How to Know if You're Allergic to Tattoo Ink

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The process of getting a tattoo involves implanting pigments beneath layers of skin to create a design. For some people, this can cause an allergic reaction. The results of an allergic reaction to tattoo ink can be anything from irritation to total rejection of the ink, where the body rids itself of the ink particles by pushing them back through the skin. If you have never been tattooed before or are trying a new ink, it is best to check if you are allergic to the ink before your tattoo is started.

How to Know if You're Allergic to Tattoo Ink
How to Know if You're Allergic to Tattoo Ink (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Step 1

Visit your tattoo artist before getting tattooed. Shops in most states are required to keep a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for their ink, listing the ingredients of the tattoo ink. Make a copy of this ingredients list. If the MSDS is not available, write down the name of the manufacturer and the color of the ink so that the manufacturer can be contacted for an ingredients list. Make note of any substances that you are allergic to and ask for an alternative color if there are potential irritants in the ink.

Visit your tattoo artist before getting tattooed.
Visit your tattoo artist before getting tattooed. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Step 2

Have a patch test done with the ink at least 24 hours in advance. Place a small amount of tattoo ink on an area of bare skin at or near the tattoo site and allow it to remain for 24 hours. If there is a reaction to the ink such as itching or swelling, you may have an allergy to the ink.

Have a patch test done with the ink at least 24 hours in advance.
Have a patch test done with the ink at least 24 hours in advance. (Image: Dani Simmonds/Hemera/Getty Images)

Step 3

Have your artist perform a "dot test" at least 24 hours before your tattoo is to be drawn. In this test, a small amount of pigment is tattooed into the skin as a small dot. Monitor the area carefully to see if there is any reaction or problems. Redness and swelling may indicate an allergy to the tattoo ink.

Have your artist perform a "dot test" at least 24 hours before your tattoo is to be drawn.
Have your artist perform a "dot test" at least 24 hours before your tattoo is to be drawn. (Image: Gina Smith/Hemera/Getty Images)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Redness and irritation is normal immediately after a tattoo is finished. If the area swells, becomes hot to the touch or you develop a fever, see a doctor immediately.

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