THE CHEMISTRY OF TATTOO INK AND HOW IT’S MADE
A few months back we examined how tattoo ink actually stays in your skin and looked at the process of how the three layers of skin, the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous fat layer all work together to help tattoos to remain a part of us permanently. Since so many readers loved learning about this process, we thought we would dive into another curious bit of chemistry today and examine the actual product that helps to create each tattooed treasure – tattoo ink.
Throughout history, people have used all sorts of ingredients as tattoo ink, including crushed up berries, plants, soot, charcoal, ash, and pine bark. Today, the recipe for ink has changed drastically and ink regulations are becoming stricter. This was most recently seen with the EU banning 4,000 chemicals that are common ingredients in tattoo inks.
Tattoo pigments are basically vivid compounds of color that help a tattoo stay distinguishable in the skin. The main ingredient in most tattoo inks is carbon, with about 80% of inks utilizing this chemical element as the base.
In addition, tattoo ink needs a carrier, which includes fluid ink elements that are normally glycerin, distilled water, isopropyl alcohol, or witch hazel. The carrier is important because it helps to transfer the pigment to the dermis of the skin.
When the carriers are alcohol-based, they help carry more pigment into the skin, due to increased skin porousness, and they also help the pigments to stay pathogen-free and allow the colors to mix more smoothly.
Different colored inks have different ingredients, and these commonly include:
- Black ink – These are oftentimes carbon-based and may contain iron oxide or logwood, which is also known as Haematoxylum campechianum and is a species of flowering tree in the legume family.
- Brown ink –raw ochre and sometimes clay earth. Its carriers are usually isopropyl alcohol, water, or witch hazel.
- Blue ink - azure blue, cobalt blue, lapis lazuli or copper salts. Carriers include isopropyl alcohol, water, and witch hazel.
- Red ink – cadmium-red based, contains cinnabar, iron oxide, and naphthol-AS pigment. Red carriers usually include water, isopropyl alcohol, and acrylic resin.
- Green ink - Prussian Blue, malachite, and chromium oxide. Carriers include isopropyl alcohol, water, and witch hazel.
- Orange ink – cadmium-based, disazodiarylide, and cadmium seleno-sulfate. Orange ink carriers are usually water, isopropyl alcohol, and acrylic resin.
While there is currently no regulation on tattoo inks in the United States, reputable ink companies go to great lengths to manufacture safe and long-lasting products. When these are used by outstanding tattoo artists, in conjunction with superior aftercare products such as WipeOutz tattoo towels, your new tattoo is bound to be a positive new addition to your tattoo collection.
While the healing process is different for everyone, using diligence, care, and attention is vital. Stock up on MD WipeOutz tattoo towels to help you to have a smooth, convenient, and sterile aftercare setup. The more knowledgeable and prepared you are in all aspects of tattoo education, the more likely your experience will be a great one.
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