Tattoos are beloved by many for their aesthetic appeal, serving as a means of self-expression within a like-minded community. However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of getting a tattoo, often due to concerns about the ink used and its potential harm to the skin and body.
Some individuals worry that tattoo inks, especially red inks, may contain harmful substances like mercury, iron oxide, and cadmium, which are known to be heavy metals. These heavy metals are responsible for the permanence of tattoos but have also been associated with allergic reactions, eczema, and scarring in some cases.
Fortunately, there have been significant advancements in tattoo ink formulations, with many modern inks now free of heavy metals and considered safer. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of modern tattoo inks, exploring the materials and compounds used to create the vibrant colors seen in tattoos today. We’ll also address the claim that modern inks have made tattoos safer.
What Is Modern Tattoo Ink Made Of?
Modern tattoo inks are typically crafted from a variety of pigments, and people are increasingly conscious of what they put into their bodies. These inks are often referred to as organic pigments or vegan tattoos and are widely used and considered safe by tattoo artists.
In the past, tattoo inks were created using components such as heavy metals (like rust), charcoal, and even ink from ballpoint pens. However, modern inks utilize over 200 different additives and colors. While some pigments may be approved for cosmetic use, others are not suitable for application to the skin and body.
Two Main Components of Tattoo Ink
Colorant Base or Pigment Base: This is the component responsible for the ink’s color. For example, black ink pigments are traditionally made from soot and bone charcoal.
Ink Carriers: These are liquid bases that help evenly distribute colorants and prevent clumping. Ink carriers ensure that colorants are delivered smoothly from the needle to the dermis and also protect the ink from pathogens. Modern inks use safe carriers like witch hazel and propylene glycol.
Pigments Used in Tattoo Ink
Tattoo pigments are what create the vibrant colors in tattoos. In the past, black ink was made from pigments derived from ash or carbon, often from charred wood. While modern organic industrial inks dominate the market, some colorants can still be derived from plastics or vegetables, depending on the desired color.
Heavy metals are still used in tattoo inks today, primarily for creating basic colors. These pigments include:
- Barium for White
- Iron for Black, Red, or Brown
- Copper-free for Blue
- Titanium for White
- Aluminum for Violet or Green
- Cobalt for Blue
- Chromium for Green
- Zinc for White and Yellow
- Nickel for Black
- Cadmium for Yellow, Orange, or Red
- Lead for White or Green
- Mercury for Red
Manufacturers often blend heavy metal colors with lighter agents like lead or titanium to reduce production costs. Some compounds, such as arsenic and sulfur, may also be used in colorants.
It’s important to note that laser tattoo removal can target and remove these pigments, although the cost and effectiveness of removal depend on various factors, including tattoo size and location.
Ultimately, the decision to get a tattoo is a personal one, and many people choose to remove tattoos if they later regret them or grow tired of them. Tattoo ink has evolved significantly over the years, aiming to provide safer and more vibrant options for those who wish to adorn their skin with artistic expressions.
This post was written by J. Michael Taylor. J Michael Taylor is an artist and owner of Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery. Black Amethyst is the best amongst St Pete tattoo shops. They provide an art-first approach to custom tattooing in a gallery setting.