Allergic Reactions to Tattoos

Allergic Reactions to Tattoos
Allergic Reactions to Tattoos

A surprising number of people develop allergic reactions to tattoos. Most common symptoms include swelling and severe itching that can last for months or even years later.

Allergic Reactions to Tattoos

Tattoos are fast rising as a form of body modification. It is becoming more of a fashion statement. More people are using tattoos to express themselves.

Allergic reactions to tattoos is the negative reaction of the immune system. It can range from mild to life threatening. There are different colors used to tattoo. These are made from different materials. Green ink color is made from chromium while red is made from mercury. Blue is made from cobalt while yellow is made from cadmium. Allergic reactions to red tattoo ink are the most common.

People with allergic reactions to certain metals may react to the materials used in different ink pigments. Allergic reactions may be triggered by exposure to sunlight.

Experienced tattoo artists will recommend that you get a patch test on a small area of the skin.

Tattoo allergies are caused by the different chemicals that are used to make different pigments. You may be allergic to one and completely receptive to another.

It is important to note that allergic reactions do not always present the first time you get a tattoo. You can have a reaction on your third or fourth ink session. It is recommended to always watch out for signs of allergy so that you can get help the soonest possible.

Risk Factors


Signs of Ink Poisoning

What does Ink Rejection Look Like? Signs of allergic reactions to tattoos may present locally with rash, swelling or itching on the area of contact. Local reactions range from mild to annoying and can be easily handled at home.

A local tattoo allergy may also be the beginning of life threatening allergic reaction. This is medically known as anaphylaxis. Severe reactions may present with circulatory problems such as swelling of the throat and problematic breathing. When blood vessels are involved, it can cause collapse of the circulatory system.

Types of Allergic Reaction to Tattoos

Allergic reaction to tattoos can present in a number of ways;

Acute Inflammatory Allergic Reaction

Once the ink gets into your skin, the skin may become irritated. It will present with redness and slight swelling. While this is not a serious reaction, it requires close observation as it may be the beginning of a serious form of reaction. These effects will generally subside within a few weeks.

Contact Dermatitis

It is one of the most common forms of reactions to tattoo inks. This is often experience when red ink is used. Contact dermatitis appears as an early sign in tattoos that have been acquired recently. Symptoms include:

  • Crusting
  • Discharge of clear fluid (weeping)
  • Raised itchy areas

Symptoms of contact dermatitis from tattoos usually resolve within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, oral or topical corticosteroids may be used to alleviate the symptoms.


They are small bumps that appear as a result of an allergic reaction to tattoos. The bumps form on or around the site of the tattoo.


Most allergic reaction to tattoos are triggered by exposed to sunlight. According to the, exposing tattoos to sunlight may trigger allergic reactions especially those done with yellow pigment. This is basically due to the reaction between the sun and tattoo dye.

Photosensitivity causes itching, crusting, redness and local swelling.

Lichenoid Allergic Reaction

These are small ink bumps that appear on red ink marks. They are less common eczematous reactions. It is an expression of delayed hypersensitivity to a lymphocytic T-cell infiltrate. It is most common

There are more than 50 known pigments that are currently used in tattooing. Unless you’ve have previous tattoos, you may not be able to tell which one you are allergic to. Your tattoo artist will recommend a test on a small and concealed part of your body.

He’ll simply apply a little bit of the color on your skin (without the needle). If your skin shows signs of inflammation such as redness, then you’ll know that you are allergic. This does not necessary mean that you cannot use that ink. You can discuss and agree with your artist whether or not to have that particular ink with close observation. This is done with regard to the possible effects that type of ink could have on you.

Remember that the best way to get quality tattoos is get an experienced tattoo artist. Research widely, get referrals so that you are able to rule out artists with no qualifications.

A qualified tattoo artist will give aftercare instructions either verbal or written before or after offering his services.

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