Why Tattoos Are A Health Risk (And How To Rectify The Damage)

Almost everyone has a tattoo these days, or has at the very least least considered getting one. We hear about the danger tattoos pose from infection and so on, but how many people ever consider the danger presented by toxic substances in the ink itself. Heavy metals, many of which are highly dangerous to humans, are used in many tattoo inks for colour. While we need small amounts of some like iron or zinc, in large quantities or under constant exposure even they are dangerous. Others like mercury, arsenic or cadmium are highly toxic in any amount and can lead to cancer, birth defects and many other health issues. When ink is left under the skin in a tattoos it basically means the body is exposed to these nasty toxins all the time.

This is a great article that was posted by Jess Ainscough on her blog, the Wellness Warrior , which I followed. Unfortunately the blog has now been taken down. Even though I like to write my own articles I think this is one that’s an absolute must to read.

tattoo ink toxins

I’m well aware that this post is probably going to make me pretty unpopular – especially among my tattoo-loving group of friends, but if I’m able to get just a few people to re-think getting inked, I’m doing my job.

Once upon a time I was desperate to get a tattoo. All of my friends started getting them when we were in high school and I thought it was tantrum-worthy unfair that my parents wouldn’t let me join them. I felt so inadequate with my bare lower back. Turns out my folks were right. I still think that the right kind of tattoo can look great, but these days I put my health above the temporary glee of such aesthetics.

This post isn’t about the horror stories associated with dodgy tattoos. I’m not concerned with writing about damage done by unqualified artists, infections, or allergic reactions. I’m more interested in filling you on just what you’re putting into your body when you get a tattoo, and what this does for your health.

Our skin is our largest organ, and anything that you apply to your skin is absorbed straight into your blood stream. So, everything found in a tattoo ends up in your system.

Toxins In Tattoo Ink

Way back in the day, traditional tribal tattoo marks were made using dyes from the natural environment. This is certainly not the case any more. While it’s near impossible to say what’s in all tattoo inks (they are all different, and disclosure of ingredients is not actually enforced), it’s safe to say that most colours of standard tattoo ink are derived from heavy metals.

Mercury = red ink
Lead = yellow, green, white ink
Cadmium = red, orange, yellow ink
Nickel = black ink
Zinc= yellow, white ink
Chromium = green ink
Cobalt = blue ink
Aluminium = green, violet ink
Titanium = white ink
Copper = blue, green ink
Iron = brown, red, black ink
Barium = white ink

Other compounds used as pigments include antimony, arsenic, beryllium, calcium, lithium, selenium, and sulphur.

Tattoo ink manufacturers typically blend the heavy metal pigments and/or use lightening agents (such as lead or titanium) to reduce production costs.


Danger Of Heavy Metals 

Heavy Metals bind in our bodies and are incredibly difficult to remove. They cause damage on a cellular level and contribute to cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.

Then there’s the carrier solution, which most likely contains harmful substances such as denatured alcohols, methanol, rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, detergents, or formaldehyde and other highly toxic aldehydes.


Avoid Tattoo Ink Toxins

1. Stop getting tattoos.
2. If you’re a tattoo lover, ask to be decorated in high-quality vegan, organic inks and quiz the tattoo artist about the ingredients in the ink. Be adamant that you do not want ink containing heavy metals. Do your research first!
3. Start detoxifying those heavy metals.

I’m working on a more thorough blog post about heavy metal detoxification soon (this is something both my mum and I have had to do), but for now, here are some tips:

+ Add chlorella to your green smoothies.
+ Eat clay every morning.
+ Eat and juice coriander (aka cilantro).
+ Eat chia seeds.
+ Eat aloe vera.
+ Sweat on a daily basis – far infrared saunas are great for this.

So, there you go. I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Does this info make you think twice about getting a tattoo? Or is your love of ink just too strong? Tell me in the comments below – just please be nice. I’m simply the messenger, so put down that rifle.

Before you go, take a look at my friend and her amazing, beautiful “non-tattooed” body art…

Gorgeous Body Art
Gorgeous Body Art



All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 


9 thoughts on “Why Tattoos Are A Health Risk (And How To Rectify The Damage)”

    1. Thanks for your question DJ. I’m not a tattoo artist. However artists I know who currently DO use vegan ink products state it on their website. So do a search of artists you like and if there’s no mention about the type of inks they use contact the artist and ask. Hope this helps. 🙂

  1. I would like to ask about the body paint on your friend. Do you know what those paints are made out of? I know since they are temporary they will not likely soak into her skin, but where is the paint going after she is done with it? Paint, glitter and all these material things we are so obsessed with are rarely okay to be flushed back into the environment.

    1. Interesting point Alyssa! You’re quite right, we need to be more conscious about what we are flushing into our waterways. I’m sorry I don’t know what these paints are. They may be safe as she is a natural therapist and therefore she may have chosen them with care. Thanks for bringing our attention to this environmental issue.

  2. Hi, What a great article. The reason I searched for this topic, is that I am trying to find some reference to an article I read many years ago, probably before the advent of the internet and Google. It said that the level of skin cells that the tattoo occupies, is the same level that contains the type of cells responsible for the detoxification of our bodies through the act of sweating, and that tattoos destroy this valuable function. Do you have any information on that? Is it a valid comment?

    1. Thanks for your great question Jim.
      Tattoo ink is inserted into the same layer of skin as the sweat glands and so you may well wonder whether inking would cause damage to sweat glands. A small study was done in 2017 which investigated this. It found that the tattooed area of skin released only half as much sweat as the clean skin, suggesting there was damage. The sweat from the tattoo was also saltier, in fact twice as salty, as that from the untattooed skin.
      What does this mean? Probably not too much if you only have a small tattoo. However, sweating is the mechanism the body uses to cool itself and so it could become significant for athletes, for those in extreme heat or for those with large areas of tattooed skin, or where these conditions occur in combination.
      Hope that helps.

  3. I have a tattoo on my left shoulder. Really surprised to read about tattoo ink being so toxic. I don’t understand why companies make things with toxic metals?? It seems like common sense, that’s why I didn’t really question it at the time. This isn’t the 1800s! Why haven’t we learned our lessons about this yet??

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