Spring Break & Temporary Tattoos = FDA Warning

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Red Dress with Flowers and BeadsStudents on Spring Break may be tempted to get a temporary tattoo, but on March 25, 2013 the FDA issued a Consumer Update regarding these tattoos.  According to the FDA Consumer Update, temporary tattoos last from three days to several weeks and are applied to the skin’s surface rather than injected into the skin as with a permanent tattoo.

Dr. Linda Katz, director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors said, “just because a tattoo is temporary, it doesn’t mean it is risk free.”  Consumers are reporting serious and long-lasting effects such as redness, blisters, raised red weeping lesions, loss of pigmentation, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and even permanent scarring.

The problem seems to be that tattoo artists are using black henna instead of the reddish-brown henna.  Black henna may be a mix of henna with other ingredients, or may really be hair dye alone.  According to the FDA it is potentially harmful because the ingredient used to make the henna black is often a coal-tar hair dye containing p-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause dangerous skin reactions in some people.  PPD is not supposed to be used in skin cosmetics.

However, some states regulate temporary tattooing, while others don’t. So you may be in a state where no one is checking the safety of temporary tattoo places.

We encourage you to check out a tattoo business with your BBB before going there to get the tattoo.  If you’re traveling and you have an iPhone, you can download our free BBB Mobile iPhone App that allows you to check any business or organization in the United States and Canada.  

See your family physician if you experience an adverse reaction to a temporary tattoo.  Also, the FDA asks you to contact them at 1-800-FDA-1088.

For information about other safety alerts and recalls, see

CPSC Issues 15 Recalls

Infant Seat Recall

Are You Using Something That Has Been Recalled

Voluntary Recall for Excedrin, NoDoz, Bufferin, and Gas-X

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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