Tattoo Ink

It is unclear exactly what is in tattoo ink.  In the United States, manufacturers of ink do not need to reveal the ingredients in their product.  Additionally, these companies are not required to undergo clinical trials to prove that their tattoo ink is safe.  While we cannot predict exactly what is in each tattoo ink, we do know that tattoo ink is formulated with some sort of pigment that is combined with a carrier.

What are the pigmented ingredients in tattoo ink?

Most tattoo artists use professionally formulated tattoo inks.  These are generally made from iron oxides, metal salts, and plastics.  Homemade tattoo ink ingredients vary, though may include ink, soot, and other materials.  Bright colors are generally achieved by using heavy metals for tattoo ink.  These include mercury (red ink), nickel (black ink), chromium (green ink), colbat (blue ink), and iron (brown ink.

What is a carrier for tattoo pigment?

A carrier is a solvent (such as water or ethyl alcohol) that is used to literally carry the pigment from the needle injection site to the deeper layers of the skin.

How do I know what is in my tattoo ink?

Unfortunately, unless your tattoo artist is knowledgeable and shares with you the exact ingredients they use in their tattoos, there is no way to determine what is in your tattoo ink.  We know the ingredients that are commonly used for tattooing, but since the practice is largely unregulated, we do not know exactly what makes up each specific tattoo.  This is one of the reasons that tattoo removal is tricky and requires multiple treatments.  Although we know which lasers target which pigment colors best, we cannot know exactly what ingredients we are removing; for this reason, some patients require a longer series of tattoo removal treatments than other patients.

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