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The Truth About Tattoo Ink

I'm a college student studying Web Design, and an avid writer, reader, and artist.


In the early 90s, tattoos began to gain popularity. By 2003, approximately 36% of Americans under the age of 29 had them, and by now, in 2016, the number has surely risen. Tattoos are a part of life—so much so that they are generally accepted in the workplace and glorified on television. It's nothing for a person to get a new tattoo each month—it's as simple as a 5-minute visit to the tattoo shop. No one really gives any thought to what exactly is in the ink that's being injected as long as it doesn't cause any allergic reactions. No reaction must mean that it's safe, right? Not always.

Why Isn't Tattoo Ink Safe?

The US Food and Drug Department doesn't regulate tattoo inks, therefore, tattoo inks can include a number of dangerous chemicals. Most of the organic dyes that are often used for color haven't been deemed safe for use topically, but they're mixed into tattoo ink and inserted under the skin.

Some of the chemicals found in colored tattoo inks have been linked to cancer, and were originally intended to be used in printer inks and industrial paint.

Color Chemistry



Iron oxide, carbon, logwood extract

Brown Ochres

Iron oxide, clay


Cinnabar pigment, cadmium red pigment, iron oxide, napthol-AS pigment


Disazodiarylide, cadmium seleno-sufide

Flesh Ochres

Iron oxide, clay


Cadmium yellow ochre pigment, chrome yellow pigment, disazodiarylide


Chromium oxide, ferrocyanides, lead chromate, monoazo pigment, phthalocyanine


Azure blue pigment, cobalt blue pigment, cu-phthalocyanine


Aluminimum salts, quinacridone, dioxazine/carbazole


Lead carbonate, titanium dioxide, barium sulfate, zinc oxide

Carrier Solution

Carrier solution is a liquid solution that is used in tattoo inks for the longevity of the artwork. Carrier solutions alone might very well contain harmful substances like methanol, antifreeze, detergents, and formaldehyde.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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