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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Tattoos, Red Ink, and Sensitivity Reactions

By May 7, 2006

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Here's an e-mail I received about tattoo inks:

"Does all red ink have nickel in it? I was told by the tattoo artist that if I can't wear inexpensive jewelry I should not use red ink in a tattoo. I can not. Whatever metal or whatever is in the ink would cause the same reaction I get to inexpensive jewelry. That would cause a problem. She will not use it on me. Would this be the same for pink or orange or any color with any amount of red in it? Someone else who has had numerous tattoos told me they never heard of that and she reacts to inexpensive jewelry."

My response:

I'd trust the tattoo artist over someone who has numerous tattoos, since she is more likely to know the composition of the ink and whether or not clients have had trouble with a color.

Some reds contain iron, some contain toxic metals such as cadmium or mercury. There is an organic red that causes fewer reactions than the metal-based reds. Red ink is well-known for causing sensitivity reactions. The more dilute the pigment, like in orange or pink, the lower the chance of a reaction, but I would say the risk is still present.

What Are Tattoo Inks? | MRI Reaction with Tattoos

Comments

September 4, 2008 at 10:54 am
(1) Sara says:

I got a tattoo on a low-circulation area (my thumb) and developed a granulomatic reaction to the ink. The tattoo artist had assured me that all of her inks were organic after i presented her with my inflamed thumb. Once i finally got the brand name of ink she used, i found the brown mix she had used on me was actually an inorganic red base, and the company warned of the nickel content on their website.

My response to them: If you don’t trust your tattoo artist, don’t get the tattoo. But if she is making suggestions that aren’t straight up directing you towards just giving your money and going on your way, then i would have to say that she sounds like a pretty good bet. If you’re still worried, though, research the ink, and perhaps request a different type if you’re worried. I learned the hard way, and after a year of steroid treatment, my reactive tattoo is very ugly.

September 28, 2008 at 11:25 pm
(2) AMcDermed says:

As a tattoo artist, I would say don’t always trust every tattoo artist to know everything. There are some people who stumbled into their carreers in this field and don’t know much about technique let alone the chemical compositions of the inks they use.

Having said that, I find very few people are allergic to pigments, but the ones who are are often allergic to red. These people are often allergic to other things containing red such as licorice, red candy, etc. I’ve had a dermatologist explain it to me as the phenol thaylene content in red pigments. Some people have just a mild reaction such as small bumps and redness; others will have the red in the tattoo scab violently and their body will actually push the pigment out over the long healing process. I’ve seen this happen and the tattoo might look perfectly fine except all the red is gone! Anyway, even a pretty well informed tattoo artist might not know the chemical breakdown of all their inks. So know what things you are allergic to before getting the tattoo, or let the artist know before you plan to go ahead.

October 12, 2008 at 10:49 pm
(3) Damien says:

Are there any treatments available to someone who has had a red ink reaction?. i recently got some work done an the red seems to be reacting. i had had a small patch react previously in the pink ink not red. and it has basically left the skin dead an with like little blackheads in it. but now i have a large area of red that 2 weeks later seems to be like a rash. is there anything i can do now to fix it. before it goes dead an scars like the other small bit i have. Cheers

November 4, 2008 at 12:54 pm
(4) Dani says:

I had a severe allergic reaction to the red ink in my tattoo. It started to raise, and was very itchy. I got my tattoo in February and by June I had to see a doctor. He looked at it and really wasnt sure what he could do so he sent me to a dermatologist. It was so raised at that point it was kind of embarrassing and the itching was unbearable. I saw him in September and he removed the smaller hearts of the tattoo and sent them to the lab (that is standard procedure). Well a week later they called me with the results. The severe allergy to the mercury in the red ink had actually caused it to turn into squamous cell carcinoma!! So I went in later that week and had the rest of the red ink cut out. I did a lot of research and I found out that exposure to high amounts of mercury can cause cancer. I wish I had known before I had it done, I would have chosen a different color. I do plan on having my tattoo fixed (without the red ink of course) but I have told everyone I know that has red ink tattoos or is planning on having red in a tattoo to please be cautious. You can have the tattoo artist do a sample test and just be patient. It would be much better to have a small red dot removed than to have part of the tattoo cut out once it is too late. It took less than a year (8 months to be exact) to go from my beautiful tattoo to cancer, leaving me with half of a tattoo.

January 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm
(5) richard says:

In my practice I have had one reported issue with “red reaction” and it was not with the client with the metal allergy that I expected t would be. I have a repeat customer who has a known allergy to any non exotic type metal touching his skin and I did a half back piece of a color spiderman that had no reaction at all. Go figure.

