Have you ever wondered just what's in tattoo ink? You might be surprised to find out what it is really made of.
Tattoo Ink 101
Tattoo ink is the substance used to give your designs their colors. This may be just a black line drawing or a design that incorporates numerous colors. The ink is injected beneath the outer layer of skin where the color remains.
Although tattoo inks are meant to be permanent, the color is prone to a bit of fading over the course of time as your immune system tries to break down the foreign substance and carry it out of your system. Most of the pigment molecules will be too large for the white cells to disperse, and so most of the coloring will remain unless you choose to have it removed at a later date.
We should note the term ink is used a bit loosely, since most of these products aren't actually inks at all. So-called tattoo ink is made of two basic components; pigments and carriers.
Pigments are pretty much anything that can be finely ground down to provide color. Minerals, vegetable dyes, plastics, and metallic salts are all substances that have been used to create tattoo inks. Many substances can be used to make the same color, but here is a simple list of colors and the pigment used to make them:
- Blue - Calcium Copper Silicate
- Red - Iron Oxide
- Green - Chromium Oxide
- Yellow - Curcuma
- Black - Carbon
- White - Zinc Oxide
And the list could go on, but this gives you an idea of the substances that go into creating those colors that are so sought after in tattoo shops everywhere.
Commonly Used Carriers
Carriers are liquids used to deliver the pigments beneath the skin. The best carriers distribute the pigment evenly, keep it from clumping together when used, and provide a bit of disinfecting action. Some of the most commonly used liquid carriers are:
- Witch Hazel
- Purified Water
- Propylene Glycol
Alternative to Tattoo Ink
Henna is a natural plant dye alternative to tattoo ink, but it only has a temporary effect. The Henna dye is painted on the skin, soaking in to create a temporary, yet attractive tattoo. It is important to note that some people have been known to have an allergic reaction to Henna. So, it is best to do a small skin test before committing to a large design.
Tattoo inks can result in some really great body art, but you need to do what you can to protect yourself. Manufacturers of tattoo ink do not have to divulge what is in it, so you, and likely your tattoo artist, may never know exactly what chemical compounds have been used. The main problem with this practice is that some of the chemicals may have some type of toxicity, resulting in anything from allergic reactions to the more serious promotion of carcinogens.
If your tattoo artist mixes his/her own inks, ask them what compounds they use. If you've had a history of an allergic reaction to a particular substance, let it be known. If your artist purchases tattoo ink (or a tattoo kit of ink), be sure to ask how long he/she has been using the brand and what type of reactions, if any, have been reported. Knowing you've done all you can will give you peace of mind.