If you have a red tattoo, you are more likely to experience a reaction than if you choose a different color. Here is a letter I received about tattoo ink:
"All the red ink contains nickel? The tattoo artist told me that if I can't wear cheap jewelry, I shouldn't use red ink on my tattoo. Can't. Any metal or anything else in the ink will produce the same reaction that you would get with inexpensive jewelry. This will cause problems. She won't use them on me. Will it be the same for pink, or orange, or any color with some amount of red? Someone else with a lot of tattoos told me she's never heard of it and she responds to inexpensive jewelry."
I would trust a tattoo artist over someone with a lot of tattoos as they are more likely to know the composition of the ink and if their clients have had issues with a particular color. Another artist might give different advice and use a different ink chemistry.
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Key Takeaways: Reaction to Red Tattoo Ink
- Any tattoo ink can cause a reaction. The risk arises from any of the ink components, including the pigment, the carrier, and chemicals that are added to keep the suspension sterile.
- Red and black inks cause most of the recorded reactions. The pigment in this ink can cause problems.
- The most toxic red pigment, cinnabar (HgS), is a compound of mercury. Its use has been largely phased out.
- Organic pigments are less likely to cause reactions or interfere with medical diagnostic tests. However, over time, they degrade. Some of the molecules that result from degradation include carcinogens.
Why Red Tattoo Ink Can Trigger a Reaction
The problem with red is the chemistry of the ink. In particular, this is due to the nature of the pigment used for coloring. The ink carrier (liquid part) may also play a role, but it is most likely common to other colors.
Some reds contain iron. Iron oxide is a red pigment. It's mostly powdery rust. While it may not cause a reaction, it is more of a rusty red than a bright red. Iron oxide ink (which also contains brown ink) can react to magnets in an MRI. Small particles, especially in red and black ink, are known to migrate from the tattoo site to the lymph nodes. The migrated pigment molecules can not only cause health problems, but may also appear abnormal in medical diagnostic tests. In one case, to a women with extensive tattoos had 40 lymph nodes removed because a positron emission tomography (PET-CT) scan mistakenly identified migrated tattoo pigment as malignant cells.
The brightest red pigments include toxic metals such as cadmium or the mercury . Fortunately, the red pigment of mercuric sulfide, called cinnabar, is largely excluded from ink formulations. Cadmium red (CdSe) is still used and can cause redness, itching, scaling, and other problems.
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Organic pigments cause fewer reactions than metallic reds. These include azo pigments such as Solvent Red 1. Solvent Red 1 does not cause as many problems as reds with iron, cadmium, or mercury, but it can degrade either- anisidine, a potential carcinogen. Decomposition occurs over time due to exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight, tanning beds, or other sources) or bacteria. Azo pigments like Red Solvent 1 also break down when the tattoo is removed with a laser.
While red ink is well known to cause hypersensitivity reactions, there are other colors that can occur when mixing red ink. The more dilute the pigment (for example, orange or pink), the less likely a reaction of the red component will occur, but the risk is still present.
Do you have any other type of allergy?
Most people allergic to the ink tattooists are also allergic to other dyes found in food or clothing. If you have this kind of allergy, you can ask your tattoo artist do a preliminary test about how your skin will react to the paint you are going to use. However, it is possible that tests of this type do not always give 100% correct results . Although the main reaction will be visible immediately, some side effects can take months to appear.
For those who have an adverse reaction only after a year, and this may be, there will be a characteristic reaction - itchy skin. There may also be a reaction to weather conditions. If the tattoo site feels itchy when it's hot, it could be due to an allergy to the ink when it gets hot .
There are medications that can help you get rid of unpleasant allergic reactions to ink soon after getting a tattoo. They tend to be antibiotic ointments or hydrocortisone , and you can also try anti-itch creams and cold compresses. If symptoms persist within a week or so, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist .