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What is Tattoo Ink Made Of?

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What is tattoo ink made of

Permanent tattoos are suddenly gaining more popularity. When you decide to get a tattoo, here are a few things you might worry about.

  • How painful would the process be?
  • How safe is the tattooing procedure?
  • How safe is the ink used for the tattoo?

Let us address first the safety of the tattoo ink. How safe is it on the skin? Are there any colors or inks that are riskier than the rest?

Tattoo regulations:

A tattoo ink consists mainly of a combination of a carrier and a pigment (which determines the actual color). FDA has a moderate regulation on the inks used for tattooing. These regulations enforce that the composition of tattoo ink has to be purely of cosmetic nature with permitted color additives. The ink makers are not, however bound by the regulation to reveal the complete list of ingredients of their inks.

The tattooing process is regulated by local jurisdictions. So there is no hard and fast law abiding or standardizing the tattooing process.

Tattoo ink composition:

The composition of the tattoo ink would vary depending on the color of the ink. The actual list of components in the tattoo ink would not generally be revealed by the ink makers.

Coloring pigment composition:

In most cases, the major ingredients of the tattoo ink would be chromium, lead, nickel, titanium dioxide, carbon black, iron oxides and other coloring agents for the pigments. These ingredients would be chosen based on the desired color of the ink. Tattoo inks penetrate the skin up to the lymph nodes. Thus, it is essential to choose the inks with the least harmful ingredients. Some of the components in tattoo inks of black color were found to be hazardous chemicals that could cause skin cancer in some animals. For more vibrant colors, the inks would also consist of a type of a plastic based substance. These plastic-based components in the ink can cause allergies. Homemade, less expensive versions of tattoo ink pigments are also known to be made from dirt, soot, pen ink, and even the pigments used in automobile paints.

Carrier composition:

The carrier is essential to carry the pigment of the ink to the deeper layers of the skin, that is, up to the dermis. The carrier is made mainly out of methanol, propylene glycol, glycerine, ethyl alcohol, aldehydes, and denatured alcohol. The carrier also functions to act as a disinfectant to prevent the growth of pathogens in the inks. When an alcohol based carrier is used, the ink application process is made simpler. The skin becomes permeable to allow more pigments to enter deeper layers.

Safety measures while getting a tattoo:

The above-mentioned components are just a few of the possible combinations of chemicals that can be used in the pigments and carriers. But again, the full ingredient list is not going to be available to you. So here are a few safety measures you could take while getting a tattoo to reduce the risks:

  • Get a tattoo from a professional who has a good reputation for using safe inks.
  • Choose colors that are the least risky.
  • Avoid bright colors and glow in the dark inks as these are the most harmful ones.
  • Test the chosen ink on a small area of the skin before you get the actual tattoo.
  • If you are still in doubt, ask the professional for the component safety sheets of the inks used.
  • Choose a professional who uses safe inks made with more natural pigmentation components and safer options of carriers for the tattoo ink.

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