Bad Tattoo Ink Biography
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Does all red ink have nickel in it? I was told by the tattoo artist that if I can't wear inexpensive jewelry I should not use red ink in a tattoo. I can not. Whatever metal or whatever is in the ink would cause the same reaction I get to inexpensive jewelry. That would cause a problem. She will not use it on me. Would this be the same for pink or orange or any color with any amount of red in it? Someone else who has had numerous tattoos told me they never heard of that and she reacts to inexpensive jewelry."
I'd trust the tattoo artist over someone who has numerous tattoos, since she is more likely to know the composition of the ink and whether or not clients have had trouble with a color.
Some reds contain iron, some contain toxic metals such as cadmium or mercury. There is an organic red that causes fewer reactions than the metal-based reds. Red ink is well-known for causing sensitivity reactions. The more dilute the pigment, like in orange or pink, the lower the chance of a reaction, but I would say the risk is still present.
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September 4, 2008 at 10:54 am
(1) Sara says:
I got a tattoo on a low-circulation area (my thumb) and developed a granulomatic reaction to the ink. The tattoo artist had assured me that all of her inks were organic after i presented her with my inflamed thumb. Once i finally got the brand name of ink she used, i found the brown mix she had used on me was actually an inorganic red base, and the company warned of the nickel content on their website.
My response to them: If you don’t trust your tattoo artist, don’t get the tattoo. But if she is making suggestions that aren’t straight up directing you towards just giving your money and going on your way, then i would have to say that she sounds like a pretty good bet. If you’re still worried, though, research the ink, and perhaps request a different type if you’re worried. I learned the hard way, and after a year of steroid treatment, my reactive tattoo is very ugly.
September 28, 2008 at 11:25 pm
(2) AMcDermed says:
As a tattoo artist, I would say don’t always trust every tattoo artist to know everything. There are some people who stumbled into their carreers in this field and don’t know much about technique let alone the chemical compositions of the inks they use.
Having said that, I find very few people are allergic to pigments, but the ones who are are often allergic to red. These people are often allergic to other things containing red such as licorice, red candy, etc. I’ve had a dermatologist explain it to me as the phenol thaylene content in red pigments. Some people have just a mild reaction such as small bumps and redness; others will have the red in the tattoo scab violently and their body will actually push the pigment out over the long healing process. I’ve seen this happen and the tattoo might look perfectly fine except all the red is gone! Anyway, even a pretty well informed tattoo artist might not know the chemical breakdown of all their inks. So know what things you are allergic to before getting the tattoo, or let the artist know before you plan to go ahead.
October 12, 2008 at 10:49 pm
(3) Damien says:
Are there any treatments available to someone who has had a red ink reaction?. i recently got some work done an the red seems to be reacting. i had had a small patch react previously in the pink ink not red. and it has basically left the skin dead an with like little blackheads in it. but now i have a large area of red that 2 weeks later seems to be like a rash. is there anything i can do now to fix it. before it goes dead an scars like the other small bit i have. Cheers
November 4, 2008 at 12:54 pm
(4) Dani says:
I had a severe allergic reaction to the red ink in my tattoo. It started to raise, and was very itchy. I got my tattoo in February and by June I had to see a doctor. He looked at it and really wasnt sure what he could do so he sent me to a dermatologist. It was so raised at that point it was kind of embarrassing and the itching was unbearable. I saw him in September and he removed the smaller hearts of the tattoo and sent them to the lab (that is standard procedure). Well a week later they called me with the results. The severe allergy to the mercury in the red ink had actually caused it to turn into squamous cell carcinoma!! So I went in later that week and had the rest of the red ink cut out. I did a lot of research and I found out that exposure to high amounts of mercury can cause cancer. I wish I had known before I had it done, I would have chosen a different color. I do plan on having my tattoo fixed (without the red ink of course) but I have told everyone I know that has red ink tattoos or is planning on having red in a tattoo to please be cautious. You can have the tattoo artist do a sample test and just be patient. It would be much better to have a small red dot removed than to have part of the tattoo cut out once it is too late. It took less than a year (8 months to be exact) to go from my beautiful tattoo to cancer, leaving me with half of a tattoo.