May 31, 2009 at 2:47 pm
(6) Kelly says:

I got a tattoo on my foot 2 1/2 weeks ago and immediately after I got it my foot started swelling. The swelling has gone down but the area with the red ink looks like a scar. The parts with green and blue ink are fine. The lines where the red ink are have tripled in size and are flat and shiny. Does this sound like a red ink reaction?

June 29, 2009 at 7:57 pm
(7) Milly says:

I had a tatoo done about 3 weeks ago. The day after I got my tattoo my foot was extremely swolen but some people told me that it was normal while other said it wasnt, so i decided to wait. Well the swelling kept going down but the tattoo was not looking healed and pretty. The areas that had red ink had turned hard and bumpy. I finally researched and found out about the red reaction. I decided to start using Mederma and it is working wonderfully. I saw a difference in just 2 days. I would tell anyone to go to the Doctor first (even though I did not go myself) and use Mederma 3 to 4 time a day until the tattoo is completely healed.

July 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm
(8) WJE says:

I recently had a tat done on my calf. Most of the tattoo was black with a portion of it red. All the black is fine but the red is f-up. My skin actually will not heal in that area until it pushes all the red ink out of my pores. I have a dilema as to get it re-done in red or just re-do it in black. I already have one tat mostly black no color with no side effects. Both tats were done by different artists. I’m trying to find out if I can purchase Zap Organic Ink or something similar to that product. Any suggestions out there would be appreciated.

September 16, 2009 at 10:02 pm
(9) c bachinski says:

i recently had a tattoo done , and its f’d up along with my whole arm..all the blacks healed fin and there are a few red parts but have , scabbed really bad, have become a nasty leather look, ink has toned down, and it is lumpy and raised. i have no idea what to do with this, each part of the red is raised and feels like a bruise.is there anything that will help this go back to normal and flat? and when and if it doe’s go flat is it ok to go over it with a different color and not have the same reaction?

December 17, 2009 at 9:47 am
(10) Dan says:

Come on people!!! Jeez. By all means trust your tattooist, at least your’s has warned you first, but it really isn’t so bad.

Best is to ask the tattooist what pigment their red ink is based on. Typically this will be cinnabar, which is the most likely cause of such skin reactions.
You can google what other colour pigments are used to create red ink, some are less likely to cause the problem.

I have numerous tattoos, all with red, only one of which gave me any problems.
The problem will generally mean it will just itch and be a little painful. Others may find it makes the area a little flaky (but that’s alright, it’s only us flakey hippy types who get tattoos anyway, right? ;-)
I know other people who have also had reactions. My tattooist, unfortunately, didnt tell me about this until afterwards… He did say, however, which I can confirm for both myself and friends who have had a problem, the problem WILL go away, it’s not a permanent thing. Granted, this could take months. Mine was tender, shall we say, for nearly 6 months. Then it was fine, and still is.

So, all in all, it really isn’t that much to worry about. If you can stand the ‘pain’ of a tattoo in the first place, you can damn well handle the slight side effect the red ink may cause. Equally, if you have picked a tattoo and it has red in it, you’d be a fool to change that colour based on this!! You have to like your tattoo, it’s there forever!

My tattoo that reacted is on my calf and has a large solid red area. If you have smaller areas, or just faint red shading and alike, you’re also less likely to have a reaction.
Mine, I have to say, was so bad, it seemed to affect my muscle, as I couldn’t put any weight on that leg for several days. I woke up the day after the tattoo, got out of bed and my leg just gave way… I suppose after all I have said above this makes it sound altogether worse, but maybe I’m just a pussy. ;-)

In short, if you want red in your tattoo, get red in your tattoo!!! If you don’t want to risk it, don;t get the tattoo.
If your that concerned, maybe tattoos just arent for you. I’ve seen some pretty sweet rub-ons in gum packets. Or henna, if you’re a girl or a less masculine male. ;-)

Best of luck with it anyway.

April 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm
(11) Tol says:

Most stupid reply I’ve ever heard here. I’m a dermatologist and I’ve had tattoos when I was a kid and I’ve also studied allergic reactions of tattoos, from its components, to the sensitivity of the skin.

January 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm
(12) Sherry says:

I was reading some of the comments and I too have a heart tattoo and the red swelled and is extremely itchy and I was curious if there is anything other than getting it cut out to help the situation

April 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm
(13) Cbud says:

I also ha red as part of my tattoo. It had a reaction that itched like crazy. I would do it again.not woth the trouble.

