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The 411 on INK…

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

So, here’s a pretty pertinent question… what’s the 411 on the INK? Inks can be made up of all kinds of delicious toxic materials, from titanium dioxide, to carbon black, all the way to automobile paint. Interestingly enough though, while the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate the substances that people ingest and put on their skin, they do not regulate the substances or inks that people put under their skin. Also, the FDA is no help in requiring ink makers to list the ingredients they use on their products. These are the requirements stated by the FDA:

The FDA considers the inks used in intradermal tattoos, including permanent makeup, to be cosmetics…. The pigments used in the inks are color additives, which are subject to premarket approval under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. However… the FDA traditionally has not exercised regulatory authority for color additives on the pigments used in tattoo inks. The actual practice of tattooing is regulated by local jurisdictions.

What does that mean for you tattoo goers? You best trust the person who is gonna be poking you! Be informed and pick a tattoo artist who knows about the ingredients that make up the tattoo inks they choose to use. It is never unreasonable to ask your artist what inks they use and what are the toxic properties that may cause a reaction. When doing your own research, the first step is to find out what brand of inks your artist uses and request a MSDS Sheet (Material Safety Data Sheet). Your artist my not always have this sheet readily available but if they are using a reputable brand of ink, you should be able to easily find the MSDS on-line with a little digging. Now that being said, if you don’t like the inks that your artist is using it will be easier to find a new artist than get them to use different inks. Inks are our preferred pigment of paint, the one that we love the most…. And they are very expensive, so we stick with our inks.

There are all kinds of inks out there. Vegan ones, organic, metal based, plant based, some that use antifreeze and formaldehyde as a carrier ingredient…. Needless to say, the list goes on. As with medications, people’s reactions to inks is unique and can vary greatly from person to person.  A tattoo is a big decision, as such, the more you research and stay informed the better the result will be.

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel” -Mark Twain-

Happy Healing,


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