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January 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm
(5) richard says:
In my practice I have had one reported issue with “red reaction” and it was not with the client with the metal allergy that I expected t would be. I have a repeat customer who has a known allergy to any non exotic type metal touching his skin and I did a half back piece of a color spiderman that had no reaction at all. Go figure.
May 31, 2009 at 2:47 pm
(6) Kelly says:
I got a tattoo on my foot 2 1/2 weeks ago and immediately after I got it my foot started swelling. The swelling has gone down but the area with the red ink looks like a scar. The parts with green and blue ink are fine. The lines where the red ink are have tripled in size and are flat and shiny. Does this sound like a red ink reaction?
June 29, 2009 at 7:57 pm
(7) Milly says:
I had a tatoo done about 3 weeks ago. The day after I got my tattoo my foot was extremely swolen but some people told me that it was normal while other said it wasnt, so i decided to wait. Well the swelling kept going down but the tattoo was not looking healed and pretty. The areas that had red ink had turned hard and bumpy. I finally researched and found out about the red reaction. I decided to start using Mederma and it is working wonderfully. I saw a difference in just 2 days. I would tell anyone to go to the Doctor first (even though I did not go myself) and use Mederma 3 to 4 time a day until the tattoo is completely healed.
July 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm
(8) WJE says:
I recently had a tat done on my calf. Most of the tattoo was black with a portion of it red. All the black is fine but the red is f-up. My skin actually will not heal in that area until it pushes all the red ink out of my pores. I have a dilema as to get it re-done in red or just re-do it in black. I already have one tat mostly black no color with no side effects. Both tats were done by different artists. I’m trying to find out if I can purchase Zap Organic Ink or something similar to that product. Any suggestions out there would be appreciated.
September 16, 2009 at 10:02 pm
(9) c bachinski says:
i recently had a tattoo done , and its f’d up along with my whole arm..all the blacks healed fin and there are a few red parts but have , scabbed really bad, have become a nasty leather look, ink has toned down, and it is lumpy and raised. i have no idea what to do with this, each part of the red is raised and feels like a bruise.is there anything that will help this go back to normal and flat? and when and if it doe’s go flat is it ok to go over it with a different color and not have the same reaction?
December 17, 2009 at 9:47 am
(10) Dan says:
Come on people!!! Jeez. By all means trust your tattooist, at least your’s has warned you first, but it really isn’t so bad.
Best is to ask the tattooist what pigment their red ink is based on. Typically this will be cinnabar, which is the most likely cause of such skin reactions.
You can google what other colour pigments are used to create red ink, some are less likely to cause the problem.
I have numerous tattoos, all with red, only one of which gave me any problems.
The problem will generally mean it will just itch and be a little painful. Others may find it makes the area a little flaky (but that’s alright, it’s only us flakey hippy types who get tattoos anyway, right? ;-)
I know other people who have also had reactions. My tattooist, unfortunately, didnt tell me about this until afterwards… He did say, however, which I can confirm for both myself and friends who have had a problem, the problem WILL go away, it’s not a permanent thing. Granted, this could take months. Mine was tender, shall we say, for nearly 6 months. Then it was fine, and still is.
So, all in all, it really isn’t that much to worry about. If you can stand the ‘pain’ of a tattoo in the first place, you can damn well handle the slight side effect the red ink may cause. Equally, if you have picked a tattoo and it has red in it, you’d be a fool to change that colour based on this!! You have to like your tattoo, it’s there forever!
My tattoo that reacted is on my calf and has a large solid red area. If you have smaller areas, or just faint red shading and alike, you’re also less likely to have a reaction.
Mine, I have to say, was so bad, it seemed to affect my muscle, as I couldn’t put any weight on that leg for several days. I woke up the day after the tattoo, got out of bed and my leg just gave way… I suppose after all I have said above this makes it sound altogether worse, but maybe I’m just a pussy. ;-)
In short, if you want red in your tattoo, get red in your tattoo!!! If you don’t want to risk it, don;t get the tattoo.
If your that concerned, maybe tattoos just arent for you. I’ve seen some pretty sweet rub-ons in gum packets. Or henna, if you’re a girl or a less masculine male. ;-)
Best of luck with it anyway.