June 4, 2010 at 11:25 am
(14) Kim says:

Dan…….NOT TRUE….6 months??? I had never heard about red reaction, so never knew to ask the artist before I got my tattoo! I got a tattoo about 2 years about now on my ankle. The read portion is STILL raised and itchy. Been to the dermatologist, who gave me cream which didnt work…..2 years….ugh, guess I gotta find another dermatologist.

September 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(15) peaches says:

I have the same problem on my back and all you need to do is ask the derm. Doctor to see if he can try steriod treamont it takes all the red out..or you can try a pain process and have an artist run the machine with dilute alcohol with water its painful but it works all u have to do is wait for when the tatt goes down cause I’m sure it goes up and down and when its down you do it.you might need to do it twice for it to work but it does.the reason its raised is because the body is trying to push it out(rejecting it)and opening up the skin alil will help it get pushed out

September 23, 2011 at 10:52 am
(16) Sharon says:

Mine is over 5 years old, it’s not raised any more, but it is constantly itchy. The dermatologist was no help at all, refered me to a surgeon, they would not even see me, “we don’t do that any mors” was the answer I got fron 3 different ones. I don’t know what to do….

June 4, 2010 at 11:26 am
(17) Kim says:

Sorry…THE RED PORTION

June 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm
(18) Louise says:

I have had a few tats, finally got my guns n roses one I’ve wanted for a while, looked really good and then the allergic reaction started, started off with annoying itchy bumps now it’s just a dry raised mess, looks like its trying to grow out the skin, very ugly I’m putting bio oil on it at the mo seems to be making the dry ugly sh*t come off.

June 22, 2010 at 2:57 am
(19) Mary says:

Ok this is somewhat a strange question but have to ask. I bought some ink for a local tattoo shop I’ve purchased things from before. Anyway one of the colors I have used on 3 people including myself and we have ALL had the same exact reaction. Swelling, redness, itching severly. In my case it Will NOT heal properly BUT ONLY Where this shade or Orangish red was used. Its The Dynamic brand ink. I’ve never had this happen before NEVER. Until using this ink. I asked the Shop I bought the ink from I was told the tattoo was worked too hard, However it happened when I did the tattoo and when My husband did mine. and ONLY this one color. Is it possible to have gotten som e bad ink? I asked him this and he said no way. My husband worked in a shop for several years and said the bottle might not of been sterile when he put the ink in?

July 7, 2010 at 10:51 pm
(20) Mrs.ski27 says:

I have 7 tattoo pieces on different parts of my body. All different colors and a few different artists. I haves red star on my foot (5 other color stars too) and a red heart on my back that have reacted very badly. Unlike most people, mine didn’t react until 3 & 4 years after I had them inked on my body. I also have a dab of orange that is starting to raise up recently I’ve seen the doctor who put me on some terrible meds that I had a bad reaction to. Now I’m just waiting to see a dermatologist. The doctor doesn’t think I’m allergic to the red ink since I had the reactions years after they were put on me.

September 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm
(21) peaches says:

The same happened to me and it is a reaction.it happens when ur body goes thru canges and a derm doc can fix it ask him about the steriod shots if he don’t know then he’s not up to date with his work

January 30, 2011 at 7:13 am
(22) deb says:

mine started several months after and i’ve still got it now. i was advised by another tattooist that the only cure is to have lazer treatment to remove some ink. i cant afford that so i am gonna try the dry needle to see if that helps. mine is being weird, i have little white bits under the skin which sometimes come out and leave a tiny hole. its not nice at all.

June 21, 2011 at 5:30 am
(23) flamingogirl says:

I had a rose done on my ankle about 8 years ago, and it’s only been in the last year that the red has scabbed up and you can hardly see the rose head now. It’s interesting that you’ve had the same delayed reaction.

I’ve just had a flamingo (!) done on my wrist and the pink is really bubbly and itchy which is how I came to find this site. The rest is fine and I wish I had just done it black and white.
All my other tattoos are fine, but no others have red in.

July 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm
(24) mindikrom says:

The red part of my 18 year old tattoo suddenly became raised and peely… now it bleeds if I try to peel it. Has anyone heard of a tattoo THIS old reacting like this?

October 13, 2011 at 9:20 pm
(25) Barney says:

I’m an old sailor now, but in 1962 I got a couple of tattoos in Sydney, Australia after 30 days at sea from Panama. Now, 49 years later…. here I am looking online to see why the red parts of these 2 images are itching, and the really red spot on one of them is getting raised…..probably from the scratching the skin when I’m asleep. Not a big deal, and one poster remarked (Mindi?) that it could be due to physical body changes….at my age, it’s always changing…In only 25 years, I’ll be a hundred…..cheers, barney

Not all who wander are lost…….

