Created By: James Mosley
What Causes a Tattoo Allergy?
Tattoo ink contains several ingredients and chemicals, and you may be allergic to any one of them. Substances like iron oxide, mercury sulfide, ferric hydrate, aluminum, and manganese are only a few of the ingredients that may be included in the ink, depending on the color. An allergy to any of these substances can cause an allergic reaction once the ink gets into your skin. Red tattoo ink is the most common cause of tattoo allergic reactions, although any color can be to blame.
Types of Tattoo Allergic Reaction
A tattoo allergy can take a number of different forms:
- Acute inflammatory allergic reaction. Many people who get tattoos experience what's called an acute inflammatory reaction — the skin becomes red, slightly swollen, and irritated at the site of the tattoo. This occurs because of the irritation caused by the tattoo needle and the tattoo ink. It's not serious, and generally subsides within about two or three weeks.
- Photosensitivity. Tattoos that are exposed to the sun may result in an allergic reaction, particularly those that contain yellow tattoo ink. Yellow and some red pigments contain cadmium sulfide, which can cause an allergic reaction when exposed to the sun.
- Dermatitis. Some of the most common tattoo allergies include types of dermatitis — photoallergic and allergic contact dermatitis. Most often, these types of allergic reactions are caused by mercury sulfide, which is found in red tattoo ink.
- Lichenoid allergic reaction. This is rare, but is typically related to red tattoo ink, and characterized by small bumps that appear around the red ink areas.
- Pseudolymphomatous allergic reaction. Caused by sensitivity to a substance in the tattoo ink, this is a delayed reaction — it doesn't occur right after getting the tattoo. Red tattoo ink is usually to blame, but it can result from blue and green as well.
- Granulomas. These are small bumps that can appear as a result of an allergic reaction. Red tattoo ink is most often the culprit, but purple, green, or blue tattoo ink may also cause these bumps to form around the site of the tattoo.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction
The signs vary depending on the type of allergic reaction and the ingredient in the tattoo ink that's causing it. Common signs of an allergic reaction to a tattoo include:
- Rash or bumps
- Scaly appearance
- Purple or red nodules around the tattoo
What to Do If You Have an Allergic Reaction
If you spot the signs of an allergic reaction to tattoo ink, don't try to take care of the problem yourself or wait for it to go away. See your doctor or dermatologist and get a diagnosis. Your doctor will need to see how serious the reaction is, and determine the best course of treatment. For instance, if there is an infection, he'll need to prescribe an antibiotic.
In some cases, the tattoo may need to be removed to treat the allergic reaction. Never attempt to remove a tattoo yourself — tattoo removal requires medical intervention, usually with a skin laser.
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