William Burgess

Chemical Composition of Tattoo Pigments

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I remember bringing this up years ago in the Starlight Tattoo Forum. The general consensus was that the customer(and many tattoo artists who simply buy and don't mix themselves) have no right to know. Any opinions as the whether this is ethically right?

As a someone who simply buys, I have no clue as to what is in the pigments I use. One time I went to my colleges chemistry lab and inquired about an analysis of pigments I had, but they said they didn't have the time or resources to do so. This wouldn't have been necessary if it simply was stated, as is pretty much every other commercially available product. Obviously the customer doesn't need to know recipes for mixing, but knowing what chemicals are being permanantly injected into ones body, in my opinion, is not something I should have no knowledge about.

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but knowing what chemicals are being permanantly injected into ones body, in my opinion, is not something I should have knowledge about

I wonder how many times a customer has asked what the chemical make up of the inks are. My guess would be, not a lot.

But If they want to know then I feel they have that right.

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I wonder how many times a customer has asked what the chemical make up of the inks are. My guess would be, not a lot.

But If they want to know then I feel they have that right.

Damn it, meant to put the double negative and say "is not something I should not have knowledge about". Guess there is a time limit for editing posts here.

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Y'know, it's a funny one. I think loads of things in tattooing which used to be sacred aren't any more, and that's a real shame. I think perhaps things around inks are the same, where any bastard with a computer can find out too much. Anything in tattooing that's still close to the tattooer is kind of special, I reckon.

At the same time though, there's times where you'd have to give it up. If someone was anxious about what was going into their skin, it's only fair to tell them what it is. I think the same thing definitely goes for those who are allergic to certain things, though that's just common sense, haha.

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I think this is one of those things that will be taken out of the hands of the tattoo artists soon enough. With tattooers on tv saying things like 'I didn't go to med school but I make money like a doctor' (not a direct quote) you're going to get the the wrong noses pushed into your business... pigment safety will probably be one of the first things that becomes an easy win for a crusading senator/etc.

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I think this is one of those things that will be taken out of the hands of the tattoo artists soon enough. With tattooers on tv saying things like 'I didn't go to med school but I make money like a doctor' (not a direct quote) you're going to get the the wrong noses pushed into your business... pigment safety will probably be one of the first things that becomes an easy win for a crusading senator/etc.

This is sadly very true.

The day we are forced to use pigments that have passed a safety test is the same day we tattoo with food dye.

Six months later, your tattoo will look like shit.

Maybe it will seem to someone that this is a good idea - just pay for regular touch-ups, but it isn't. keep tattooing the same patch regularly and it will be an inflexible scar in a couple of years or so. It hurt enough the first time too, thanks.

The reason tattoos are permanent is because the ink is NOT safe for the body. The skin protects the body (organs, muscles etc) by holding the ink/pigment where it entered.

Yeah, we don't want to use pigment that corrodes the skin and we don't want to use ink that's contaminated. But I like my tattoos to look good. I know they are not 'safe', I paid someone to break my skin and draw skulls, tits, devils, dragons an' shit.

Sadly, in mainland Europe Shawn's scenario has began to be real. Certain brands of ink are blacklisted and approved brand's bottles must have batch numbers and expiry dates etc. An un-announced visit by the health board that discovers blacklisted ink can result in your shop being shut down.

The brands are not blacklisted because they make shitty tattoos, nor because they are dangerous. Almost anyone reading this will have some of that ink in their skin.

Personally, as a tattooer, I like the idea of a craftsman using tools and materials that are the result of another craftsman's passion, experience and expertise.

Some of the highest quality materials in tattooing (ink, machines, grips, pens, power supplies etc.) are made by individuals or at least 'cottage industries'.

I love being able to speak to the guy who made my equipment and buy it directly from him. Giving him/her feedback about it improves the product too.

Demanding that your tattooer use government approved equipment will harm the end result. Not to mention inflate the price drastically.

Lets not even get into the discussion of working across different states, countries or continents with 'approved' equipment.

Jeez. I need to lighten up and post more one-liners.

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Sadly, in mainland Europe Shawn's scenario has began to be real. Certain brands of ink are blacklisted and approved brand's bottles must have batch numbers and expiry dates etc. An un-announced visit by the health board that discovers blacklisted ink can result in your shop being shut down.

