Tattoo inks are metallic, disease-causing pigments

There are a diverse number of reasons for tattoo regrets, exemplified in the news article in Fig. 2. Tattooing is a highly invasive surgical disruption of the epidermal surface in order to deposit ink particles into the dermal layer of the skin using a tattoo gun. Almost all injected ink particles are dangerous, allergenic, metal-based oxidizing agents that directly cause a myriad of disorders. The following are a list of tattoo ink metals (and salts) that are inherently dangerous and can be metabolized into more deleterious metallic derivatives in the skin: mercury (sulfide); cadmium (sulfide); cobalt (aluminate); chromium (oxide); manganese; iron (as ferric oxide); titanium (oxide); zinc (oxide); and lead (carbonates). Moreover, these inks are generally dissolved in toxic solvents or carriers like phenols; denatured alcohols; ethylene glycol (antifreeze); formaldehyde; as well as a variety of synthetic surfactants and detergents.

Owing to these facts, below is a comprehensive list of diseases clinically confirmed to be a direct result of sterile tattooing procedures:

  • granulomas (thickened scars, see Fig. 3)
  • epidermal cancers (squamous/basal cell carcinoma, melanoma)
  • keratoacanthoma (pilosebaceous gland cancer)
  • lymphoma (can increase risk of breast/prostate cancers)
  • localized/systemic lymphadenopathy
  • xeroderma (excessively dry skin)
  • psoriasis (dry, flaky skin disorder)
  • contact dermatitis (allergic inflammation, see Fig. 4)
  • atopic dermatitis (aka eczema)
  • lichen planus (thickened epidermis)
  • keloids (inflamed, thickened connective tissue)
  • sarcoidal reactions (benign immune-related cancers)
  • Darier’s disease (dry, crusty papules)
  • discoid lupus erythematosus (auto-immune disorder)
  • photosensitivity (phototoxicity)
  • reticulohistiocytoma (round, firm, solitary skin lesions)
"Keep in mind that many other diseases have been reported as a result of non-sterile tattoo procedures, like viral hepatitis, syphilis, herpes, tuberculosis, tetanus, impetigo, and even leprosy."
  • Sheldon M. Joseph


Hypersensitivity (allergic) responses are usually an immediate reaction to tattoo inks. However, tattooed skin is often acutely asymptomatic, but chronically symptomatic. That is, some of the above skin diseases often do not develop until several years post-procedure, leading to a large number of disease-based ‘tattoo regrets’ years after a tattoo is laid down. The chronic disorders generally occur due to exposure to preservatives like thimerasol and mercurochrome found in vaccines and certain skincare products that cross react with the embedded tattoo inks and derivatives. Due to the invasive nature of tattooing, most skin lesions that result can exhibit a Koebner-type phenomenon in which the reactions are seen along the lines of lesions left by the tattoo gun, that is, the scarring takes the shape of the tattoo’s outline.

Why are tattoos permanent?

After tattoo artists use tattoo guns to painfully inject metallic inks across into the skin’s protective epidermis into the dermis below (Fig. 5) where the ink particles are ‘trapped’, thus sealing the design permanently into the skin.

Fig. 5: A Tattoo. Black pigment is seen in dermis in a predominantly perivascular location.