February 6, 2018

What If You Have an Allergy to Tattoo Ink?

When you decide to get yourself a tattoo, there are some aspects you should consider before entrusting your skin to a tattoo master. Possibility of virus infection like hepatitis and HIV is probably the greatest risk associated with tattoo industry. Therefore, you have to be absolutely sure that the studio you choose is safe and all the instruments used during the process are sterile. However, this won’t protect you from allergy to tattoo ink.


Allergies to tattoo dye are quite rare, but sometimes, certain colors of the ink may trigger a reaction varying from mild to severe and even life-threatening. Tattoo inks of different colors are based on different substances. Thus, the red color is made from mercury, chromium is used in the green one, while the yellow and the blue colors contain cadmium and cobalt respectively.

Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance. A reaction to tattoo dye may occur the first time you come into contact with the dye, or after several exposures without any complications. Every time you get a tattoo, there is a risk of developing allergy symptoms, therefore, you should be cautious. If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, seek for medical help.

In most cases, you experience a local reaction that leads to itching, swelling, or hives on the affected area of the skin. These symptoms are usually not severe and can be treated at home. Hives are not common, and they may sometimes indicate the beginning of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

Local allergic reactions can also trigger a more serious systemic reaction, that includes swollen throat, difficulty breathing, or wheezing. In case of anaphylaxis, your blood vessels can also be affected resulting in a circulatory collapse.

Why Does a Tattoo Allergy Occur?


Tattoo ink is produced using various chemicals and other substances, any of which may cause an allergic reaction. According to its color, a tattoo ink may be made of iron oxide, aluminum, mercury sulfide, manganese, ferric hydrate and other ingredients. If you are allergic to any of these, you will develop the symptoms once the allergen gets into your skin. Your skin may react to any color, but red-colored tattoo inks are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than others.

What Types of Tattoo Allergies Are There?


Allergic reaction to tattoos may appear in different forms.

Photoallergic and allergic contact dermatitis are among the most commonly occurring allergic reactions to tattoos. In the majority of cases, such reactions are caused by red-colored inks containing mercury sulfide.

Another common type of a tattoo allergy is known as acute inflammatory allergic reaction. The symptoms are usually not serious and include redness, swelling and irritation of the skin. Normally, this reaction affects recently tattooed skin and lasts no longer than two or three weeks.

Photosensitivity is common in people living in warm and sunny climates. Exposure to the sun may lead to a skin allergy at the site of a tattoo, especially if the tattoo is made using yellow colors. The reaction is triggered by cadmium sulfide, found in yellow and some red pigments.

Some people may develop sensitivity to a substance contained in the tattoo ink that leads to a pseudolymphomatous allergic reaction. This reaction is usually delayed, which means it’s not typical for “fresh” tattoos. Red, blue and green are the colors of tattoo inks that may cause this type of reaction, where the red one is the most common.

Sometimes, an allergic reaction to a tattoo ink, especially a red one, may result in small bumps forming around the site of the tattoo. These bumps are called granulomas, and they may also be caused by purple, green, or blue inks.

In rare cases, people may experience a lichenoid allergic reaction, which is mostly triggered by red tattoo ink. This type of allergy causes small bumps to appear around the areas tattooed with the red ink.

What Are the Common Symptoms of an Allergy to Tattoo Ink?


Depending on the allergen and on the type of allergic reaction, tattoos may cause different symptoms. The most common of them include: skin rash or bumps, redness, swelling, flaking, scaling, as well as purple or red nodules around the site of the tattoo.

How Can You Treat an Allergic Reaction to Tattoo Dye?


If you experience the symptoms of an allergy to tattoo ink, you should see a dermatologist. You should never try to take care of the problem yourself, especially before you know your diagnosis. Based on the severity of the reaction, your doctor will recommend the best treatment option in your case. Thus, if you have an infection, your treatment will include antibiotics.

In people with severe allergic reactions, the treatment may require removal of the tattoo. Tattoos are removed with medical intervention, usually a skin laser.


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