We recently posted about the carrier solution found in tattoo ink. Remember, tattoo ink is made up of two parts: a pigment and a carrier solution. The pigment gives the tattoo the color and the carrier solution is there to even out the pigment, prevent clumping, and help with application in the skin. Because tattoo ink is basically an unregulated industry, there are potential risks with chemicals found in both the carrier solution and the pigments.
Currently, the FDA is examining tattoo ink to find out the chemical makeup of the inks, to learn more about how ink is broken down in the body, to learn how tattoo ink interacts with light, and to find out both short-term and long-term health risks associated with tattooing.
There is a lot we don’t know about ink, which is concerning. We do have a lot of information about the various chemicals found in many ink pigments. Since almost anything can be used as a pigment for tattoo ink (and probably has been at one time) the list is nowhere near exhaustive. It is also good to remember that most tattoo inks contain a mixture of pigments.
A common belief is that ink pigment is made up of vegetable dye, but this is not usually the case. Ink pigments can include a variety of substances, including vegetable dyes, but most are made from metal salts. There are even some pigments made from plastics. Some of the most risky pigments include the ones used in UV tattoos or glow in the dark tattoos.
Black ink is considered to be one of the safest ink colors, because it often comes from Carbon Black and has not been known to cause any sensitivity or allergic reaction issues. Black pigment can also be derived from Iron Oxide, otherwise known as rust, and Logwood, a natural dye from logwood tree extracts.
Red pigments are most often toxic and carry the highest risk of allergic reactions. The substances used for red pigment are Cinnabar, Cadmium red, and Iron Oxide. Cinnabar is considered a toxic substance that comes from mercury sulfide. Exposure to mercury poses many risks, including nervous system defects. Cadmium red is toxic as well and is considered to be a carcinogen.
There are over 50 pigments for tattoo ink used today and if you already have a tattoo, the reality is that you may not ever know what is in your skin. While the tattoo ink is considered a trade secret, you can ask to see the Material Safety Data Sheet for each of the pigments or carrier solutions used in the ink for your tattoo.
We recommend learning what you are putting in your body via tattoo ink before getting a tattoo. There are tattoo ink manufacturers that disclose their ingredients and have reputations of safety. If you already have a tattoo and are looking to get it removed, you can help your body remove the toxins by drinking water, exercising, and eating a nutritious diet. If you have any questions or concerns about laser tattoo removal, please give us a call 414-617-2849.