Mehndi refers to the art of henna skin painting. Some people use the term to refer to the actual henna paste and others to the artwork. Black mehndi therefore refers either to black henna paste or the resulting tattoo work. The black paste is generally adulterated with para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which helps to provide the dark color. It generally creates tattoos that are bolder than those created with pure henna, but it is also associated with serious health risks and is banned from use on skin in some countries.
Henna, a dye that is produced from the henna bush, has been used for centuries in the Middle East to create body art. Pure henna is generally some shade of orange, red, or brown. It is applied to the skin in the shape of the desired design and must be left on for hours or even a day to create a stain on the skin that normally lasts for less than two weeks. There is no widespread evidence to suggest that there are any risks associated with the use of pure henna.
Black mehndi, on the contrary, is adulterated henna, which commonly contains PPD. This type of paste is believed to have been developed as a response to growing consumer interest in this type of body art. As more individuals from Western nations became interested in henna tattoos, producers responded by creating a product that was supposed to be superior to pure henna.
There are several benefits of black mehndi. To begin with, it drastically reduces the amount of time that a person must allow the paste to remain on the skin before a tattoo forms. The resulting tattoos tend to be much bolder than those that result from pure henna. The black paste also leaves a stain that lasts longer than that provided by pure henna.
For some people, however, the benefits of black mehndi are outweighed by the consequences of using it. Such products have been found to result in adverse side effects, including irritation, weeping sores, and permanent scars. This is believed to result from the adulterants such as PPD that are put into the paste.
Due to the risks, individuals are commonly warned to avoid using black henna paste. This is why many henna products and service providers often advertise as being PPD free. In some countries, black henna is illegal or restricted solely for use on the hair.