Allergic Reaction to Tattoo Ink

If you are allergic to the dyes used in your clothes there is also a chance that you may also be allergic to the dyes used in tattoos. With tattoos, if you find you are allergic to the ink, you can not remove the offending article to seek relief, so be very careful.

There is such a variety of ink used in the tattoo business that it is hard to pin point what may or may not cause irritation. Some tattoo ink contains azo dyes which are not toxic in themselves, but breakdown into element s that can be carcinogenic and allergic. Sometimes banned preservatives are used in the inks.

 Some tattoo dyes contain metal content such as aluminum, barium, copper and iron as well as cadmium, manganese and lead in small quantities. Other well known allergens such as chrome, cobalt and nickel are used.

A patient with an allergic reaction to tattoo ink may request tattoo removal using the Q-switched laser, the gold standard for removal of a tattoo, but the Q-switched laser treatment is not suggested for removing tattoos showing signs of allergic reactions because, ironically, in some cases, tattoos not displaying the signs of a allergy may show more signs of hypersensitivity after Q-switched laser treatment. Light from a Q-switched laser can stimulate an allergic response. In this case surgical removal may be the best course of action.

Tattoo artists should perform a patch test for the more commonly reported allergens prior to placing a tattoo on a client with known sensitivity to dyes. So be sure to notify your tattoo artists of any allergies to dyes, metals, preservatives or finishes on clothing before getting a tattoo.

If you already have a tattoo and are having an allergic reaction, start with some over the counter  hydrocortisone creams, anti-itch creams and cold compresses. If the irritation does not clear up in a week or so, you should contact a board certified dermatologist. There are stronger prescription steroids that can help. Follow your doctor’s directions carefully, I have had permanent skin damage from over using prescription strength hydrocortisone creams.


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