Tattoo Ink

TattooThere are a number of reasons why many people feel reluctant about getting a tattoo. There are of course concerns about public perception towards those who get tattoos. And then there are those who are squeamish of needles and are afraid of the little bit of pain that comes with getting their skin inked. Speaking of which, there are also those who are worried about the potential health hazards that getting all that ink onto their body may cause. Since tattooing has literally spanned centuries, one would think that if it were really poisonous, we’d already know it by now. But just what does tattoo ink consist of? Does it indeed contain some toxic element that would prove detrimental to human health as many have feared? The exact ingredients that go into professional tattoo inks are a trade secret. Certain brands may even have their own specific formulations that they closely guard and own exclusive rights to. Some of the stuff that manufactured tattoo ink may have includes plastics, metal salts, and iron oxides (or rust!). As for homemade tattoo inks, they can be made out of pen ink, dirt, soot, and even blood!

Tattoo ink is made up of two basic components, the pigment base and the carrier. The pigment is what gives color to the tattoo. It can be made using heavy metals corresponding to a specific color. For instance, mercury is used for the color red; lead is for white, yellow and green; copper is blue and green; iron is red, brown and black, etc. Pigments are also made with organic chemicals like naptha-derived chemicals for the color red and azo-chemicals for green, yellow, orange, violet and brown. The pigment for black could be made from carbon, and compounds such as sulphur, selenium, lithium, calcium, beryllium, arsenic and antimony are also used as pigments. Now, if that list of ingredients makes one somewhat nervous, don’t fret; because this is where the carrier comes in.

As its name implies, the carrier is a solvent whose function is to basically carry the pigment from the needle to the skin. And those who have health concerns may be happy to know that the carrier also keeps the tattoo ink free from infectious germs. Indeed, carriers are usually made out of water or ethyl alcohol, as well as denatured and rubbing alcohols. They can also be made from methanol, glycerine and propylene glycol. The alcohol in the carrier, as well as that applied to the skin for disinfection before tattooing, serves to make the skin more permeable, allowing the transportation of more ink into it.

To further quell worries about health, rest assured that professional tattoo inks are regulated by governing bodies such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, which make sure that only those products that are guaranteed safe are allowed in the market. As such, there is certainly a greater guarantee that the inks used in a professional tattoo studio is much safer compared to one just concocted at home. As they always say, “leave it to the professionals, don’t try this at home.”

If you’re feeling a little braver about getting tattoo ink on your skin, click here and let the professionals show you how it’s done.

Dick is a free lancer writer of

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