July 14, 2010 at 9:02 pm
(26) Tatia says:

I have 4 tattoos. The first red cherries 15 yrs old. The 2nd is a band of red roses about 10 yrs old. 3rd is bouquet of flowers 3 yrs old and my newest one is on my whole right calf 1 yr old. About 3 months ago I developed the “red ink” allergy on my leg then on my 3rd tat and now on my 10 and 15 yr old tattoos. How come its all of a sudden after so many years have past? What is bio oil and where do I get it? Can anyone recommend a remedy? Email me at hummzz@yahoo.com please.

July 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm
(27) yesenia lopez says:

I got my first red tattoo done just 5 days ago on my ankle. I knew something was wrong, but my first thought was that it must have gotten infected… so I went to the Dr. Luckily, it’s not. After talking to my tattoo artist and reading everyone’s posts, I can say that I def. have an allergic reaction to the red ink. I would have never, ever thought this would happen to me. I have never had an allegic reaction to anything and I don’t have sensitive skin. So far, the pain is alomst gone but what is left is not what I wanted out of a tattoo. It looks badly scabbed and bumpy. I am hoping that with time it will look better and I will keep posting about the progress. Everyone’s posts have been so helpful! Thanks!

July 19, 2010 at 11:15 am
(28) Tatia says:

I bought the Bio Oil on Friday…today is Monday and I’ve used it all weekend and I can see a tremendous difference! The peeling is virtually gone. The itching has subsided and the raising of the skin is already going down! I’m so pleased to the guy that put the post up about Bio Oil! I found it at Walgreens. 4 oz for $14.99 on sale! I’d pay more! Its totally worth it!!!!

November 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(29) Scarlett says:

I have 10 tattooes and I cannot wear nickel jewellery at all, I had to have a pair of earrings cut out of my ears in the emergency room once. But I have several large areas of tattooing that are various shades of red and have never had a reaction to red tattoo ink, and I’ve had them done at several different places so the inks would all be different in composition so I’m not sure how closely related the nickel issue is.

January 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm
(30) John says:

I have had two tattoos, one on each forearm for almost 20 years. They have both been fine up until about two months ago. Now the red is raised, it’s like they are 3D. It seems strange to me that this would happen to tattoos that are 20 years old.

February 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm
(31) kelley says:

I got my tattoo done june 2009. Almost a year later i got allergic reaction to red ink (raised skin, terrible itching, burning). I’ve been getting steroid injections monthly for over 6 mos. It helped to make the swelling and inflammation go down, but then it just comes back again. The dermatologist said there is nothing else he can do and I’d have to get it removed. Just saw MD for tattoo removal. I had one laser treatment and it flared back up again really bad. It has been a true nightmare for me.

August 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm
(32) Carrie says:

I’m having the same kind of reaction. Got my tattoo in February 2010 and now a year and a half later, it’s only gotten worse. I’ve tried the steriod cream, injections, a holisitic approach (which costs a lot of money including Wormwart, Flax Seed Oil, and CalAmo) and consulted with a Tattoo removal specialist. She warned against removing it since it will spread internally to the whole body.
Nothing has helped, at this point, I wonder about a skin graph.

February 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm
(33) Awakencreation says:

“November 4, 2008 at 12:54 pm Dani, Well a week later they called me with the results. The severe allergy to the mercury in the red ink had actually caused it to turn into squamous cell carcinoma!! ”

Many old…new..articles I found today, 2011, note that there isn’t enough evidence relating mercury and cx. You could very well be their evidence. :-O

http://imva.info/index.php/2010/05/heavy-metals-mercury-and-cancer/ “rajesh h said: respected sir, i am a dentist working in this field for 15 years. i dont remember of remembering cases correlating dental amalgam restorations and cancer. i think so ADA and many other dental asociations have used laid down strict regulations regarding use of dental amalgam. its been used in india since ages.i have come across this ahronic inflammation and systemic diseases.i feel we should wait for randomised controlled trials before correlating everything with periodontal disease and posting it on websites”

Last Update: 12/10/2010 02:56 PM http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/mercury/ “There is no human data that indicates exposure to any form of mercury causes cancer, but human data is very limited. Studies have shown that, at high doses, mercury can cause tumors in rats and mice. EPA’s 2005 cancer guidelines say neither inorganic mercury nor methylmercury from environmental exposures is likely to cause cancer in humans.

