What is the safest tattoo ink? How can you tell if you’re allergic to it?
These are crucial questions if you’re worried about how you’ll react to getting inked.
Let’s look for answers as we review the best tattoo ink for sensitive skin.
Can you get a tattoo if you have sensitive skin?
If you have sensitive skin, you might be able to get a tattoo anyway. It all depends on what you’re allergic to and what’s in the ink.
Those with eczema and psoriasis should avoid getting a tattoo during a flare-up. Also, they should discuss skin conditions and allergies with the artist.
It might be best to start with a small tattoo and only one ink color, like black.
What’s weird is that an adverse reaction may not show up for years after the tattoo is done. Unfortunately, that means you can never be 100% sure if it’s safe for you to get a tattoo.
But you can lower your risk. Read on to find out how to choose the best ink for tattoos.
Which tattoo ink is best for sensitive skin?
Right off the bat, sterile vegan tattoo ink with organic pigments and no heavy metals will be safer for sensitive skin.
If it’s sterile, the ink prevents skin infections as long as the artist also uses sanitary equipment like a fresh needle. That’s the easy part. The biggest challenge is understanding the ingredients. The next difficulty is whether the ink has unintentional contaminants, like heavy metals.
Many ink manufacturers make MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) available for their products. On those pages, you can check which pigments they use and what carriers or suspensions. For example, you might find out one company uses witch hazel and glycerin. If you know you have a problem with either of those components, you can choose a different brand.
Instead of doing the research yourself, check with the tattoo artist as they may already be aware of these details.
Happily, some ink manufacturers go the extra mile and test their ink for purity and quality.
How to know if it’s an allergic reaction, an infection, or a normal response
Every tattoo is going to look red and swollen red after it’s done. That’s normal. But if the redness doesn’t go away or gets worse, that’s a problem. If the skin is hot and leaks pus, that’s an infection, and it needs immediate attention.
Other complications when tattooing sensitive skin include granuloma, which is like a rash. Then, there are keloids that are lumpy scars where the skin doesn’t heal properly.
If you’re not sure if your tattoo is healing correctly, show it to the artist. You can also consult with your doctor.
How to avoid allergic reactions to tattoo ink
Here’s an easy way to avoid problems when getting a tattoo. If you know that you’re allergic to metal like nickel, then tell the artist so that they can choose the right ink that’s metal-free.
What’s nickel got to do with allergic reactions? Have you ever tried a pair of cheap earrings, and then your earlobes got irritated? Then you probably have a nickel allergy. It’s a pigment in some kinds of ink (2).
Avoid any colors that you might be allergic to in other forms like food dyes, garment dyes, or printer ink.
You might also try a patch test. Although tattoo ink is permanent, it does eventually exfoliate and disappear from the surface of the skin. Therefore, there’s no harm in trying this method as the ink will fade soon enough.
Ask the artist to put a small dot of tattoo ink (without using a needle) in the crook of your elbow or the back of your knee. Wait at least a day to see what happens.
Finally, if you have an anaphylactic shock kit, bring it to the tattoo studio on the day you get inked, just in case. Please inform the artist about your concerns.
Best Tattoo Ink for Sensitive Skin
Now, let’s help you find tattoo ink that’s safe for sensitive skin.
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink
Kuro Sumi is acknowledged as one of the best tattoo inks in the world. Each color is vegan and uses organic pigments only.
For example, the black color is made from burnt plant material, not charred bone or heavy metals.
This long-lasting, vibrant ink is made in the USA. It’s known to heal quickly and retain its brightness and clarity for years.
It’s excellent for new tattoos and cover-ups, and has a thin consistency.
Kuro Sumi Colors Tattoo Ink – Master Set of 7 Best Sellers
If you must use colored ink, Kuro Sumi is one of the safest brands. This set of half-ounce bottles includes black, white, red, blue, orange, yellow, and green.
They are cruelty-free and made in the USA from organic ingredients.
Since this brand is very popular, it’s often imitated. Authentic bottles carry maroon labels, not black. If you’re not certain, check the company’s website for verification.
Intenze True Black Tattoo Ink
Intenze makes more than one shade of black tattoo ink. The True Black color is similar to standard black printer ink. Meanwhile, Zuper Black has a neutral tone, and it’s perfect for tribal work.
Either way you go, this manufacturer worries about safety. They have labs that focus on the consistency, sterility, and safe storage of their products. All their ink meets European Union standards as well as manufacturing regulations in the USA.
Each ink is cruelty-free and vegan. Check their site for MSDS sheets to get the ingredients of each ink.
World Famous Ink Lining and Shading Ink Set
World Famous has been developing inks for more than 50 years. They package in attractive crystal-flex bottles with twist caps and safety seals.
The set includes outlining black, charcoal greywash, midtone greywash, and dark greywash. It’s ideal for portraiture and realistic tattoos. The intense colors saturate well.
The vegan-friendly ink is EU-approved. But why does that matter if it’s an American product?
At this time, the European Union has stricter standards regarding tattoo ink ingredients than the USA does. Consequently, if a brand meets European standards, it may be considerably safer for sensitive skin (3).
Moreover, World Famous Ink also provides free information on their website regarding the ingredients they use.
StarBrite Colors Tattoo Ink
StarBrite doesn’t include nickel or iron in their tattoo ink. (That’s good to know as some brands use iron oxide in their black ink) (4).
Each ink is vegan and made from uncut pigments to get the most authentic color possible. It’s manufactured by Tommy’s Supplies in a clean room in Vermont. This setup prevents contamination.
Moreover, each ink is sterilized before shipping. Accordingly, tattoos inked with Starbrite Colors tend to heal quickly.
Millennium Moms BLACK ONYX
Millennium Moms ink is made by an American company called Technical Tattoo Supply. There are well over 100 shades available, including UV-reactive colors.
