Actually, it may surprise you to know that there are no specific regulations covering inks used for tattoos in the UK. There have been some issues recently, with a study being published which indicated that some popular tattoo inks contain toxic heavy metals at dangerously high levels. Potentially, this could cause nerve disorders, or blood poisoning.
Some of the inks were found to contain traces of nickel and copper, while others contained chemicals such as lithium and lead.
Tattoo inks have also been associated in the past with allergic reactions. It’s possible to get some hypo-allergenic tattoo pigments, although nobody has yet managed to come up with a way of making a red ink that’s hypo-allergenic yet. Inks can be water or alcohol based. and many tattoo artists prefer to use alcohol based pigments for a purer colour.
Henna tattoos should be made from the leaves of the lawsonia inermis plant, and should give a brown, green or red result. Most henna tattoos are harmless and don’t last for very long, but natural henna can be adulterated with other substances. To make the shades more intense, some artists add a substance used in hair dye to the henna, which turns it black. This obviously causes problems if a client is allergic to hair dye.
The offending chemical, which is called Para-Phenylene Diamine (PPD), can cause swelling and irritation to the skin, and in some cases lead to hyper-sensitivity to the chemical, which is also used to dye some clothes. If you have sensitive skin, a henna tattoo is probably best avoided.
All equipment that’s used in a tattoo parlour must be sterile though. If you are deciding where to have your tattoo inked, always opt for a reputable studio which is willing to show you it’s credentials – all tattoo parlours must be registered with the local authority, and should be regularly checked by officers to make sure that the staff are complying with health and safety law. Before you commit yourself, take a look around at the studio and make sure that there is an autoclave and a sharps container for used needles.