June 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm
(34) holy says:

thank you for noting this; i’m sure reading that lady’s comment will freak a lot of people out [including myself] to thinking that they might also get cancer from tattoo ink.

one person’s extreme occurrence does not mean that your body will react in the same way or that you will suffer the same outcome.

July 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm
(35) Monika says:

Thank you honey, You are so right talk about freakin people out more! For about 10 minutes there I thought great now I got the C Word, then I came along to your Post Thanks for making more sense. I have a Beautiful Red Ink Tattoo that has Raised I really look at mine as very RARE all mine Hearts for each
one of my Xs love it

April 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm
(36) Andrea says:

I have a full sleeve that has some red in it. I recently had an allergic reaction to the red in a certain part of my tattoo. I’ve had this part of my sleeve done for over 2 years. It’s itchy, bumpy, and raised. Specifically, it’s some red outlining that seems to be having the most problems and anything around the outline is a little bumpy too.

I did go to my dermatologists to find out what was going. My options are to try a topical steroid cream (which I’m using now. It’s called Triamcinolone Acetonide Cream) which can only be used for a week on and then 2 weeks off because it can cause “thinning of the skin” (I have a feeling it’s not going to work. It’s still a little itchy but I’ve only been on it for 3 days). Then the next option is to try the steroid shots, and if that doesn’t work then he would scrape the skin, removing the red ink. He would NOT do tattoo removal because of how your body disposes of the ink. Lazar removal breaks up the ink so your body can get rid of it. If you break up ink you’re having an allergic reaction to and letting your body’s circulatory system get rid of it, you’re basically releasing an allergen into your whole system. My Dermatologist said you can go into anaphylactic shock. I’m sure this will not happen with everyone but it’s something to be aware of if you’re considering this path.

As for me, I’m going to do everything I can to not have to have my tattoos scraped. I love all my work so it’s something I’m willing to try everything to save. It sounds like I have not had the worst reactions that can happen so I might just tough it out. I’m also trying natural things like witch hazel which works to sooth the itch at least and does make the skin soft as well as Aquaphor. I think I’m going to give Bio Oil a try too. Other then that I will do regular check ups with my Dermatologist. We’ll see what happens.

Good luck to everyone!

September 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm
(37) Olivia says:

Hi there. I just wanted to point out that I use Triamcinilone Actenoid Cream for my eczema on a regular basis (not 1 week on, two weeks off) and it does work wonders for repairing my skin that has been damaged from dryness as well as scratching that can’t always be helped. However, for me, it does NOTHING for the itchiness that accompanies the damaged skin, so I use it in conjunction with Hydrocortisone cream, which you can get over the counter at Walgreens or you can get a prescription from your doctor for hydrocortisone cream with nothing added to it (sometimes OTC brands add stuff like aloe vera or other various things that you might have additional reactions to). And you do have to keep applying the tri act at least a few days in a row, I usually do twice a day, to see a difference, it won’t happen over night, but it does work wonders.

Hope this helps.

July 7, 2011 at 10:19 pm
(38) Danner says:

I like how everyone is calling it an allergic reaction! If you’re putting toxins such as mercury under your skin, you are having a toxic reaction, not an allergic reaction. Allergy pills would be the solution if that was the case. You are poisoning yourselves. Do some research before you allow someone to put something in your body. I was thinking of a red tattoo when I stumbled onto this blog. WTF people? Research is easier than ever.

Danner.

November 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm
(39) Ali says:

I have been thinking about getting a tattoo piece with red in it for a couple years. I wanted to make sure that I did some research before getting it, because of so many experiencing reactions to the red ink. In my opinion, just be careful. Make sure you talk to the artist and or your doctor about any concerns. If you really want a tattoo with the color red, ask the artist if they can use an organic red if you want to be safe. If they refuse, go somewhere else. It is important to know your allergy history as well just in case. I do plan on still getting my tattoo with plenty of red. I am just going to make sure that I request organic red ink… in hope that an allergic reaction can be prevented as well as me getting exactly the art that I want. :)

November 7, 2011 at 7:06 am
(40) Jodi says:

HI
I was exposed to high levels of arsenic exposure almost 7 years ago that put me into a severe brain dysfunction loss peripheral neuropathy that i was wheelchair bound for over 2 years. I have fought to get to where I am currently even though i still require a caregiver almost 7 years later. My main doctor is excellent MD who took on a special interest for treating heavy metal poisoned patients for 40 years now. My main doctor saved my life and progressed me to where I am currently. But thru all this i was given some information on certain types of heavy metal poisoning exposure. And thru the 40 years of research my main doctor named DR. James FRackleton would highly recommend against red ink tattoos which contain cinnabar mercury. I would not get any red ink tattoos for you are exposing an area of your body to continual doses of mercury that seeps into the surrounding tissue and concentrates slowly seeping into the body. That area will being to weaken over time. And all of this could have been avoided if properly warned and armed with correct knowledge. Thereby the reason why I am writing this long message as one who has survived an insurmountable suffering from toxicity of metal exposure does not desire for any human to be exposed no matter what dose. Thank you.

