Tattoo inks - Chemicals In Our Life

Tattoo inks

Tattoos are a popular form of body art – at least 12 % of Europeans have them. They are made by injecting coloured inks under the skin to leave a permanent design. The health risks of using dirty needles to inject the inks have been under scrutiny for some time. Now, their chemical-related concerns have also been analysed and their risks have been regulated at EU level.

Tattoo inks and permanent make-up are a mix of several chemicals. As these chemicals may stay in the body for life, there is also the possibility for long-term exposure to the potentially harmful ingredients. These chemicals may cause skin allergies and other more serious health impacts such as genetic mutations and cancer.

To protect European citizens, thousands of hazardous chemicals found in tattoo inks and permanent make-up are restricted in the EU under the REACH Regulation from January 2022. The aim is not to ban tattooing but to make the colours used in tattoos and permanent make-up safer.

The restriction covers, for example, chemicals that:

  • cause cancer or genetic mutations;
  • are toxic to reproduction;
  • are skin sensitisers and irritants.

Over 1 000 cases of chronic allergic reactions will be prevented every year as a result of the restriction. Several other skin reactions and serious effects originating from tattoos and permanent make-up will also decrease.

Note: This video describes the status in February 2018.

Click to view infographic

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