Each ink is highly-pigmented and vegan-friendly. On the downside, it’s difficult to find up-to-date MSDS sheets for every color.
Dynamic Triple Black Tattoo Ink
Dynamic Ink has been around since 1990. It’s another American brand that’s often imitated. That’s why you should check to see that your purchase is authentic.
They make vegan ink that’s cruelty-free as it was never tested on animals. The Triple Black color is perfect for shading, lining, and mixing greywash.
Sadly, lots of this brand’s ink were recalled in 2019 for bacterial contamination (5). Before that, they were dinged by the European Commission for including hazardous chemicals (6). We hope that things are sorted out by now.
Allegory Premium Lining & Shading Tattoo Ink Blak
BLAK ink is created in a laboratory in South Florida. Allegory makes professional tattoo ink with a silky smooth texture.
Some artists prefer this organic, vegan ink over other major brands because it packs like butter. Then, it stays looking fresh long after it’s healed.
But when I researched the ingredients, I found a vague MSDS sheet that did not identify the “proprietary pigment.” Later on, it’s described as “carbon black.” The other ingredients listed are water and isopropyl alcohol.
Bloodline 5-Color Primary Tattoo Ink Set
Bloodline used to be known as Skin Candy, an American brand. Their vegan ink has rich pigmentation that can be diluted with distilled water, witch hazel, or Listerine.
The water-based inks promote faster healing as they lack irritating carriers like alcohol. Furthermore, they usually have a long shelf life.
Radiant Colors Tattoo Ink 7-Color Set
Radiant Colors is another American-made brand of pre-dispersed tattoo ink. (“Pre-dispersed” means that it’s liquid and ready to use.)
This set comes with Tribal Black, Super White, Lime Green, Scarlet Red, Canary Yellow, Tiger Orange, and Blue. Each one has a rapid flow rate and vivid color.
You can check the MSDS sheets online for details on the formula.
Panthera Tattoo Ink
For variety, here’s an Italian brand of professional tattoo ink. They offer few colors, but each one is unique. They have a velvet gloss that resists fading in the sun.
They meet EU regulations for safety by analyzing both raw materials and each batch during production. Each lot is sterilized with gamma rays before shipping.
This set comes with 4 bottles, starting with regular black for outlining. Then, there are gray washes: Light Sumy is for blending to make lighter shades. Dark Sumy is for blending dark shades.
Lastly, XXX is suitable for tribal tattoos. It’s incredibly black and velvety. The texture is perfect for filling, too.
How safe are tattoo inks in beginner kits?
Most of the tattoo starter kits on the market contain inexpensive ink imported from Asia. Many times, the package will warn you that it’s okay for practicing but not appropriate for use on humans.
If the ink doesn’t carry such a warning, I’d say use it with caution. See if you can research the brand and view an MSDS sheet. It might be best to invest in one of the best brands of tattoo ink instead.
How to take care of an allergic reaction from a tattoo
It’s always smart to see a doctor about an allergic reaction. Seek emergency treatment if you have an anaphylactic reaction.
Otherwise, for mild skin irritation, you could try tattoo aftercare products like these.
Blue Green Foam Soap
This gentle antibacterial soap prevents and helps to clear up an infection. It’s paraben-free, too.
Wash the affected skin up to four times a day and rinse with warm water. Afterward, apply a moisturizer like the one below.
H2Ocean Ocean Care Tattoo Aftercare
This tattoo aftercare moisturizer is fragrance-free and water-based. It contains no petroleum.
It uses healing ingredients like rosehip seed oil, aloe, and jojoba to reduce redness, itching, and irritation.
Ora’s Amazing Herbal Tattoo Salve
This soothing ointment aids in healing any kind of wound, not just new tattoos. It has no petroleum or synthetic ingredients. There’s no gluten, dyes, lanolin, or artificial fragrance, either.
Apply a thin layer after every time you wash. It will calm itching and redness and ward off infection.
Benadryl Extra Strength Anti-Itch Gel
If your tattoo has already healed but suddenly develops a rash, perhaps Benadryl can help. This cooling gel features 2% diphenhydramine hydrochloride. It relieves itching and diminishes swelling.
CeraVe Sunscreen Stick SPF 50
Did you know that some ink colors cause a photo-toxic reaction in sunlight? Having yellow ink in a tattoo might give you a rash. But sunscreen can prevent the problem.
This mineral sunscreen is ideal for sensitive skin. It comes in a convenient stick that’s never messy.
Plus, the microfine zinc won’t dull the appearance of your tattoo or turn your skin white once it’s absorbed.
Choosing the best tattoo ink for sensitive skin is an individual decision. It must be based on the user’s needs, including known allergies.
Thankfully, some major ink manufacturers are careful to eliminate toxic ingredients and sterilize their products.
In any case, be cautious so that you can enjoy your new tattoo without any complications.
1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/tattoos-and-piercings/art-20045067 by Mayo Clinic Staff, published February 28, 2020, accessed October 30, 2020
2. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-avoid-allergic-reactions-to-tattoos By Alanna Martine Kilkeary, published February 21, 2017, accessed October 30, 2020
3. https://echa.europa.eu/hot-topics/tattoo-inks accessed October 30, 2020
4. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/tattoo-associated-skin-reactions/ by Vanessa Ngan, updated November 2019, accessed October 30, 2020
5. https://eu.tennessean.com/story/money/2019/05/16/tattoo-ink-recall-fda-alerts-customers-artists-contaminated-ink/3691527002/ by Juan Buitago, published May 16, 2019, accessed October 30, 2020
6. https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumers_safety/safety_products/rapex/alerts/?event=main.weeklyOverview&web_report_id=2372&Year=2017&lng=en accessed October 30, 2020