December 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm
(41) kerry says:

I have a full sleeve of which the whole background is bright red. i used the Micky Sharpz / Uk. It healed no problem but i have lost patches of red during healing and from what i understqnd this is normal as red is a ‘tricky’ colour. Im not bothered i will have to keep going over the skin until the background is perfect and my tattooist did warn me before i started red was a nightmare to use on large areas but its my decision and i love having something different. People reading this thread should NOT be put off red in their tattoos….in comparrison to the millions of people who use it every year and have no reaction it must be significantly safer than some normal every objects like say aspirin :)

February 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm
(42) cindy says:

I have a R calf tribal piece all red that’s 5 in x 4 in & it’s been bumpy on & off for the past 7 yrs since I got it. The past 2 years it has been extremely itchy & still swells 2-3 days a week. There are also some white spots forming in it so i’m not sure if my skin is pushing it out or what. I have 5 other pieces but in all black & those itch sometimes now too, but do not swell. Wondering if it’s just a body change thing that’s deciding to reject the ink. It’s definitely an irritating that I didn’t research better before deciding to get my 1st tat back in 1996. Oh well, live & learn, that’s what life’s about!

March 14, 2012 at 10:12 am
(43) texastat says:

Hi guys not complaining because i love my tat and the artist :) but.. i got my 9th tat a few days ago everything healing nicely except the pink….the heart is weeping seriously and almost looks like its a burn on my skin. i was using a&d but it made it worse almost like it was holding the redness and swelling in my whole tat. each day more of the heart looks worse. basically like someone is burning a lil of it at a time and leaving this oozzzy yacky mess behind. uuuugh what do i do?

April 14, 2012 at 12:44 am
(44) Wissh says:

I got my first tattoo 18 months ago after my son died. Three hearts tied together, 2 red, one purple, on the inside of my wrist. All was fine until a couple of months ago when the red hearts became everything already described here: itchy and bumpy. The purple heart is fine. I’m sorry too that I didn’t research this ahead of time. I guess what I’ll do now is schedule a derm appt and see what she says. Damn.

May 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm
(45) Loves my tats says:

I have 5 tatts… the 3rd one I got took for ever to heal in one section I figured i was reacting to the red Nd let it be it was a small spot it finally healed

when I went in to get my 5 th tatt a phoenix with lots of yellow red and purple it healed great then about a yr and a half later it started itching to the point in about a yr of trying to ignore it I have inadvertently scratch scared my leg

finally went to a dermatologist when my pants couldnt even touch it anymore. She injected into several spots with a steroid to stop the itching … it has only been one dy but I can already feel the improvement and I can feel where I need to go back and have more injection for the spots that were missed.

FIND a good dermatologist that isnt afraid of treating tatts dont wait till it is scarred get the help NOW I wish I had

No more reds or purples… I found out recently that some purples are made with nickel and im allergic so none of that

June 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm
(46) Laura says:

I have angel wings tattooed on my back years ago, when they first healed it seemed one didnt heal as fast as the other, now today years after getting them the same one is itching and has bumps all over it.. I really donít know what to do and the itching is driving me crazy. The wings gave me no problems at all for years, now all of the sudden it is bumpy and itchy.

July 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm
(47) Tracey says:

Wow! I truley thought i had an infection & now reading all of this, I am crazy worried & never thought to do any research before getting a tattoo with red ink in it. I have red ink outlining one of mine, then i have a small rose on the top of my wrist and i have a big rose on my calf. None of them gave me any problems until 6wks ago i went & added 2 more red roses to the 1st on my calf. While having the new ones added, i decided to let him touch up the 1st. Bad idea! The day after my ankle swoll & I was told its normal because of the area of the leg so ok who am I to argue, I took that for that moment & kept on abt my business. A wk later I realised the ink from the 2 new roses was peeling off and coming out. Then the older tattoo that I had touched up started raising & itching. The itch is so bad that I sleep with my leg above the covers & try not to wear pants. Now I know this was a choice to add ink to our skin but at the same time, there should be more warnings when we walk in to get them. I know we live in a money-hungry world but wow, to think that this is now a issue that cannot be reversed & pure torture is unfair.

If you plan to get red ink, please research & make sure you have never had ANY reactions of any kid before you do. I personally have shared this with my friends & advise them 2 not get red/orange/pink tatted on them. I wish someone would have warned me more because now I will always think anything happening in my body is mercury poisoning related.

July 12, 2012 at 2:08 am
(48) Deb says:

I had a tattoo redone. I was the most painful 15 minutes. The artist was digging the needle in and, afterward I had hive type welps for 2 years all over my body and my tattoo was raised and scapping over and itchy beyond belief for 3 years. It was done with a red ink. And black. My other old tattoo never reacted this way. Wonder if it was her digging in my skin or the brand of ink? It was done in Sierra Vista Az?. I want a new tattoo but am scared to get it. I do not think I should chance it, cause I wanted reds, pinks, ect.

November 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm
(49) Ted says:

I have eleven tattoos. Some were done in Australia and now I live in Thailand I have had some done here. Two on my left arm have reaction to the red. They are slightly raised, but not itchy. One was done 4 years ago and the other 18 months ago. It is very humid here, so perhaps this has caused the problem. Other tattoos have red, but no trouble. From reading posts from other people, I am going to try Mederma cream or Bio Oil. I will also visit the Tattoo Artist for any advice from him. He has been doing tattoos for nearly 20 years.

December 19, 2012 at 8:06 am
(50) joe says:

i have a tattoo that is four months old and got squamous cell cancer in the red ink part- This crap ink does give cancer and needs to be regulated by FDA – I will now take legal action against the ink maker !! and raise awareness for others its about time it ends !!

December 19, 2012 at 9:11 am
(51) joseph says:

I have a four month old tattoo and developed squamous cell carcinoma within the red ink in four separate areas – bottom line the inks are very dangerous and need FDA reg. Most are loaded with many cancer causing ingredients. Cancer is rare and there have been many reports of all types on infections.

This topic needs to be in the forefront as a health issue for many others. The ingredients are not required to be posted on ink containers. Fault lies with Ink makers. FDA has been for some time reviewing the long term affects ok ink breakdown, They do know it deposits in some glands.

December 23, 2012 at 1:19 pm
(52) LEON says:

Take Allergy tabs, daily, and use hydrocortisone for a week, and a week only, this should work! Dont have any more Red Tats done. As you are allergic to a Compound in it.

December 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm
(53) Keley says:

Some body please help me!!!!!!!
Iv seen a tattoo parlor they had nothing to say, I had multiple doctors who had nothing to say when finally after nearly a year later I was woken with my large red tattoo and a gaping gash oozing, I rushed to a doctor after apply what I could first aid and they prescribed me antibiotics, that settled it but there was still heaps of inflammation as it was before, it’s always been fattish scaly and very very very itchy, it was, bless me I’m stupid but I had no choice… I use to ‘cut’ my upper thighs, I was then an idependant minor at 14, after all the embaressnent and verbal abuse (bullying) I received and I couldn’t bare the new life I had built another summer, so I got a home job and boy did it f*** up. it’s now a year later, its looking alot better but now it’s all dry and scaly and there’s a little scab? I also have a new tattoo tho I am now 18 it was a shop paid for, it’s a purple bow with a red heart in the middle, iv reacted again, I current can not see a doctor I am on holidays, I’m flying home tomorrow. I’m scared, will I be ok? :/
Can I ever tatto over these tattoos again?

January 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm
(54) leon says:

keley, stop worring, get some allergy tabs dailiy ie benedryll or piriteze! and hydrocortisone cream, hc45 can buy it from a chemist, put on twice a day, for a week, then if not gone, leave for a week , then put on again twice a day for another week! (cant use for more than a week as it will make the skin go thin) the allergy tabs will be one a day for the future, but people with hayfever have too anyway.. You can tattoo over them, but keep of the red ink, as thats what the allergy is. Dont read all the bullshit on here people have put to scare you like the big C, Its just a skin allergy like Hives, and thats all! And im writing this from experience, took a week for the bumps and itch to stop for me,, using the cream, and i have an allergy tab in morn to stop it raising ever again, 3 months on now, And the tatt looks good and as smooth as a babys bum

February 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm
(55) Darren Moose says:

I’m about to get a red rose tattoo done. I’ll keep you guys updated on my skin. Possibly show pictures.. I trust the tattoo artist as I’me a repeat customer.

