Believe it or not, a small proportion of people actually suffer from an allergic reaction to the ink used in tattoos. If you’re considering a tattoo, you might be wondering whether the ink is actually safe — especially if you have other allergies. Read on to learn what a tattoo allergy can look like and how to keep yourself safe, just in case you’re allergic to tattoo ink.
What Is a Tattoo Ink Allergy?
A person with a tattoo ink allergy may experience unpleasant side effects to tattoo ink. The tattoo ink itself might trigger an immune response, or an existing skin condition could flare up. Alternatively, the tattoo could be exposed to too much light, causing irritation.
While tattoo allergies are quite rare, there is a possibility of serious health consequences. The reaction can be seen immediately in some cases but often does not present until 48 hours or even a few weeks after getting the tattoo. In rare cases, it could happen months later.
Allergic reactions can sometimes be misinterpreted for normal tattoo healing, as individuals will often experience the same symptoms. Skin reactions to tattoo ink can present in a few different ways, which we’ll take a look at now.
Tattoo Allergy Symptoms
It’s important to know the most common indications of a tattoo allergy, just in case you have a reaction to tattoo ink. That way, you’ll be prepared to address any issues right away — even though most people don’t experience an allergic reaction.
Potential signs of a tattoo allergy include the following:
- Red itchy
- A tattoo rash
- Localized swelling and redness
- Flaky or scaly skin
- Small blisters or pustules with oozing, itchiness, and irritation
Take action right away if you experience an allergic reaction to tattoo ink. Treatment by a doctor could be necessary. It may also be helpful to talk with your tattoo artist, who could provide more information about the ingredients in the ink.
If your tattoo allergy warrants tattoo removal, please feel free to speak to a tattoo specialist with any concerns. While the professionals at Removery do not treat removal for tattoo allergies, we can use our clinical background and experience to help provide you with the right questions to ask when speaking with your dermatologist.
Tattoo Ink Colours That Cause Allergic Reactions
If the body has an allergic reaction to a tattoo, it’s often caused by a particular colour of tattoo ink. You might see irritation occurring in particular areas of the tattoo with that colour of ink.
Red Tattoo Ink Allergy
It is especially important to keep allergic reactions in mind when getting a tattoo with red ink. Irritation caused by red ink is the most common type of tattoo allergy. Many red tattoo inks have iodine in them, which causes sensitivity in many individuals.
Yellow Tattoo Ink Allergy
Yellow ink is another common culprit. A yellow tattoo can also have increased sensitivity to sunlight, so make sure you keep it protected from UV rays. The sensitivity may decrease over time.
Black Tattoo Ink Allergy
The carbon-based pigments commonly found in black tattoo ink can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. These pigment particles may be more prone to breaking down over time than other colours, potentially causing issues.
Blue Tattoo Ink Allergy
Like many other ink colours, blue tattoo ink is often made from minerals. For blue ink, sodium aluminum silicate or azurite are common ingredients, which could, in rare cases, cause a tattoo allergy.
Other Colour Ink Allergies
While certain colours are more commonly associated with adverse reactions, every colour of ink has the possibility of causing allergic reactions. Each colour of ink may contain various different ingredients that could trigger a reaction in certain individuals.
If you are concerned about the possibility of an adverse reaction from tattoo ink, consult with your tattoo artist to get a list of ingredients in the ink. Then contact your dermatologist to determine if any of the ingredients are high-risk factors for a tattoo allergy.
Some tattoo artists will even offer to do a test spot behind the ear to see if you have a reaction. If you are doing patch testing beforehand, it is best to wait a week since allergic reactions may not appear immediately.
What to Do If You Think You’re Having an Allergic Reaction to Tattoo Ink
If you suspect an allergic reaction to your tattoo has occurred, see a dermatologist immediately to get a diagnosis. Your dermatologist may find it helpful if you look up the type of ink used and the compounds in it via the ink manufacturer Material Safety Data Sheets. While all inks pose a small allergy risk, the SDS may be a good place to start when identifying your allergy.
What is a material safety data sheet and how do I read it?
A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a legally required series of documents that all manufacturers (including tattoo ink companies) must produce if they use chemical compounds. If a chemical produces a hazard to health and safety, you will find this information in the MSDS. An MSDS includes information about each chemical, covering the physical and environmental hazards, precautions for safe handling, storage, and transportation of the chemical, and more.
How is this relevant if I have a tattoo ink allergy?
Section 11 covers toxicological and health effects info and Section 15 of the SDS covers safety, health, and environmental regulations specific to the product.
Can Tattoo Removal Help With a Tattoo Ink Allergy?
Tattoo ink allergy treatment may involve using steroid cream for a milder reaction, which may include redness and swelling. In some cases, tattoos may need to be completely removed to treat the allergic reaction. Speak with your dermatologist about any concerns, and your physician may offer you laser tattoo removal if it is the best option for removing the tattoo and resolving an allergic reaction from tattoo ink. If you intend to remove a tattoo with irritating inks, precautions should be taken (ranging from taking an antihistamine before treatment to having an EpiPen available), depending on your medical history.
Our technicians at Removery are here to answer any questions you may have. We can handle colour tattoo removal for any hue of ink. Schedule your first tattoo removal consultation and decide if removal is right for you.