'My son is scarred for life after holiday horror tattoo' - One family's terrifying story

(23 ratings)
Scarred arm
When dad of 2, Simon Loxham, made the decision to let his little boys have a henna tattoo while on holiday in Spain, he couldn't have anticipated that it would leave his eldest son scarred for life.

We all know what it's like to be pestered by the kids for things when you're away. This beach ball, that hair braid... and on the Loxham family trip to Malaga it was no different.

When walking along the beach after dinner with kids, Gabe, 6, and Reuben, 4, the boys spotted a stall offering henna tattoos and instantly wanted to get in on the action.

Tattoo on child
Mum and Dad thought it was just a bit of harmless fun and so agreed. Boys being boys, Gabriel, chose a scorpion tattoo, which took around 5 minutes to complete, and little Reuben a skull and crossbones.

But it wasn't until 2 weeks later that the terrible effects of began to take their toll.

After suffering a severe reaction to the dye in the tattoo, six-year-old Gabriel's arm became irritated and started to swell. After taking him immediately to see their GP, he was put on a strong course of antibiotics and doctors now believe he may be scarred for life. They've also indicated that he might be allergic to many other products such as suncream, hair dye, and other medicines. Simon is taking his son to see an allergy specialist once he's off the antibiotics.

Simon told us: 'The doctor recommended bathing him in Savlon or diluted Dettol as it's infectious and attacking his whole body. He's had spots come up on his head, chest and glands. We're using ointment but the seeping is really bad. Our other son, Reuben, also had a tattoo and suffered no reaction at all.

'We really just want to raise awareness so other parents know the risks of the 'temporary' tattoos and how dangerous they can be for some children.'

The tattoo Gabriel had was a black henna tattoo, which is henna ink mixed with a toxic chemical dye known as ParaPhenylenediamine or PPD - but you won't see that on the signs at the beach.

What is PPD?

PPD is a toxin that penetrates deep into the skin, reaching your living cells and passes straight into the bloodstream. It's a dangerous toxin to have in your system, even if you don't see a physical reaction.

Once in your bloodstream PPD toxins can cause liver and kidney damage. Also, exposure can lead to cancer, so what looks like a bit of fun is best avoided at all costs. PPD has been banned in the EU, however some artists do not realise the severity of the reaction it can cause and continue to use it.

Popular resorts in Europe, Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia are where most cases are being reported. Natural henna is brown and harmless but black henna tattoos are the ones to be avoided as these are the ones that contain PPD and will cause severe reactions in 1 in 4 people.

Other symptoms include:
- severe swelling and blistering of the skin
- intense itching of the skin
- permanent scarring (with some people needing skin grafts)

Better regulation is needed to ensure this dangerous substance isn't used but in the meantime, please think twice before getting a black henna tattoo yourself, or letting your kids have one on holiday.

Continued below...

Have you experienced anything similar, or know anyone who has had a bad reaction to a henna tattoo? We want to hear from you so please leave us a comment below.

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Alyce Kakes

Try Morrocco Method Henna, pure plant, no toxics

glam goth diva

I agree. I would let my kids have a henna tattoo if they wanted one as I see it as just a bit of harmless fun.


? Scum for taking his family on holiday and letting someone paint them for fun? It's no different in principal to face painting. Get a grip.


still a stupid idea - scum

charley davidson

black henna is pure toxic. natural henna never harmed anyone


Have you tried aloe Vera, it is a natural healing plant and helps with burns, cuts, skin irritations etc. may help this too. Hope he is better soon.


It's a henna tatoo. Temporary. Not real. A lot like the stick on tatoos only it lasts a little longer.

Hannah Smith

I've had a henna tattoo before, but mine was proper henna not black. If henna is done properly there really is no harm, but you should think twice before letting them have a tattoo abroad, and never let them anywhere near black henna.


It's a tough way to find this out and, as it is obviously not just a one off, the information should be more readily available. Hope the little lad is ok!


Same thing happened to my husband on our honeymoon. Both his arms were swollen like tree trunks and he had puss oozing from blisters. The blisters even spread to his chest where his arms touched. He spent 24 hours with the army medical doctors at the QE hospital in selly oak as no one else knew what to do. They told him he would be badly scarred for life but luckily you can barely see the marks now. Apparently it happens when you add black ink to henna. If the henna is brown it is natural. We have avoided any dyes etc... and he hasn't had an issue since. Hopefully your sons will fade over time as well.


Aww hope he has a speedy recovery bless him x

Lesley Kirk

I have dealt with the aftermath of a number of these tattoos when folks have returned from holidays so please take this very seriously - it affects you form the rest of your life.


Who would take their child abroad and allow them to have a tattoo?! I would never allow mine to have a tattoo HERE never mind in Spain!

Curt Mc

That happened to a friend of mine, and while it looked like he was going to have permanent scarring, it started to fade weeks later and eventually went away. Hope your son is so lucky,


poor kid.


I'm sorry, but WTF? I open my email and see this picture. Thanks but no thanks.

Pauline Ann Tomalin

Something so innocent can turn out to be so dreadful. Hope it will not be long before this young man makes a full recovery.

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