Tattoo Ink - Allergic Reaction Warnings

When you get a tattoo, you're probably excited about the design and the new way you'll express yourself. However, before getting contemporary body art, it's essential to know that not all inks are created equal. Some, such as black henna or blue indigo tattoo ink, are made with natural dyes and won't cause allergic reactions.

Others, such as red henna or green Indigo chin ink, are often used in tattoos because of their dark color and bold look. While some people who use these inks may not react, others may experience swelling and itching within minutes of getting inked with them. Read on to learn more about how these types of ink can cause an allergic reaction and what you can do if this happens.

Why Do People Get Tattoo Allergies?

Due to the wide variety of chemicals and compounds in tattoo ink, you may be allergic to at least one. If this is the case, you should avoid getting a tattoo. An ink's composition can comprise a wide variety of compounds, depending on the desired color; iron oxide, mercury sulfide, ferric hydrate, aluminum, and manganese, to mention just a few.

These compounds determine the color of the ink. Any of these components could bring on an allergic reaction after the ink has been absorbed into the skin. Although red tattoo ink is the most common perpetrator, an allergic reaction can be triggered by any color of ink in specific individuals.

Types of Tattoo Allergic Reactions

There are several manifestations of tattoo allergy −

  • Acute allergic inflammation − It is not uncommon for the area to become red, slightly swollen, and itchy after a session of getting a tattoo; this type of reaction is referred to as an acute inflammatory reaction. As a result of the fact that the tattoo needle and ink are both irritants, this occurs. It is safe, and after a few weeks, it will vanish without any intervention from anyone.

  • Photosensitivity − If someone comes into contact with an exposed tattoo, he risks developing an allergy to the yellow ink used in the tattoo. The pigment yellow and some red pigments include cadmium sulfide, which has been linked to photosensitivity.

  • Dermatitis − Photosensitivity and allergic contact dermatitis are two of the most prevalent adverse responses to tattoos, affecting many people. Red tattoo ink, which often contains mercury sulfide, is the culprit in allergic reactions like these.

  • Having an allergy to lichens − This condition manifests itself as a cluster of tiny bumps in and around the area that has been tattooed, and the most common cause of it is red tattoo ink.

  • False lymphoma resulting from an allergic response − This reaction does not occur immediately; instead, it appears after the tattoo has healed and is presented to the body for the first time. In most cases, this is brought on by red tattoo ink; however, blue and green can also play a role.

  • Granulomas − There is a possibility that these lumps result from an allergic reaction. On the other hand, similar lumps can be caused by different colors of tattoo ink in addition to red ink, and they can appear at the location of the tattoo.

How Tattoo Inks Cause Allergic Reactions

Artificial dyes and chemicals usually cause allergic reactions to tattoo inks. They can be triggered by a variety of factors, including −

  • Your skin type − Tattoo ink can cause allergic reactions in sensitive, oily, and dry skin types. Those with acne-prone skin may be more likely to experience an allergic reaction.

  • Your genes − Certain ethnic groups are more likely to experience allergic reactions to certain tattoo inks. Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latino tattoo users are likelier to experience allergic reactions to blue and red inks.

  • The tattoo artist − While it's essential to trust the artist you go to for your new tattoo, it's also important to know that only some people with a tattoo studio are qualified to do the work. If you decide to get a tattoo at a non-licensed location or if the artist you go to is inexperienced, allergic reactions are more likely.

  • How much ink you get − If you and someone else are getting the same tattoo, you may experience a lower or higher rate of allergic reactions.

  • How the tattoo is applied − If you’re getting a tattoo from an untrained artist, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing an allergic reaction.

Avoiding Tattoo Ink Allergies

If you're at risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to tattoo inks, it's essential to be aware of what's in ink and to take precautionary measures. Before getting a new tattoo, it's a good idea to ask your artist what inks he will be using and to take a skin prick test to determine your skin's sensitivity. You can skip a few batches of the ink if they're using an old formula or one you’re allergic to. If the artist has a machine, it’s also a good idea to check the ink’s color and consistency.

Aftercare for a Tattoo Reaction

After a tattoo reaction, it's essential to rest and keep your new ink covered until the swelling goes down. You may experience some redness, itching, and inflammation for a few days after getting a new tattoo, so avoid scrubbing your skin, excessive sweating, and saunas. If you experience a lot of pain from swelling, itching, or a fever, you must see a doctor and tell him about your tattoo. It's also a good idea to take antihistamine pills during this time.


If you've been wondering about the possibility of having an allergic response to the ink used for a tattoo, you may relax knowing that this can absolutely happen. However, you can also lessen the likelihood of having an allergic reaction by researching the ink's ingredients, posing questions to your artist, getting a skin test if you are at risk of allergic reactions to certain inks, and following the aftercare instructions provided by your artist.