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Adverse Effects of Chemical and Arq Henna/Mehndi

Dr. Tayyaba Masood

2 min read

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Henna, derived from the Lawsonia inermis plant, has been used for centuries for cosmetic, medicinal, and cultural purposes. It is commonly associated with temporary skin staining and has gained popularity worldwide for its application in body art, hair dyeing, and traditional medicine. However, the rise in demand for henna-based products has led to the emergence of chemical and Arq (aqueous extract) henna preparations, which may harbor adverse effects on skin health. This article aims to explore the adverse effects associated with chemical and Arq henna, shedding light on the potential risks they pose in dermatological practice.

Chemical Henna:

Chemical henna refers to commercially available henna products that are adulterated with synthetic compounds such as para-phenylenediamine (PPD), ammonia, and other chemicals to intensify color and prolong staining duration. While PPD is a potent dyeing agent, it is also a notorious allergen responsible for a spectrum of adverse reactions ranging from mild irritation to severe allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) and systemic manifestations.

Adverse Effects of Chemical Henna:

  1. Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD): PPD-induced ACD is the most common adverse reaction associated with chemical henna application. Sensitization to PPD can occur with repeated exposure, leading to erythema, edema, vesiculation, and pruritus in the affected areas. Severe cases may manifest as bullous dermatitis or even systemic reactions such as angioedema and anaphylaxis.
  2. Chemical Burns: High concentrations of PPD in chemical henna formulations can cause chemical burns upon prolonged contact with the skin. This results in painful erythema, blistering, and necrosis, potentially leading to long-term scarring and pigmentation changes.
  3. Hypopigmentation/Hyperpigmentation: Chemical henna may disrupt the normal melanin production process, leading to unpredictable changes in skin pigmentation. Hypopigmentation (loss of skin color) or hyperpigmentation (excessive skin darkening) may occur, especially in individuals with sensitive or reactive skin.
  4. Hair Damage: Chemical henna preparations can cause structural damage to hair shafts, leading to dryness, brittleness, and increased susceptibility to breakage. Prolonged use of chemical henna may result in irreversible damage to hair texture and quality.
  5. Arq Henna: Arq henna, also known as aqueous henna extract, is derived from the soaking and sieving of henna leaves in water to obtain a paste-like consistency. Unlike traditional henna paste, Arq henna lacks the natural dyeing potency of Lawsonia inermis and may contain contaminants or impurities that pose risks to skin health.

Adverse Effects of Arq Henna:

  1. Irritant Contact Dermatitis: Arq henna preparations may contain impurities or microbial contaminants that trigger irritant contact dermatitis upon skin contact. Symptoms include erythema, burning sensation, and localized inflammation, which typically resolve upon discontinuation of use.
  2. Bacterial and Fungal Infections: Poorly processed or contaminated Arq henna may serve as a medium for bacterial or fungal growth, leading to infections such as folliculitis, cellulitis, or even systemic sepsis in severe cases. This risk is particularly heightened in individuals with compromised skin barrier function or pre-existing dermatological conditions.
  3. Chemical Sensitization: Some commercially available Arq henna products may contain additives or preservatives that can sensitize the skin upon repeated exposure, resulting in allergic reactions or hypersensitivity dermatitis.


While henna has been revered for its cultural significance and therapeutic properties, the adulteration of henna products with synthetic chemicals or impurities poses significant risks to skin health. Dermatologists should remain vigilant in educating patients about the potential adverse effects of chemical and Arq henna preparations, advocating for safer alternatives and prompt management of henna-related complications. Regulatory measures and quality control standards are imperative to ensure the safety and efficacy of henna-based products in dermatological practice.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Tayyaba Masood
Dr. Tayyaba Masood - Author Dr. Tayyaba Masood is a Dermatologist with 8 years of experience. You can book an appointment with Dr. Tayyaba Masood through oladoc.com or by calling at 0518151800.

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