Ever ask the question: I wonder what is in that tattoo ink. Unless you make the ink yourself, the answer is “it depends”. Tattoo inks fall under the jurisdiction of FDA regulations for cosmetics and color additives, but in reality they are essentially unregulated. And while under the governance of FDA, there are NO tattoo pigments that are FDA approved for injection into your skin. The FDA website goes on to mention that many of the pigments that are used in tattoo inks are some heavy-duty items, listed as “industrial-grade” colors that one might find in printer ink or even car paint. Interesting stuff! And unlike traditional tattoo ink, the newer glow-in-the-dark tattoo ink have the additional complexity of potentially containing phosphorus or plastic-encased ink spheres. Things that contain phosphorus glow by themselves. The later only glow when exposed to UV light.
Depending upon the ink pigment and its origin (carbon-based, vegetable based, iron salt, plastic, etc), possible side effects can include granulomas, infection (there have been reports of inks that had to be recalled due to them being contaminated with bacteria), scarring, and possibly even skin irritation when getting an MRI. Did your skin react when the ink went in? It is possible that it could react as well when it is removed. The FDA website also mentions that tattoo ink can migrate from the tattoo site to your lymph nodes. Autopsy studies have shown regional lymph nodes can contain some ink that was used in the tattooing process. This may also occur during the laser tattoo removal or other tattoo removal processes. No one knows what, if any, adverse effects these migrated ink pigments may have on one’s future health. All in all, when you combine ink content variability with no set standards for ink manufacturers, variable labeling of some inks and the fact that tattoo artists may mix various colored to get a custom color, you are hard pressed to know exactly what is being injected into your skin during your tattoo procedure. Interestingly, the tattooing procedure itself is highly regulated by each state, with strict hygiene-related requirements for tattoo parlors.