The brands are not blacklisted because they make shitty tattoos, nor because they are dangerous. Almost anyone reading this will have some of that ink in their skin.

Personally, as a tattooer, I like the idea of a craftsman using tools and materials that are the result of another craftsman's passion, experience and expertise.

Some of the highest quality materials in tattooing (ink, machines, grips, pens, power supplies etc.) are made by individuals or at least 'cottage industries'.

I love being able to speak to the guy who made my equipment and buy it directly from him. Giving him/her feedback about it improves the product too.

Demanding that your tattooer use government approved equipment will harm the end result. Not to mention inflate the price drastically.

Lets not even get into the discussion of working across different states, countries or continents with 'approved' equipment.

Great post Stewart. Someone in one of the interviews on this site (Freddie maybe?) mentioned how he'd love it if tattooing returned to being illegal because then you'd only have people getting/giving tattoos who really love it. I think this falls into that category. I'd get tattooed in a house by someone using pigments they illegally and lovingly made themselves before going to a studio that uses watered down government sanctioned "safe" tattoo ink that inevitably will look like garbage.

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I think that one thing to consider here is the difference between American and European governments, and who's deciding things on behalf of the masses. In America, corporations have more power than individuals, and decisions are made to favor the corporations' profits. As many powder pigments come directly from Dupont, they will certainly not change anything that would interfere with Dupont's bottom line. If the U.S. gov't were to get in bed with Dupont on this particular issue, all that would happen is that pigments would get much more expensive, and maybe a little radioactive waste would get "recycled" into it. (It is currently legal in the U.S. to recycle "low-level" radioactive waste into materials such as concrete and metals for consumer goods.)

Based on the example of many European nation's resistance to genetically modified food, as opposed to the U.S. gov'ts subservience to Monsanto, I think that maybe European gov'ts do have more of the public's health and well being in mind, even if their attempts to regulate ink safety are misguided. Clearly we need China to step in and manufacture tons of empty knock-off "approved" ink bottles to fill with the good stuff.

Personally, I have a t-shirt that says Waverly's inks are kosher, that's all the safety data I need.

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The day we are forced to use pigments that have passed a safety test is the same day we tattoo with food dye.

Six months later, your tattoo will look like shit.

Maybe it will seem to someone that this is a good idea - just pay for regular touch-ups, but it isn't. keep tattooing the same patch regularly and it will be an inflexible scar in a couple of years or so. It hurt enough the first time too, thanks.

And regarding "safe" inks looking like shit and fading, I have some experience with this in relation to "permanent make-up." A lot of people think that the same pigments are used, but they're not the same, the molecules in cosmetic tattoo pigments make up larger molecules than traditional tattoo pigments. When cosmetic tattooing began, the pigments were designed and administered by doctors only, and they did take "safety" into account. The woman who tattooed on my eyebrows ($800) learned from a doctor as doctors were pushing to make it legal for "licensed" practitioners to do it, (licensed by them) because it was not proving to be profitable. (Weird? Who knew someone could make more money practicing medicine than tattooing?)

Anyway, the larger, "safer" cosmetic tattoo molecules push themselves out of the skin, so even if you liked exactly what you had, it will be gone in 5 or so years. The lady who did my eyebrows was the best, and she included 3 free touch-ups BECAUSE the pigments almost always CHANGE COLOR in your skin. The taupe brown turned reddish orange in me, and now it's faded to look like the color of a faint scar. I didn't go back after my first touch up, fuck it, like Stewart said, "that shit hurt enough the first time." I'm cool drawing on my own eyebrows everyday, thanks.

Hopefully, we all get tattoos that are superior to what we could draw on ourselves quickly each morning, we certainly don't want them changing colors and disappearing in a few years. (Or if you do, that's a whole 'nother issue.)

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...The taupe brown turned reddish orange in me, and now it's faded to look like the color of a faint scar. I didn't go back after my first touch up, fuck it, like Stewart said, "that shit hurt enough the first time."

A few years ago I tattooed someone who had a lot of experience with decorative tattooing, cosmetic tattooing, makeup and cosmetic surgery in general. After telling me in great detail how he was unhappy with his tattooed eyebrows he did give me a great piece of advice. He said that trying to get the exact colour wasn't important as foundation as other makeup would be applied anyway.

