Tattoo Ink Allergies

One thing we cannot answer for you when you come in for your tattoo is whether or not you may or may not have an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink. The information we have gathered here is only basic information based on our own research and experience regarding tattoo ink allergies, and has not be written to replace medical advice. If you have any concerns that you may have had an allergic reaction to tattoo ink you should seek medical advice as soon as practically possible.

But having said this whilst it is possible to have an allergic reaction, from our experience is still a very rare occurrence. Whilst the majority of people will experience no adverse side effects at all allergic reactions to ink can sometimes still happen; and more notably with reds and yellows or colours which contain red or yellow. An allergic reaction does not necessarily happen immediately, which you would expect, but can occur years after having your tattoo.

Tattoo ink is made of two basic components, the pigment [which gives the ink its colour] and the carrier [which keeps the pigment in suspension]. Pigments have been known to contain iron oxides, plastics, mercury, cadmium, nickel, zinc, titanium to name but a few. The carriers most commonly used are alcohol, water, methanol, propylene glycol, glycerine or witch hazel. Which means that any allergic reaction is more likely to be due to the properties within the pigment apposed to the carrier.

Red being the colour that people seem most likely to have an allergic reaction to is most likely due to some red inks containing mercury; it is estimated that up to 5% of the population will have an allergic reaction to mercury. Yellow ink can contain cadmium sulfide, which on very rare occasions cause a reaction when exposed to the sun.

It isn’t usual for people who get a tattoo to experience a very slight inflammatory reaction, where the skin becomes red and slightly swollen and will subside after a couple of days. How will you know if are having an allergic reaction to your tattoo ink? Some of the most common reactions and symptoms are:-

• Granulomas, which are small bumps that form around the site of the tattoo.
• Photosensitivity, which can be triggered by exposing your tattoo to sunlight.
• Lichenoid reaction, is very rare and is related to red tattoo ink and small bumps that appear in and around the red ink areas only.
• Pseudolymphomatous reaction, which is the delayed reaction, red ink is usually the main culprit but blue and green ink can also be responsible.
• Dermatitis, both photoallergic and contact dermatitis.
• MRI examinations may temporarily cause tattoos to burn or sting.

Other considerations as to why you may react to tattoo ink could be due to the weather. When temperature and humidity rise is has been known to cause your tattoo to swell slightly resulting in the tattoo becoming itchy. The cooler winter months can also cause a reaction by making tattoos dry and itchy. And changes inside your own body, for example a rise in blood pressure, increased adrenaline; or that it could have made you more sensitive to a skin condition that you weren’t already aware of.


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