Inside: Tattoo pigment ingredients & how to protect yourself.
Tattoo pigments or colors are not regulated on a federal level, so determining the ingredients used to make them can be tricky. The main issue lies in FDA regulations.
Each brand uses different ingredients, so you must ask your tattoo artist if you are allergic to anything.
Pigments in Tattoo Ink – What You Need To Know
Tattoo pigments are what give designs their vibrant color. Back in the day, these were made of powdered carbon and ash, so only black was available. Several ancient tribes used soot from charred wood to create markings on warriors.
Today, most inks contain the same mineral pigments and organic ones that are gentle on the skin. Some tattooists also use plastic or vegetable-based ones per their client’s requirements. Most brands use the following to create their tattoo pigments:
Zinc – for white and yellow.
Mercury – for red.
Copper – for green and blue.
Iron – for black, red, and brown
Cadmium – for yellow and orange.
Nickel – for black.
Zinc – for white and yellow.
Chromium – for green.
Titanium or barium – for white.
Aluminum – for violet.
Some brands may use heavy metals such as titanium and lead in the tattoo colors to save money on production costs. This can also include toxic ones such as arsenic and sulfur, so make sure that you ask the tattooist about the ingredients beforehand.
A breakout or severe skin disease can seriously affect your quality of life.
Some people also go for glow-in-the-dark ink tattoos. These are made of UV-based ink and are also called blacklight tattoos.
However, experts say that people with sensitive skin should avoid these as they contain chemicals that react to that light. This also includes phosphorus which can be toxic to humans. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate these pigments, statistically, more people respond badly to glowing tattoos than traditional ones.
What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
Since brands don’t have to reveal the ingredients they use in their tattoo pigments, you must do some digging yourself. You may end up with unqualified tattooists who use questionable pigments for their tattoos.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Make the tattooist do a patch skin test on you before sitting for a complete session. Even if they say they use safe inks, it is better to be safe than sorry. Insist that they use pigments that have been deemed safe. These include those that contain ethanol, glycerin, and purified water rather than toxic agents that can ruin your design and skin.
- Ask for the Material Safety Data Sheet for all the pigments the tattooist will use for your design. These contain info about the ingredients along with specific health information regarding each one.
- Ask for non-toxic alternatives for popular colors. Some of them include carbon for black, sodium for blue, turmeric for yellow, etc. if you have sensitive skin, avoid red pigments. These are made from iron oxide and other toxic substances. Ask for naphthol instead.
- Vivid tattoo pigments are usually highly toxic compared to others.
- Consider vegan tattoos. These use organic pigments and are not tested on animals. Many brands have switched from mineral-based inks to the organic variety because of rising demand and the fact that they are eco-friendlier. Almost 80% of these are carbon-based, but some also use azo pigments.
If you have your heart set on getting a tattoo, research the ingredients in the pigments used in your design. Choose the safest options and make sure you get a tattoo from a licensed professional. They are responsible, so they will let you know if any of their pigments can cause reactions on delicate skin.
Best Vibrant Tattoo Ideas for Your Next Ink
- Poinsettia tattoos – These tattoos are favorites with people who want to get into the holiday spirit come Christmas. Just make sure you ask the tattooist about the ingredients used in the red pigment used for the petals!
- Birth flower tattoos – Whether your birth flower is a rose, a gardenia, or daffodils, this vibrantly colorful tattoo will be a welcome addition to an existing collage on your body.
- Birds of paradise tattoo – These birds showcase colors from the whole spectrum! If you have a colorful personality or just love the species, here are some great ideas you can choose from.
For more information on all things tattoos, their aftercare, tattoo examples, and even removal methods, check out our extensive library of articles. You are sure to find what you need.