April 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm
(11) Tol says:
Most stupid reply I’ve ever heard here. I’m a dermatologist and I’ve had tattoos when I was a kid and I’ve also studied allergic reactions of tattoos, from its components, to the sensitivity of the skin.
January 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm
(12) Sherry says:
I was reading some of the comments and I too have a heart tattoo and the red swelled and is extremely itchy and I was curious if there is anything other than getting it cut out to help the situation
April 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm
(13) Cbud says:
I also ha red as part of my tattoo. It had a reaction that itched like crazy. I would do it again.not woth the trouble.
June 4, 2010 at 11:25 am
(14) Kim says:
Dan…….NOT TRUE….6 months??? I had never heard about red reaction, so never knew to ask the artist before I got my tattoo! I got a tattoo about 2 years about now on my ankle. The read portion is STILL raised and itchy. Been to the dermatologist, who gave me cream which didnt work…..2 years….ugh, guess I gotta find another dermatologist.
September 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(15) peaches says:
I have the same problem on my back and all you need to do is ask the derm. Doctor to see if he can try steriod treamont it takes all the red out..or you can try a pain process and have an artist run the machine with dilute alcohol with water its painful but it works all u have to do is wait for when the tatt goes down cause I’m sure it goes up and down and when its down you do it.you might need to do it twice for it to work but it does.the reason its raised is because the body is trying to push it out(rejecting it)and opening up the skin alil will help it get pushed out
September 23, 2011 at 10:52 am
(16) Sharon says:
Mine is over 5 years old, it’s not raised any more, but it is constantly itchy. The dermatologist was no help at all, refered me to a surgeon, they would not even see me, “we don’t do that any mors” was the answer I got fron 3 different ones. I don’t know what to do….
June 4, 2010 at 11:26 am
(17) Kim says:
Sorry…THE RED PORTION
June 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm
(18) Louise says:
I have had a few tats, finally got my guns n roses one I’ve wanted for a while, looked really good and then the allergic reaction started, started off with annoying itchy bumps now it’s just a dry raised mess, looks like its trying to grow out the skin, very ugly I’m putting bio oil on it at the mo seems to be making the dry ugly sh*t come off.
June 22, 2010 at 2:57 am
(19) Mary says:
Ok this is somewhat a strange question but have to ask. I bought some ink for a local tattoo shop I’ve purchased things from before. Anyway one of the colors I have used on 3 people including myself and we have ALL had the same exact reaction. Swelling, redness, itching severly. In my case it Will NOT heal properly BUT ONLY Where this shade or Orangish red was used. Its The Dynamic brand ink. I’ve never had this happen before NEVER. Until using this ink. I asked the Shop I bought the ink from I was told the tattoo was worked too hard, However it happened when I did the tattoo and when My husband did mine. and ONLY this one color. Is it possible to have gotten som e bad ink? I asked him this and he said no way. My husband worked in a shop for several years and said the bottle might not of been sterile when he put the ink in?
July 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm
(20) Mrs.ski27 says:
I have 7 tattoo pieces on different parts of my body. All different colors and a few different artists. I haves red star on my foot (5 other color stars too) and a red heart on my back that have reacted very badly. Unlike most people, mine didn’t react until 3 & 4 years after I had them inked on my body. I also have a dab of orange that is starting to raise up recently I’ve seen the doctor who put me on some terrible meds that I had a bad reaction to. Now I’m just waiting to see a dermatologist. The doctor doesn’t think I’m allergic to the red ink since I had the reactions years after they were put on me.
September 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm
(21) peaches says:
The same happened to me and it is a reaction.it happens when ur body goes thru canges and a derm doc can fix it ask him about the steriod shots if he don’t know then he’s not up to date with his work
January 30, 2011 at 7:13 am
(22) deb says:
mine started several months after and i’ve still got it now. i was advised by another tattooist that the only cure is to have lazer treatment to remove some ink. i cant afford that so i am gonna try the dry needle to see if that helps. mine is being weird, i have little white bits under the skin which sometimes come out and leave a tiny hole. its not nice at all.
June 21, 2011 at 5:30 am
(23) flamingogirl says:
I had a rose done on my ankle about 8 years ago, and it’s only been in the last year that the red has scabbed up and you can hardly see the rose head now. It’s interesting that you’ve had the same delayed reaction.
