The popularity of tattoos is increasing rapidly. This is causing many considerations to be made when it comes to the ink and the whole process. No longer is basic cleanliness the only concern now people have began to wonder if tattoos are hypoallergenic. Many people find they are allergic to certain inks and they have begun seeking out tattoos that won’t cause them to react negatively. Allergic reactions can potentially be quite severe so it is a growing concern. Some people have the advantage of being aware of an allergy beforehand, but most are not so fortunate. When you first get your tattoo it is, naturally, the first time you will be exposed to tattoo ink, you will only become aware of an allergy after the application is complete.
Are tattoos hypoallergenic? No, not all of them. There are many different kinds of ink with a wide variety of ingredients. Many manufacturers have started producing inks that are vegan and hypoallergenic, however. If you are worried about an allergic reaction, the best thing you can do is ask about the type of ink a shop uses. A patch test is another precautionary step you can take.
Unfortunately, some shops still try to cut corners and use cheaper inks that contain toxic ingredients. It is important that you are vigilant and ensure you are only getting a tattoo from a shop that uses high-quality ink with nontoxic ingredients. Certain metals are more dangerous than others. Certain ink colors are also easier to create with nontoxic ingredients, so if you are concerned about allergies it can be a good idea to avoid some colors.
Avoiding Allergic Reactions
There is no one size fits all way to avoid allergic reactions completely. Everyone’s body is different and will be sensitive to different things. Some tattoo ink manufacturers have been working hard to develop safe, healthy, and non-toxic inks that everyone can use without worrying.
Different ingredients are used for different colored tattoo inks. Knowing which ingredients are used is helpful in avoiding reactions if you already know that you are allergic to them.
- Black. Black ink is typically made from carbon. Carbon sensitivities are quite rare and many people with known ink allergies can safely get all black tattoos.
- Red. Red pigments in tattoo ink come from mercury. This red color is the most common color to be allergic to as approximately 1-5 percent of the general population is allergic to mercury.
- Yellow. Commonly made with cadmium. This ingredient can cause eczema type reactions in some people. You can have a reaction when this ingredient is exposed to light.
- Green. Chromium is used in green pigments and can also cause reactions that are similar to eczema.
- Blue. Cobalt is used in blue pigments. Some may sensitive to this ingredient and experience reactions.
- Purple. Magnese is will be used to achieve purple pigments. Some may experience tattoo granulomas if they have an allergy to Magnese.
The best way to prevent severe and dangerous allergic reactions is to perform a patch test. Before getting the entire tattoo done, you can have the artist put a small dot of ink in your skin. This dot can be monitored for a reaction. If none occur, you are probably in the clear.
If you do have a reaction to the patch test, you can have your doctor or an allergist test you to determine what exactly caused the reaction. They may be able to pinpoint the ingredient that you are allergic to, this can help you find a shop that uses inks without these ingredients.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction
Once you get your tattoo, it is important to monitor for signs of an allergic reaction. Your artist can help you learn what to look out for, but common signs include:
- Severe redness
- Excessive Flaking
- Purple or red nodules
- Scaly appearance
While these are the most common things to look for, other symptoms can occur depending on the specific cause of the reaction. Causes can vary greatly, so always keep a close eye on the tattoo. Don’t hesitate to contact or see your doctor and/or artist at the first sign of anything suspicious.
Those with many tattoos are familiar with the normal side effects of healing. Those who are less experienced, however, sometimes confuse these symptoms with infection or allergic reaction. Normal side effects of a healing tattoo include:
- Mild redness, swelling, and soreness.
- Itching. Tattoos will be extremely itchy during the first week or two of healing.
- Mild scabbing.
- Mild bleeding (first day or two).
- Excess ink bleeding out.
Treating an Ink Allergy
If your skin does end up reacting to the ink, the treatment required will differ based on what type of reaction has taken place, and how severe it is.
Over the Counter Treatments
Never try to treat an allergic reaction completely on your own. Always consult your doctor for proper direction. For mild reactions, however, there are some products you can get over the counter that will help provide relief for certain symptoms.
An antibiotic ointment or hydrocortisone cream can help with any discomfort or pain coming from the tattoo. Itch relieving cream as well as applying some ice may also be able to help.
Seek medical attention if the reaction is serious. You may be prescribed a round of steroids, or some antibiotics if the reaction has turned into an infection.
Whether the reaction is mild or severe, persistent symptoms are not fun to live with. Tattoo ink allergies are unique in that unless the tattoo is removed, the ink will be with you forever. There are cases where even medical intervention does not totally eradicate all symptoms of the reaction, and removal may be your only option.
There are a number of removal methods out there, including the cheap and easy tattoo removal cream. Unfortunately, none of the available options will actually work safely except for professional laser removal.
Long Term Reactions
While very rare, it is possible for an allergy to develop many years after a tattoo has already been healed. When this happens, a healed tattoo will begin to swell, itch, or develop a small rash. In this case, you should follow the same steps as if the reaction showed up immediately after application. If treatments don’t work, removal may, unfortunately, be your only choice.
It is also possible for an older and fully healed tattoo to react during an MRI. The ink can react to the MRI pulses and produce swelling and burning sensations on the tattoo. These reactions are most commonly caused by tattoo pigments containing metallic, iron oxides.
In addition to being painful, these metals can also potentially distort the final image. An MRI uses a strong magnetic field to get its images. Patients are always required to remove all traces of metal (jewelry, underwire, etc.) Tattoos can’t be removed on command and the metals can cause problems.
MRIs are crucial in diagnosing many health problems. They are needed to determine treatment plans. Don’t let the risk of tattoo interference stop you from getting an MRI done if your doctor says you need one. The best thing to do is simply be aware of these risks, and let the doctor performing your MRI know that you have tattoos.
In addition to delayed allergic reactions and MRI complications, there are some other long-term complications that tattoos can be at risk for. One of the most common is permanent photosensitivity. Always try to keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight during the healing process. If you are going into direct sunlight you should put a good amount of sunscreen on your tattoo during the healing process.
Your tattoos could always be effected by direct sunlight even after the healing process. There is no foolproof way to predict if this will happen to you, though you may want to be wary if you know you already have sensitive skin in general.
Tattoos that are sensitive to the sun even after complete healing will become inflamed, itchy, and sore when exposed to the sun. This is unpleasant and inconvenient, but not generally a risk to your health. If you find this is the case with you and your tattoos, you will simply have to decide if you are willing to live with it.
While there is always a slight risk of allergic reactions to tattoo ink, it is not the only health risk that tattoos can present. People are becoming more and more aware of potential health issues and they are seeking safer options.
There are several manufacturers that are developing vegan inks that use more natural ingredients to achieve the desired colors. Many are more comfortable with these ingredients in general. These ingredients can include:
- Carbon and logwood (black).
- Titanium dioxide (white).
- Tumeric (yellow).
- Monoazo – carbon-based (green).
- Dioxazine and carbazole (purple.)