He wanted his eyebrows re-tattooed with black or mid-grey as an accurate guide to draw them on every day. That was something I had never thought of.

He also told me that your eyebrows should be one or two shades lighter than your hair! I thought that was an odd thing to tell me until I realised I could apply that pinups and girl head tattoos.

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He wanted his eyebrows re-tattooed with black or mid-grey as an accurate guide to draw them on every day.

Yup, that's what I do, I trace the "scar."

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If we're talking about "approved inks" now, have you guys heard about the situation in Brazil? Sounds to me like this is the situation you guys don't want, but it's already happening in one place. From my good friend Leo, via Facebook:

As it is always good to know what has been happening in other countries, and as I was speaking with a fellow Brazilian about the messy situation in Brazil, I have to say as a Brazilian myself I had no idea of what was happening there in terms of laws etc... but damn, they are going hard dow there.

In Brazil there is only 2 kinds of Inks that are legal to sell, and any tattoo studio with other inks can be fined or whatever... (but I guess you can buy other inks and put it into the so called legal ink bottle). To regularize a Tattoo ink or other tattoo related product in Brazil you have to pay to the "Health Organization" a huge fee and flights to the manufacture, wherever it is in the world, so they can go there and check to see if it has the health and safety demands required.

One of the biggest dramas going on there is that the owner of "Electric INK", used to be the president of the Tattoo association (if i remember right) or other organization, and being of of the the guys that have the power to make this this "ink laws" be approved so that only his Ink and the others that were already approved would be sold in Brazil. He was very clever, but is being heavily hated in Brazil right now by a big part of the industry or lets say the most respect artists in Brazil. Even after a few tattoo artists showed pictures to the health department of strange reactions that their clients and themselves had with the ink, it still legal there.. And he still manufacture Ink for a world renowned artist (not sure if he still doest).. anyway for what I've heard, this ink doesn't seems as safe as many people think, and now being sold internationally. Again I am not trying to put people against this brand but trying to share what a few renowned brazilian artists said.

Another crazy point is regarding to International artists traveling to conventions in Brazil. It seems that they can have their equipments confiscated in airports if they are attending conventions in Brazil, as they will be bringing their own ink etc....that isn't legalized in Brazil (not always, but a gamble), I still need to get some more informations about this, and as soon as I do I will update on here..

I am still trying to understand the mess in Brazil, but cracking down is a huge step if it was done in the right way, but as far as I can see the industry over there is partly divided the directions that it is going... It is one of the biggest I've seen so far by a country's health and safety organization...

So I guess the Chinese fellows will have one less country to be sending their crap fake tattoo machines :D, now after reading about Amazon selling Tattoo kits, I am wondering if it would be possible buy it and shipped to Brazil? well I guess it would again be a gumble to have it confiscated when it arrives in Brazil.

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I think that artists are going to bitch about any form of regulation in the industry. I used to bitch about getting tested for syphillis every year to renew my health certificate!

We had the same situation here... There was only one tattoo artist around when the rules were written. This guy wasn't able to capitalize like Paulo Fernando did with his ink, but he was able to jack up the price for starting a new shop. Can you blame him? Like it or not, there is a business side to things. He did however give good advice to the health department.

I'm sure there was other reasoning behind the ink regulations in Brazil... It's probably just a matter of reaching out to manufacturers and them to foot the bill. Mario Barth seems to have this thing for world domination, so why not start there?? Brazil seems like a big enough market to be appealing to any manufacturer.

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If we're talking about "approved inks" now, have you guys heard about the situation in Brazil? Sounds to me like this is the situation you guys don't want, but it's already happening in one place. From my good friend Leo, via Facebook:

I'd like to think that kind of shit could be contained to the crazy machete-wielding Brazilians, though somehow seems scarily imminent for the rest of the world..

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Brazilians are crazy? I had no idea, haha. Leo isn't, but he's the only Brazilian I know. Seriously though, I really get what you mean. I've noticed a few mainstream news outlets have already commented on how safe tattoo ink is, and asking if people should be worried. These reports are always the same though, with the whole, "they're not just for sailors any more!" drivvel, a mention of Miami Ink and some bullshit statistic, so I don't know how many people are paying attention to them.

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