Skin Design Tattoo


What Is Tattoo Ink Made of? Ingredients & Reactions

What is tattoo ink made of? There are some myths going around as people ask “does tattoo ink have metal in it?”. 

Here’s the deal. There are a few different ways in which tattoo ink is made. In this guide, we’re exploring what is in tattoo ink and giving you some answers before you get your first tat.

What Ingredients Are in Tattoo Ink?

This is definitely one of the questions to ask before going to a tattoo shop. We understand why there is some concern about what you’re letting go into your body.

Different colors contain different tattoo ink ingredients, so there isn’t one single answer to the question “what is tattoo ink made of?”.

Tattoo ink ingredients

What toxins are in tattoo ink?

The heavy metals within can be a potentially toxic influence on your body, but it is very rare. Some of the worst culprits to look out for include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), such as benzopyrene, which you should try to avoid.

What is Modern Ink made from?

Modern ink is made from a carrier and a colorant. There are different ways to make ink. For instance, black ink usually has a natural pigment made out of magnetite but also contains carbon and iron oxide. They can also include bone char and carbon that is made out of soot.

Does Tattoo Ink Contain Metal?

Well, some of the ingredients in tattoo ink can technically be metal. Mercury, cadmium, and iron oxide have been used and these are all classified as heavy metals.

Pigments Used in Tattoo Ink

The pigments vary depending on the colors. It’s crucial to remember that what is in tattoo ink is dependent on which colors you are getting. If you’re visiting a safe tattoo shop they will be able to tell you what ingredients are in their inks.

Red inks are more likely to contain mercury. Yellows and greens often have lead inside, and whites may have zinc. Blue inks may contain cobalt and violets could have aluminum in them, but this is just a simple guideline. 

How do the inks interact with the body?

As the machine punches into the skin, it leaves ink in the dermis, which is the deeper layer slightly below the skin which contains blood vessels. Technically, your body is creating wounds. Cells come to the area of the wound called “macrophages” and these can actually take some of the ink away, but the rest is left imprinted on the skin cells, which is what makes them permanent.

Reactions to Tattoo Ink and Other Complications

While knowing what is in tattoo ink can help with your chances of avoiding complications, they are possible. 

It may be that you get a rash or bumpy inflamed skin after your tattoo. This usually comes from a slight allergic reaction. It could be that the area is treated with a steroid cream, and usually, the reactions are not too serious.

To avoid other complications, make sure you tell your tattoo artist of any medical issues.

Are Organic and Vegan Tattoo Inks Safer?

Organic and vegan inks have grown in popularity as people understand them to be much safer. For instance, organic ink carriers tend to be as simple as purified filtered water and natural pigments which can reduce the chances of a reaction.

Vegan inks are not necessarily any safer than other types of ink, but the natural ingredients can give you a little bit more peace of mind. Of course, if you are a vegan, and want to get a vegan tattoo, then you will want to make sure that none of the ingredients have come from animals.

The vast majority of tattoo inks are safe, which is important to know when going into your tattoo appointment.

Are Tattoo Inks Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration?

The FDA does not get involved with regulating tattoo ink. A lot of people think that they should be involved, and of course, the lack of an independent regulatory body can mean that it is even more important to know what tattoo ink is made of.

A trusted tattoo artist will have a strong track record with tattoo safety. This means that they are likely to know exactly what is in all of the inks and to be sure that they have only the best ingredients, with a smaller chance of causing any sort of negative reactions.

Of course, with anything going into your body, it is vital that it is totally safe. Never use tattoo ink that you aren’t certain of.

Final Thoughts on the Tattoo Ink Safety

So many different aspects go into the safety of tattoos, and the quality of the ink is one of the key components. You must always share any allergies that you know you have with the tattoo artist, and this is one of the best reasons that people should make sure they have a tattoo consultation, giving chance to discuss these details with your tattoo artist.

There is always the chance of a reaction when you use tattoo ink. However, modern inks are not proven to have any sort of issues such as a carcinogenic link as some clickbait posts have claimed.

A trusted tattoo artist will ensure safety at every juncture, and this includes using the best inks. Even though there is no FDA approval, choosing a good tattoo artist means that you can be more confident of safety throughout.

About the Author

Jacob Pullman

Jacob Pullman

Jacob Pullman is a former tattoo artist turned into a consultant-enthusiast-writer-educator. A change of career, before he started writing, he got a degree in PR and communications. He is passionate about traveling and exploring the world and cultures visiting all those funky museums as a modern art lover. His ultimate goal is to spread knowledge about relationships (but only theoretically, as he is still single), a healthy lifestyle, body art, and of course, everything related to tattoo art. That's how he went deep into digital marketing, working with Skin Design Tattoo to educate and share his knowledge and experience.