Study Raises Concerns Over Safety of Tattoo Ink Ingredients

A new study has revealed that the inks used in tattoos often contain unlisted substances that could cause health problems.

According to researchers, nine out of 10 of the inks studied had major discrepancies with the labeled contents, such as different pigments or unlisted additives

The study comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepares to regulate tattoo inks as part of new powers granted by Congress in 2022’s Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA).

“The FDA is still figuring out what that is going to look like, and we think this study will influence the discussions around MoCRA,” said senior researcher John Swierk, an assistant professor of chemistry at Binghamton University-SUNY.

“This is also the first study to explicitly look at inks sold in the United States and is probably the most comprehensive because it looks at the pigments, which nominally stay in the skin, and the carrier package, which is what the pigment is suspended in,” Swierk added.

More than half of the inks contained unlisted polyethylene glycol, which can cause organ damage with repeated exposure, according to the study.

“We’re hoping the manufacturers take this as an opportunity to reevaluate their processes, and that artists and clients take this as an opportunity to push for better labeling and manufacturing,” Swierk said.

“Our goal in a lot of this research is to empower artists and their clients. Tattoo artists are serious professionals who have dedicated their lives to this craft and they want the best possible outcomes for their clients,” he continued. “We’re trying to highlight that there are some deficiencies in manufacturing and labeling.”