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Article Teaser: Tattoo ink manufacturers are not required by law to list their ingredients. Many tattoo artists mix their own formulas and consider their mixtures "trade secrets". These tattoo inks are actually pigments suspended in a variety of carrier solutions. Some are made from ABS plastic for the vibrancy of the colors, some are vegetable dyes, but the vast majority are made from metal salts. The main concern with the pigments is what is in them besides the carrier solutions and the dyes.

Keep reading below...

Tattoo Inks Are An Unknown Quantity

Copyright (c) 2009-2017

Tattoo ink manufacturers are not required by law to list their ingredients. Many tattoo artists mix their own formulas and consider their mixtures "trade secrets". These tattoo inks are actually pigments suspended in a variety of carrier solutions. Some are made from ABS plastic for the vibrancy of the colors, some are vegetable dyes, but the vast majority are made from metal salts. The main concern with the pigments is what is in them besides the carrier solutions and the dyes.

Tattoo shops that do not adhere to strict safety precautions may be exposing their customers to a wide variety of infections as the artist dips the needle in an infected person and then back into the ink container, then into a new customer's skin. Fortunately most shops are aware of these dangers and take all precautions established by local and state health departments.

Pigment Toxicity

Some pigments can cause an allergic reaction between the ink and skin. If available, look at a MSDS sheet to determine what the possible reactions might be. The reactions can result in photo sensitivity of the tattoo to natural and artificial light or even scarring. The glow in the dark inks, or those that react to black light, can be harmless, radioactive or toxic. The ABS plastic based pigments can prove very difficult to remove should the client choose to have the tattoo removed at a later date. Most inks pose no threat or visible reaction to the skin, but the lack of regulations make some inks risky, be sure to use a reputable artist who will not mind explaining the components of the ink used in your tattoo.

Pigment Carriers

The job of the carrier is to keep the pigment from clumping and in a fluid consistency, inhibit contamination and ease the injection of the ink into the skin. The safest and most common carriers are ethyl alcohol, glycerin, purified water, propylene glycol, witch hazel, and listerine. In the "old days" it was not uncommon to use various forms of alcohol, usually denatured, and other toxic liquids, chemicals or contaminated water.

Tattoo Pigment Being Injected into the Dermis:

  • BLACK: made of iron oxides, carbon, or logwood. "Natural black pigment is made from magnetite crystals, powdered jet, wustite, bone black,and amorphous carbon from combustion (soot). Black pigment is commonly made into India ink. Logwood is a heartwood extract from Haematoxylon campechisnum, found in Central America and the West Indies."

  • BROWNS, FLESHTONES: made of ochre. "Ochre is composed of iron (ferric) oxides mixed with clay. Raw ochre is yellowish. When dehydrated through heating, ochre changes to a reddish color."

  • RED: made of cinnabar, cadmium red, iron oxide, or napthol. "Iron oxide is also known as common rust. Cinnabar and cadmium pigments are highly toxic. Napthol reds are synthesized from Naptha. Fewer reactions have been reported with naphthol red than the other pigments, but all reds carry risks of allergic or other reactions."

  • ORANGE: made of disazodiarylide, disazopyrazolone, or cadmium seleno-sulfide. "The organics are formed from the condensation of 2 monoazo pigment molecules. They are large molecules with good thermal stability and colorfastness."

  • YELLOW: made of cadmium yellow, ochres, curcuma yellow, chrome yellow, or disazodiarylide. "Curcuma is derived from plants of the ginger family; aka tumeric or curcurmin. Reactions are commonly associated with yellow pigments, in part because more pigment is needed to achieve a bright color."

  • GREEN: made of chromium oxide ("Casalis Green" or "Anadomis Green"), Malachite, Ferrocyanides, Ferricyanides, Lead chromate, Monoazo pigment, Cu/Al phthalocyanine, or Cu phthalocyanine. "The greens often include admixtures, such as potassium ferrocyanide (yellow or red) and ferric ferrocyanide (Prussian Blue)."

  • BLUE: made of azure blue, cobalt blue, or Cu-phtalocyanine. "Blue pigments from minerals include copper (II) carbonate (azurite), sodium aluminum silicate (lapis lazuli), calcium copper silicate (Egyptian Blue), other cobalt aluminum oxides and chromium oxides. The safest blues and greens are copper salts, such as copper pthalocyanine. Copper pthalocyanine pigments have FDA approval for use in infant furniture and toys and contact lenses. The copper-based pigments are considerably safer or more stable than cobalt or ultramarine pigments."

  • VIOLET: made of manganese violet (manganese ammonium pyrophosphate), quinacridone, dioxazine/carbazole, and various aluminum salts. "Some of the purples, especially the bright magentas, are photoreactive and lose their color after prolonged exposure to light. Dioxazine and carbazole result in the most stable purple pigments."

  • WHITE: made of lead white (lead carbonate), titanium dioxide, barium sulfate, or zinc oxide.

  • "Some white pigments are derived from anatase or rutile. White pigment may be used alone or to dilute the intensity of other pigments. Titanium oxides are one of the least reactive white pigments."

    Tattoo Science

    Electric tattoo guns create thousands of puncture wounds in the skin so that the tattoo pigment can be injected to form the tattoo. The ink particles are effectively trapped by a network of connective tissue in the fibroblasts, a type of cell found in connective tissue that produces fibers such as collagen. It is not known for sure, but fibroblasts may last the lifespan of the individual receiving the tattoo.

    This entire process causes damage to the epidermis and the dermis and become blended together as a result of the pulverization of the junction of the two layers. The body responds by bleeding up through the skin as a result of the severed capillaries. The immune system responds by swelling to shut down the blood flow. The immune response cells then begin cleaning up by flushing the ink through the lymph system. At first the ink is dispersed in the upper areas of the skin, but within 1 to 2 weeks it gathers into a more concentrated area as new tissue begins to form around the ink and traps it in the dermal fibroblasts. After a month the two layers of skin have reformed to trap the ink and within 3 months the tattoo ink is completely surrounded by connective tissue that holds the ink in place, although over time it will begin to subside deeper into the dermis, or second layer of skin.

    Final Thought

    What all this means is be sure to think long and hard before getting a tattoo. Find out who runs the cleanest shop in the area and make sure the design is something you are willing to live with for the rest of your life.


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Dexter Alto is a Certified Laser Specialist with an interest in the science of tattoo application and the removal of specific tattoo pigments. Mr. Alto has seen first hand the effectiveness of different tattoo removal methods on a variety of different pigment types. He is a contributor to http://healthyskinassociation.org/

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    Internal ID: #6924
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