8 on Your Side: Beware of Fake Henna Tattoos - 8 News NOW

8 on Your Side: Beware of Fake Henna Tattoos

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Examples of authentic henna tattoos. Examples of authentic henna tattoos.

LAS VEGAS - Fremont Street is one of the most popular places in Las Vegas for tourists and locals. Las Vegas resident David Lerman recently came to Fremont Street for a soul music festival.

"The music was phenomenal. You really get caught up in the excitement of a festival, and you do things like you'd never do," he said.

Lerman says he felt adventurous, so he decided he wanted a tattoo. He saw a business offering henna tattoos, which look like traditional tattoos, but wear off after a few weeks.

"It was almost like a beacon of light – ten dollar henna tattoo," he said.

He got one on his arm. "Looked amazing, and I am telling everybody it is real. That's how good it looked," he said.

Lerman got his tattoo on a Saturday. By Monday, the tattoo caused irritation, swelling and itching. Hours later, Lerman landed in the hospital.

"I was in the infectious disease ward," he said.

Lerman had blisters around his arm, and doctors say his condition was life threatening.

His hospital stay was also expensive – generating a bill of $19,000. "That was the most expensive henna tattoo I think in the history of mankind," he said.

How could all this have happened with a simple henna tattoo? It turns out, Lerman's tattoo wasn't an authentic henna tattoo.

Chetna Sutaria has practiced the art of henna for more than 30 years. Henna tattoos are made from three ingredients: henna powder, tea water and lemon juice. Unlike Lerman's tattoo, henna tattoos are not black.

"Always ask them is there black henna or the red henna?" Sutaria said. "If they're red or brown, that is a pure henna. If they do black, don't do that. It's a chemical."

The black henna is often sprayed on the skin with an airbrush machine. It may contain chemicals like coal tar and a substance called PPD, which the Food and Drug Administration says can cause severe allergic reactions.

Lerman realizes his henna tattoo did not resemble the ones supplied by Sutaria. He says he hopes others learn from his experience.

"I wish I had a time machine, and I would go back and never get a henna tattoo," he said. "It's not worth it."

If you have a problem you want investigated, call 8 on Your Side at 702-650-1907.

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