APN spoke with tattoo artist Erin Clayton of Tried and True Tattoo Co. in Wyantskill, N.Y., about the ins and outs of dealing with ink allergies.
APN: Are certain people more at risk for an allergic reaction?
EC: An allergic reaction can happen to anyone at any time and can develop with seemingly no warning or previous issue. If you have other allergies or sensitivity issues to metals (many pigments contain metals), it could increase the likelihood of having a reaction.
APN: Are certain inks or ingredients more triggering?
EC: Certain brands of ink, many of which claim their exact ingredients as proprietary information and do not have to disclose them in the US, have a reputation for causing reactions. They often contain heavier concentrations of iron oxides, metal salts or plastics. Red is considered the most likely to cause a reaction because it often contains mercury or cinnabar, and black is typically the least likely because it is carbon-based.
APN: What do you and other artists do to prevent a reaction?
EC: The best and only way to prevent a reaction would be to patch test the ink to be used. In most cases, you create a small abrasion to the skin and apply the ink directly. Then the ink is observed for signs of reaction for several days.
APN: What signs should you keep an eye out for?
EC: You would be looking for an inability to heal normally or a difference in healing from other areas of your tattoo. Excessive redness, itchiness, pitting, trenching, heavy scabbing could all be indications that things are not going as they should be.
APN: What can be done if you do react?
EC: You would see your regular doctor to rule out an infection. They typically prescribe a steroid cream.