What’s in Tattoo Inks?
Tattoo inks are pigments suspended in a carrier solution. The carrier solution helps make sure the pigments are evenly mixed and easy to apply.
It’s difficult to know what ingredients are used for pigments and carriers in a particular tattoo because some tattoo artists mix their own ink, while others buy unregulated commercial products.
Common carrier ingredients include alcohol, glycerine, and sterilized water, but may also include anti-freeze, formaldehyde, or other toxic materials. The ingredients in pigments vary according to color. For example, black pigments are often made from iron oxide or carbon; green from chromium oxide, ferrocyanides, or lead chromate; and white from titanium dioxide, barium sulfate, or zinc oxide.
A ground-down form of plastic-acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)-is used to create bright, vivid tattoo pigments. This is the same plastic used to make a variety of lightweight molded products, such as bicycle helmets, Legos, and golf club heads.
Recently a company, Freedom2 of Cherry Hill, NJ, has begun to market a new type of tattoo ink called Infinitink™ that is permanent but more easily removable than traditional tattoo inks. Like the older-style inks, Infinitink is inserted under the skin with needles, but its pigments are encapsulated within tiny polymer beads. (The polymer is the same material used to cement bone during surgical procedures.)
Infinitink’s pigments will stay within the polymer indefinitely, but they can also be zapped away without the numerous laser treatments of traditional inks. When exposed to a laser, the capsules immediately dissolve, which permits the biodegradable pigments to become absorbed by the body-and the tattoo to disappear.
Infinitink is not yet widely available, and it costs more than other tattoo inks. Still, it may offer an option for people who want a tattoo but who worry about tattoo remorse.