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Doctors warn against using chemical-mixed Henna

August 19, 2012

 ISLAMABAD, Aug 18: Henna depicts the true essence of festivities deeply embedded in our culture. The dark brown flowery patterns around the hands and feet of a woman and its nostalgic scent are reminiscent of soil, wet after light drizzle. But doctors are recommending against it.

Doctors have warned of henna with certain chemicals that after applying could scar hands than beautify them. According to the experts, the chemicals or acid were mixed in henna to leave quick and long lasting impressions on palms, back of the hands, arms and feet that caused burns.

Skin Specialist in the Outdoor Patients Department, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Dr Taimoor warned strictly against wearing mehndi (henna) that he believed could cause irreparable damage to skin, scarring the hand for indefinitely.

“There are so many different brands of henna made up from so many unknown ingredients that claim of immediate and long lasting impressions on hands and feet. Women need to be particularly wary of such brands,” said Dr Taimoor explaining how most contained some sort of acid or chemical in them that burnt the skin.

Dr Taimoor said that every month he treated at least 10 cases of burns from henna especially on the back of the hands where the skin was sensitive.

Dr Taimoor who has experienced an increase in such burn cases in the last six months has been treating girls between 16 and 20 years old.

“There is no quality check. We do not know who is making them and what the ingredients they use? The show off is simply not worth it,” said the Skin Specialist emphasising on safety first. In fact he went as far as cautioning women against wearing glass bangles that broke easily, the sharp glass cutting around the wrists and in some cases slightly injuring the radial artery.

Most doctors did not know if it was some chemical or acid mixed in the recipe that caused the burns. But a few doctors believed the secret burning ingredient was benzene that penetrated the skin and caused the damage.

Sitting at a stall in F-7 Markaz where a girl was delicately covering up her hands and palms in beautiful and intricate patterns, Nida Qadir remembered the irritable burn and itching sensation caused by henna on the back of her hands.

“The woman had soaked a carved wooden block in a dark liquid and pressed it against my palms and the back of the hands. And in a few minutes the back of the hands began hurting as if somebody had poured hot water,” said Nida Qadir who said she had been careful ever since.

Huma Zafar, a housewife who along with her daughter came to another nearby booth to dress up hands with henna said: “I cannot remember a single night before Eid where the girls of our house did not stay up until the late hours to dress their hands.

The beauty of henna aside, it brought all of us together and magnified the joy that flooded special occasions like Eid,” Huma Zafar said adding that she was aware of the burning henna but she had made warned the stall owners against using chemicals in their products.But Associate Professor, Shifa Hosptial Dr Saman Waseem voiced the same concerns as her counterpart at the Pims hospital expressed. Last year, Dr Saman Waseem had to run her ten year-old daughter into emergency because the henna had burnt her hands.

“She started screaming immediately. I watched my daughter’s hands turning pink later it was nothing less than a wound later,” Dr Saman Waseem recalled.

Recommending home-made mehndi (henna) she too advised women and girls against wearing henna that left darker impressions in less time.

“The home-made henna may fade quicker but at least we know it is safer than the cone hennas sold in markets,” said the Associate Professor.

Mehndi decorations have become an art to go with colourful bangles, parandas that Punjabi girls mostly wear to beautify their hair, and colourful pretty dresses.

Special booths are a common sight in F-7 Markaz, Super Market and Karachi Company.