I’ve just had a flamingo (!) done on my wrist and the pink is really bubbly and itchy which is how I came to find this site. The rest is fine and I wish I had just done it black and white.
All my other tattoos are fine, but no others have red in.
July 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm
(24) mindikrom says:
The red part of my 18 year old tattoo suddenly became raised and peely… now it bleeds if I try to peel it. Has anyone heard of a tattoo THIS old reacting like this?
October 13, 2011 at 9:20 pm
(25) Barney says:
I’m an old sailor now, but in 1962 I got a couple of tattoos in Sydney, Australia after 30 days at sea from Panama. Now, 49 years later…. here I am looking online to see why the red parts of these 2 images are itching, and the really red spot on one of them is getting raised…..probably from the scratching the skin when I’m asleep. Not a big deal, and one poster remarked (Mindi?) that it could be due to physical body changes….at my age, it’s always changing…In only 25 years, I’ll be a hundred…..cheers, barney
Not all who wander are lost…….
July 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm
(26) Tatia says:
I have 4 tattoos. The first red cherries 15 yrs old. The 2nd is a band of red roses about 10 yrs old. 3rd is bouquet of flowers 3 yrs old and my newest one is on my whole right calf 1 yr old. About 3 months ago I developed the “red ink” allergy on my leg then on my 3rd tat and now on my 10 and 15 yr old tattoos. How come its all of a sudden after so many years have past? What is bio oil and where do I get it? Can anyone recommend a remedy? Email me at email@example.com please.
July 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm
(27) yesenia lopez says:
I got my first red tattoo done just 5 days ago on my ankle. I knew something was wrong, but my first thought was that it must have gotten infected… so I went to the Dr. Luckily, it’s not. After talking to my tattoo artist and reading everyone’s posts, I can say that I def. have an allergic reaction to the red ink. I would have never, ever thought this would happen to me. I have never had an allegic reaction to anything and I don’t have sensitive skin. So far, the pain is alomst gone but what is left is not what I wanted out of a tattoo. It looks badly scabbed and bumpy. I am hoping that with time it will look better and I will keep posting about the progress. Everyone’s posts have been so helpful! Thanks!
July 19, 2010 at 11:15 am
(28) Tatia says:
I bought the Bio Oil on Friday…today is Monday and I’ve used it all weekend and I can see a tremendous difference! The peeling is virtually gone. The itching has subsided and the raising of the skin is already going down! I’m so pleased to the guy that put the post up about Bio Oil! I found it at Walgreens. 4 oz for $14.99 on sale! I’d pay more! Its totally worth it!!!!
November 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(29) Scarlett says:
I have 10 tattooes and I cannot wear nickel jewellery at all, I had to have a pair of earrings cut out of my ears in the emergency room once. But I have several large areas of tattooing that are various shades of red and have never had a reaction to red tattoo ink, and I’ve had them done at several different places so the inks would all be different in composition so I’m not sure how closely related the nickel issue is.
January 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm
(30) John says:
I have had two tattoos, one on each forearm for almost 20 years. They have both been fine up until about two months ago. Now the red is raised, it’s like they are 3D. It seems strange to me that this would happen to tattoos that are 20 years old.
February 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm
(31) kelley says:
I got my tattoo done june 2009. Almost a year later i got allergic reaction to red ink (raised skin, terrible itching, burning). I’ve been getting steroid injections monthly for over 6 mos. It helped to make the swelling and inflammation go down, but then it just comes back again. The dermatologist said there is nothing else he can do and I’d have to get it removed. Just saw MD for tattoo removal. I had one laser treatment and it flared back up again really bad. It has been a true nightmare for me.
August 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm
(32) Carrie says:
I’m having the same kind of reaction. Got my tattoo in February 2010 and now a year and a half later, it’s only gotten worse. I’ve tried the steriod cream, injections, a holisitic approach (which costs a lot of money including Wormwart, Flax Seed Oil, and CalAmo) and consulted with a Tattoo removal specialist. She warned against removing it since it will spread internally to the whole body.
Nothing has helped, at this point, I wonder about a skin graph.