queen of the avengers sitcom and captain of the uss merakai                            Hana. Christian. Fangirl. Wordsmith. Expect varied fandoms, a whole           lot of tags, and incoherent babbling.

Tattoo Ink and Pigment


Say you have a character that is a tattoo artist. Or a character who is getting a tattoo and is the kind of person who obsessively researches such a permanent decision.

Then look no further! Here is an article about the chemistry behind tattoo ink and pigment. If you don’t want to follow the link, I’ve put the most of it in this post.

As always, remember this is just information from one source on the internet. Call or visit your local tattoo artist to ask them more questions!

What Are Tattoo Inks?

The short answer to the question is: You can’t be 100% certain! Manufacturers of inks and pigments are not required to reveal the contents. A professional who mixes his or her own inks from dry pigments will be most likely to know the composition of the inks. However, the information is proprietary (trade secrets), so you may or may not get answers to questions.

Most tattoo inks technically aren’t inks. They are composed of pigments that are suspended in a carrier solution. Contrary to popular belief, pigments usually are not vegetable dyes. Today’s pigments primarily are metal salts. However, some pigments are plastics and there are probably some vegetable dyes too. The pigment provides the color of the tattoo. The purpose of the carrier is to disinfect the pigment suspension, keep it evenly mixed, and provide for ease of application.

Composition of Tattoo Pigments







Tattoo Ink Carrier Chemistry

Tattoo ink consists of pigment and a carrier. The carrier may be a single substance or a mixture. The purpose of the carrier is to keep the pigment evenly distributed in a fluid matrix, to inhibit the growth of pathogens, to prevent clumping of pigment, and to aid in application to the skin. Among the safest and most common ingredients used to make the liquid are:

  • ethyl alcohol (ethanol)
  • purified water
  • witch hazel
  • Listerine
  • propylene glycol
  • glycerine (glycerol)

However, many other substances have been and may be used, including:

  • denatured alcohols (are toxic and can burn the skin)
  • other alcohols (methyl alcohol or methanol and isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol are commonly used, although they are toxic)
  • ethylene glycol (antifreeze, which is toxic)
  • aldehydes, such as formaldehyde and gluteraldehyde (highly toxic)
  • various surfactants or detergents

There are many other substances that could be found in an ink. A tattooist has the choice of mixing his or her own ink (mixing dry dispersed pigment and a carrier solution) or purchasing what are called predispersed pigments. Many predispersed pigments are as safe or safer than inks mixed by the tattooist. However, the ingredient list need not be disclosed, so any chemical could be present in the ink. The best advice is to make sure the ink supplier and the particular ink has a long history of safety. Although I have applied the word ‘toxic’ to many substances listed on the pigment and carrier list, that is an oversimplification. Some of these chemicals are mutagens, carcinogens, teratogens, toxins, or participate in other reactions in the body, some of which may not show up for decades.

Ink Safety

Even if you have quality pigments and use the recommended carriers to mix the ink, there are other, less obvious potential health hazards associated with tattoo inks:

  • Alcohol makes skin more permeable. This means that when alcohol is used in the ink or to disinfect the skin’s surface, it allows more chemicals to cross into the bloodstream than ordinarily would.
  • Another interesting factoid concerning alcohol is that it is known as a ‘promoter’. In biomedical parlance, this means alcohol works synergistically with mutagens, teratogens, and carcinogens to make them more likely to cause harm than they would by themselves. If any hazardous substances are present in the ink, alcohol helps them into the body and then increases the chance that they may cause mutation or disease, not just at the site of the tattoo, but throughout the body.
  • Medical-grade chemicals are intended for medical uses, so any impurities within them should be relatively safe. However, the trace amounts of contaminants in high purity chemicals from a chemical supply house may be extremely toxic substances! An example: distilled water that isn’t intended for drinking, while technically pretty pure, can have highly toxic organic chemicals as contaminants.
  • The person who mixes the ink needs to understand proper sterilization techniques. This includes knowing how to perform heat-sterilization and cold-sterilization and understanding the sterilization needs of different materials. Dry or mixed pigments should never be heat sterilized, since the heat can cause chemical changes in the pigment molecules, sometimes producing toxic substances.

More stuff on tattoos:


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So I tried to recreate this, because I knew the responses would be different, and consequently realized that it’s either extremely old or faked, as Cleverbot auto-capitalizes and auto-punctuates your sentences for you if you do not. Oh well.

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a true fact about spiders is they can’t run for extended periods of time because they have asthma. all spiders are nerds. even tarantulas. have you ever seen a spider dating a hot babe? i doubt it. spider flashing his cash in the club? nope. spider pulling up beside you at the lights in a lamborghini? never happened. they’ve got so many eyes because they love reading. nerds. all of them.


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