woman on beach with tattoo ink on left arm

Do You Have a Tattoo Ink Allergy?

As MEDermis Laser Clinic approaches its 500,000th tattoo removal procedure, it’s safe to say we’ve seen just about everything.

Yet one concept we have a hard time wrapping our head around is that tattoo ink remains unregulated, meaning that what you’re having injected into your skin could be a total mystery.

We’ve talked about tattoo ink before, but we’ll take a deeper dive today.

The FDA currently only monitors substances people ingest or place on the skin (such as skincare products) but has no rulings over what is placed under the skin. Additionally, the FDA does not require ink makers to reveal the ingredients in their products. Unless you fully trust the artist doing your tattoo, you may be at risk of getting a tattoo with unsafe ink.

While not much is known about the ingredients in tattoo ink, there have been instances of heavy metals existing in many inks. This is among some of the potential causes of an allergic reaction to tattooing.

To learn more about potential tattoo ink ingredients and what they could mean for your skin.

While it may take only minutes to ink, tattoos could have long-term effects on our overall wellbeing. In this article, we’ll break down the signs and potential causes of a tattoo ink allergy as well as some bonus material that could be helpful whether you’re getting fresh ink or looking into tattoo removal.

Are You Allergic to Tattoo Ink?

When it comes to getting tattoos, many people believe they’ve done their due diligence by seeking out reputable artists, confirming studios are clean, and safe practices are followed. However, many people don’t realize that they could even have an allergy to certain inks.

While rare, allergic reactions to tattoos can happen, and even if you’ve had other tattoos before, it doesn’t make you immune to an allergic reaction in the future.

Most commonly, allergic reactions will occur in tattoos with yellow or red inks as they often contain mercury.

Because many people may have slight reactions to getting a tattoo, such as redness or mild swelling, it can be difficult to determine when an allergic reaction has occurred.

However, the most common allergic reactions to tattoo ink include:

  • itching
  • rashes or bumps
  • redness or irritation
  • scaly skin around the tattoo
  • skin flaking
  • skin tags or nodules
  • swelling or fluid build-up around tattoo ink

Keeping an eye on your new tattoo will be important to ensure your health. In the case of severe reactions, one may expect to see symptoms such as chills, hot flashes, fever, bumpy tissue, intense burning, or even puss around the tattoo.

Should you experience any of the above, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Allergic Reaction vs. Infection

Keep in mind that the above symptoms could also be signs of an infection, which may be more serious.

However, allergic reactions to tattoo ink will be localized and only present around the offending pigment.

Pigments, dyes, and metallic substances in tattoo inks may be to blame for allergic reactions.

Unfortunately, there are inks that utilize similar dyes made from the same components used in commercial printing and car paint. Since tattoo ink is unregulated, you should look into the ink your tattoo artist uses.

Some of the most common ingredients to elicit ink allergic reactions include:

  • aluminum
  • aminoazobenzene
  • brazilwood
  • cadmium sulfide
  • carbon (also called “India ink”)
  • cobalt aluminate
  • iron oxide
  • lead chromate
  • manganese
  • mercury sulfide
  • sandalwood

This list doesn’t hit every harmful substance to watch out for, so be sure to do your own research.

Generally, allergic reaction symptoms can be treated with OTC medications or strong antihistamines prescribed by your doctor.

A Tattoo Ink Allergy A Can Occur Years Later

One fact that may surprise you is that you can actually have an allergic reaction to your tattoo ink years after getting the tattoo.

Mainly we see this in clients who have tattoos with red ink.

During our free consultation, we explain some of the common issues and symptoms that could occur. Every person could experience different side effects, but most are mild, including swelling, itchiness, or rashes.

Call the Tattoo Removal Specialists Today!

The MEDermis Laser Clinic team has been guiding clients through the laser tattoo removal process for 14 years. Have questions about how laser tattoo removal works? Don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling our Austin clinic at 512-637-5277, the San Antonio clinic at 210-402-4030, or by filling out our online contact form.