Manufacturers of tattoo ink are not required by the FDA or any other federal, state or local agency to list the ingredients used. Some artists even prefer to mix their own inks. Ink pigments are suspended in a variety of solutions. They are typically made from plastic, vegetable dyes, and metal salts. A carrier is used to keep the pigment in a liquefied state and to make it easier to inject the ink into the skin. The biggest health concern is what else may be added to the basic ingredients.
Tattoo Ink and Allergies
Some tattoo ink pigments can cause an allergic reaction. If possible, check all pigment MSDS sheets to educate yourself on possible allergic side effects. These allergic reactions can result in scarring or sensitivity to natural and artificial light. One of the most controversial inks is the ones created to react to black light. Different chemicals are used to create this effect. Any pigments made with ABS plastic based inks can be difficult if the customer is ever interested in getting the tattoo removed some time in the future.
The majority of inks are harmless but due to the lack of regulation, it is best to educated yourself on their ingredients and side effects. Before you walk in for your first appointment at the tattoo shop, it is likely you will discuss your future tattoo with your tattoo artist. At that time it would be to your benefit to ask him about the inks he uses. This way you can research the ingredients used in the brands used prior to your appointment.
Tattoo Ink Carriers
Ethyl alcohol, purified water, glycerin, and witch hazel are considered safe carriers. Prior to regulating tattoo shops and the tattoos performed in the shops, it wasn’t uncommon for them to use contaminated water and harmful liquids to liquefy the pigment. Fortunately, tattoo shops are much safer and are required to meet certain guidelines. Many shops wish to avoid any negative reactions with their customers, so they are likely using high quality ink.