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Mother Sends Warning To Bali Holidaymakers About Dangers Of Black Henna Tattoos

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A frightened mother has shared a warning for other parents heading to Bali on holiday after her two young sons have been left with chemical burns from bad black henna tattoos. Elena Kovalenko and her husband Phillip Saenko were recently on holiday in Bali when they let their two sons Luke, 8, and Adrian, 6, get temporary black henna tattoos as a treat.

The family arrived in Bali on the 27th of July and checked in to the Grand Hyatt in Nusa Dua. During an evening outing to a night market shortly after they arrived the parents agreed to let their kids have the temporary tattoos done. Kovalenko told the Daily Mail that it is something of a family tradition to get temporary tattoos while on holiday. Although this was the first time they had got tattoos in Bali. 

Credit: Facebook – Elena Kovalenko

Kovalenko told reporters ‘’They [Luke and Adrian] have done it before in Russia, Thailand and the Gold Coast, so we didn’t think twice and agreed…Luke and Adrian chose their tattoo designs and sat down ready for their tattoos’. She shared her surprise that the tattoo session took upwards of 30-minutes rather than a few seconds, this was when she realized they were getting black henna tattoos rather than the quick spray tattoos. 

When the family got back to the hotel that night the boys are reported to have started complaining about a burning sensation around the tattoo area. Kovalenko confessed to reporters that she dismissed the complaints as sunburn as the family has been about and about in the sunshine for most of the day. Kovanlekno’s mind was also elsewhere she told reporters ‘I didn’t pay attention to the kids’ tattoos because, at the same time, my husband was injured and hospitalized while we were in Bali’. 

It was only when the tattoo began to fade did the mother of two realize the extent of the damage. As the tattoos started to fade, she saw ‘itching and burning red welts’ on young Adrian’s leg and Luke’s forearm where the tattoo had been placed. 

She recalled her horror at the reporters and said ‘’The dye came off, and it looked like a chemical burn…The kids were crying that it was itching and burning, so we went to the pharmacy, and we were given a cream that we applied to their sores straight away. With the pain not subsiding, she and her husband took the boys to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne where doctors prescribed a stronger steroid cream to treat the burns. Doctors prepared Kovalenko that the damage to the children’s skin could be permanent.

Kovalenko told reporters ‘If it was just one child, I would think it’s some kind of allergy, but because it’s two kids with two different skin types, I’m just shocked…My kids don’t have any allergies, but they will have horrible scars forever’.

She is sharing her story as a warning for other parents and anyone thinking of saying yes to a black henna tattoo while there on holiday, especially in Bali. She is calling for the product to be banned, and she isn’t the first to have seen the damage that black henna can do. 

She said ‘We all know not to drink tap water in Thailand or Bali, and we know about robbery facts in the countries too…the media screams about foot and mouth disease, but I never heard anything about it [black henna]…It’s a dangerous thing. It might even be life-threatening. People should be aware of it, and it should be banned.’

The chemical that causes burns to the skin is called PPD and is a black dye found in hair colorant. Many people experience an allergic reaction to PPD which is why reputable hair salons will complete a patch test before dying someone’s hair. Black henna is different to the traditional henna used in many South Asian cultures.

Reporters contacted the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their insights. A spokesperson shared guidance that travelers should avoid temporary black henna tattoos while in Indonesia. They stated that black henna products ‘often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions’. 

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Tuesday 16th of August 2022

Parents can spread the word how bad this is and to avoid for future victims.


Saturday 13th of August 2022

How dumb parents can be these days, children welfare should be called in, getting tattoos of any kind for 8 and 6 years old, dumb dumb and more dumb

Wayan Bo

Saturday 13th of August 2022

Buy better batik or printed clothes instead to batik or print yourself.


Tuesday 16th of August 2022

@Wayan Bo, where are these people from that seem to hassle to sell all sorts on the beach while your kicking back trying to enjoy. Java...Lombok?


Saturday 13th of August 2022

charcoal would have cured immediately had it been applied.


Saturday 13th of August 2022

Happens everyday..