Henna Tattoo Allergy Leaves Man with Permanent Handlebar Mustache Scar

What was supposed to be a bit of fun turned into a crying game for Arran Maye, a 28-year-old plumber from Leicester. While vacationing with 20 friends in the Spanish city of Benidorm, the Briton invested 9 pounds ($12) in a henna tattoo that left him sporting a handlebar mustache and a chin beard. The idea was to get into the spirit of Benidorm Fiesta, a local fancy dress festival, but things went from bad to worse when Arran experienced an intense allergic reaction to the henna ink, which may leave him with permanent scars.

Adam Lewis, another member of the British partying bunch, got the same tattoos as Arran, but while his tattoos faded within a few days, Arran’s were much more problematic. On top of the excruciating pain he experienced, his face ballooned and started oozing puss. It tuned out that the henna used on Arran was an illegal variety called black henna, which contains the chemical PPD. It caused a severe allergic reaction and ultimately landed him in intensive care, with one of the consequences being potentially permanent scars in the shape of a handlebar mustache and a small beard.

Photo: video screengrab

When Arran and Adam went to get the tattoos, the “artist” attempted to put their minds at ease by saying the paint would fade away naturally within two or three days or they could wipe it off in seconds with nail polish remover.

“Stupidly we believed him. We thought it would be a good laugh for our costume that night,” Arran told the Daily Mail. The problems began almost immediately, as Arran recalls.

“It was fine at first but then it got tingly, the next day it was blistering and pussing and by Sunday my face was a balloon. It was like my face was trying to push out the henna. The puss was pouring out and my face was huge and it was so painful. I was in agony.”

Photo: SWNS

“The doctors said 100 per cent you’re going to have a scar for six months. It will be exactly in the outline of a moustache. They did mention a skin graft and that it might be permanent. I was trying not to hear it to be honest.”

Arran tried to solve the problem with home remedies such as toothpaste, olive oil, and salt, then tried different tablets, creams, and soaps bought from pharmacies. On the flight home, his allergy to PPD spiked, and he began having difficulties breathing. When the plane landed at Luton, friends drove him to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, where he ended up in intensive care with a breathing mask and had to be kept in hospital for two nights. Medicine helped with the swelling, but a plastic surgeon warned Arran he may carry the scars for life.


Despite all the pain and visits to the hospital, the 28-year-old plumber still has the strength to laugh at his own misfortune.

“I’ve manged to see the funny side of it. I mean, what choice do I have?” he said. “I look a right idiot though. I’ve had one before years ago and it was fine but I guess that wasn’t on my face.”

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