Henna tattooing

Henna tattooing is a form of temporary body decoration similar in appearance to a tattoo, although the colour of henna is usually somewhere between red, orange, brown or burgundy.

In recent years henna tattoos have become very popular, as they are fast, easy, painless, affordable and temporary. Henna tattoos can last from 12 days to a couple of months.

Henna tattooing does not involve skin penetration.

Western Australia currently has no provisions under the Health Act 1911 (external site) requiring henna tattoo businesses to be registered by local government.

The process of applying henna tattoos carries a possible risk of spreading infection and operators are encouraged to follow standard precautions.

Black henna tattoos

Black henna is not a natural substance – it is mixed with paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which changes the colour and reacts more quickly on the skin.

PPD is a toxic substance often used in black hair dye which causes the colour of the dye to be nearly black, much darker than natural henna.

It is illegal to use this substance on a client’s skin in Australia, but is more likely to be used in some overseas holiday destinations, such as Bali.

PPD can cause

  • oozing blisters that are itchy and painful
  • permanent scarring
  • sensitisation dermatitis
  • throat irritation
  • bronchial asthma
  • nausea
  • sore throats
  • light headedness.

As an operator you may wish to advise your clients on the use of natural henna and provide them with a list of ingredients demonstrating you do not use PPD.

Standard precautions for operators

  • Operators performing a henna tattoo should have access to hand washing facilities.
  • Operators should wash hands with soap and running water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after applying henna tattoos.
  • A client’s skin should be clean and free of skin infections before a henna tattoo is applied. Operators should wipe the area of skin to be tattooed with a sterile disposable swab and disinfectant before beginning the tattoo. The skin should be left to dry for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Henna stencils should only be used once and disposed of after use.
  • Enough henna should be dispensed for each client into a single-use container.
  • Do not return any excess henna to the main stock. Any excess henna should be disposed of after the tattoo has been finished. This will prevent cross contamination of the main stock.
  • Advise people with sensitive skin to avoid henna tattoos.

Approved skin preparation disinfecting solutions

Solutions that can be used on clients skin include:

  • 70 per cent W/W isopropyl alcohol
  • 80 per cent V/V ethyl alcohol
  • 60 per cent V/V isopropyl alcohol
  • Alcoholic (isopropyl and ethyl formulations of 0.5 – 4 per cent W/V chlorhexidine)
  • 10 per cent W/V aqueous or alcoholic providine iodine (1 per cent W/V available iodine).

More information

Operators should read the Code of Practice for Skin Penetration Procedures (PDF 324KB).

Contact the relevant local government Environmental Health Services (external site) for further advice about starting a business, making a complaint about a business operating in a local district or for general health advice about this topic.

Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate