about the painful cut because she was confident that “Mum” would fix it.

Salter told Imogen that her main complaint was not getting the turtle design.

Allergic chemical triggers lifelong sensitivity.

Imogen is also aware she might now have permanent sensitization to the allergenic chemical paraphenylenediamine (PPD), commonly mixed with natural henna to make black henna — which her skin is reacting to.

The Journal Of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology published a study finding that PPD in black henna increased intensity and longevity. It also reduced drying time.

The research shows that PPD is an oxidative substance used in many permanent hair colouring products at home and in salons.

“Many persons believe that the ‘temporary’ status of the tattoos makes them safe. This is not the case.

It described many reactions, ranging from mild to severe eczema.

Researchers found that “these temporary tattoos may (also) cause a significant and long-lasting sensitization which could lead to reactivity to permanent hair colours, rubber chemicals and inks in clothing dyes in the future, as well some diabetes and blood pressure medication.”

The chemical may cause hairdressers to be allergic if they work with it frequently.

Salter said many people with similar henna experiences contacted her via social media. She also shared her warning and noted they had been hospitalized after trying to tint their eyebrows or dye their hair.

Salter stated that Imogen was “upset” that she would never be able to dye her hair or do what teenage girls desire.

Netizens reassured Salter that, with diligent application of sunscreen and Bio-Oil, their henna scarring cleared up within months or years — but not all were so lucky.

One person wrote: “My son was 10 when he reacted.” “He is 30 and still has a ‘Ripcurl’ outline on his arm.”

Salter didn’t know the dangers of PDD and black henna until she was told by a henna artist in Kuta Beach. She wants to educate other parents.

“If I’d known about this, I wouldn’t have let her get the henna,” she said.

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