Allergic Reactions to Tattoo Ink


Allergic reactions to tattoo ink are few and far between, but certainly are possible.
Researching the tattoo shop and the ingredients of the inks that they use can prevent an allergic reaction from happening to you.

Time Frame

  • An allergic reaction can start immediately, but that is rare. Usually it will start after about 48 hours, or even a few weeks after receiving the tattoo. Some will be affected as long as a year after getting the tattoo.


  • An allergic reaction from ink can look a couple of different ways. Localized swelling and redness may occur, but this also happens when a tattoo is healing normally.

    Small blisters may form on the tattoo, or small pustules similar to pimples and a sebum may ooze from the tattoo.


  • Red ink is the usual cause for an allergic reaction in a tattoo. Some of these inks have iodine in them, and can cause a reaction in someone that is sensitive to it. Red is not the only color that has given a reaction; every color at one time has been said to have done this. Red is the most common, with yellow, green, and brown following behind it.


  • A tattoo artist can supply you with the list of ingredients in their inks if requested. Take this information to your dermatologist and have them approve the ingredients before you decide to get tattooed. Going to a professional tattoo shop will ensure that you will be receiving a high-quality ink.

    Some tattoo artists offer a skin patch test, where you can have the ink applied behind your ear with a cotton swab to see if you have a reaction. It is best to leave the ink on for longer than a week, for allergic reactions sometimes do not show up immediately. Another option is having a small dot of color tattooed in an inconspicuous place on your body to see how your skin reacts.


  • Never try to tattoo yourself at home with ink. When choosing a tattoo shop, look for objects like sharps containers and autoclaves, which are signs that the needles used are one-time use only and the tubes are sterilized. Ask for a tour of the tattoo shop and ask as many questions as you like.

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