March 18, 2013 at 11:31 pm
(56) kitty28 says:

I just got a bunch or red roses on my arm.. a day later my blanket was stuck to my skin wooooowwww it hurt sooo bad my arm wat swollen i had puss coming out..i got such a bad allergic reaction to red ink …i had to get 2 shots n lots of antabiotics n im goin to have a huge scar never thought red ink would do this to my arm my tattoo was soo beautifull now its a hige scar ;(

April 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm
(57) Marie says:

I’ve recently had a red Christmas bow done at the top of my back about 3 months ago. And it was healing nicely until I just noticed some small bumps coming from underneath it. It’s not itchy and I didn’t know if it was just because my back was oily (I don’t usually have acne on my back but you never know) so I’ve just been washing it and trying to leave it alone. Would a Bio Oil help me or hurt me? It’s not inflammed or anything I just want the bumps to go away!

April 5, 2013 at 6:12 pm
(58) Nicole says:

Had some pink cherry blossom done three weeks ago, the brown and green healed with no problems but the pink is still a bit raised and dry. A week ago after being really annoyed with the itching I applied manuka honey ointment, brilliant! No itching but still a little dry and raised. 100% to what it was

May 7, 2013 at 11:04 pm
(59) max says:

so, i read a few of the answers but the question i need answered is not at all solid on any response. Im going tomorrow to do a full half sleeve in red and i kind of would like to know if red ink causes cancer…. i need an honest response not just some random person telling me what they think. i have 2 tattoos both with red and they itch every once in a while but nothing unbearable and it is very seldom…. only happens like once a month….. I’m not too worried about the reaction as much as i am cancer…. so please let me know if anyone has any honest knowledge on red ink causing cancer

May 13, 2013 at 3:12 am
(60) Michelle says:

I have had a severe reaction to red ink. I had a tattoo last August the black healed the red never did. At first the tattoo was very itchy and raised eventually it looked like it was starting to heal however what was happening was an ulcer was forming underneath. It burst and I ended up in hospital they took a biopsy and treated me with antibiotics into my arm as oral ones were not strong enough. I am now waiting for results of the biopsy and then I will have an operation. My body had pushed out all the red ink there is no red at all or yellow. The tattoo was on my foot and leg it was a black vine with two red flowers with yellow centres.Luckily the blood tests and bone scans were fine I just have a very bad bacterial infection.

May 27, 2013 at 7:38 am
(61) Tony says:

Hey I have a tat that I got 18 years ago. It is now red, inflamed, itchy, finally stopped bleeding. Now it’s just scabbing over. Yes, red ink. The tat is on my calf, now my knee is freakin killing me, it feels like my knee is blown out. I have been on antibiotics for over 9 days. The tat looks a little better but the pain in my knee is still worse than ever. Anyone think the knee and the tat has anything to do with each other? I have other smaller tats with red in them on my arms. the red in them are starting to raise up now also. Any input is appreciated!

June 12, 2013 at 11:18 am
(62) Adam says:

I have this same problem but on voilet ink-itchy,bumpy and looks like scar.i start use bio oil 2nd day its maybe little bit better but wait anorher week and we see

June 17, 2013 at 2:09 am
(63) Adam says:

Hi lads.its anyone fix this problem?? Or i need laser removed??how i can add a picture to show my allegry ??

July 8, 2013 at 1:55 am
(64) CHINO TRAVY says:

I just did a owl on my hand….the red ink raised and hurted at first and felt like little lumps under the parts that contained the red but its still in the pealing process it feels like its goinf down and I also wrapp it with a flag when im outside so the son wond bother it so im giving it another week to see if it goea flat. Is there anyone this happened to and it actually got over time???

October 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm
(65) Shelley says:

Today I had my first serious of steroid injections in my tattoo after a year and half of treatment that was only temporary. I am allergic to the pink ink, not the red. The Doctors say it will destroy the look of it and its half of my calf. I just recommend people give serious thought to getting tattoos and stay away from the red or pink inks just to be safe. My tattoo raises up, cracks, peels and bleeds all the time. Im 47 and always wanted a tattoo but Im in a living hell with this. Got 12 shots in my leg today. Just a thought for those considering there first tattoo. Maybe try a very small one first to see how you react. My best to you all and I pray the steroids work or I will be having a major skin graft operation to remove it. Lazer is too risky the Doctor says. It could turn the allergy internal.

November 29, 2013 at 9:56 pm
(66) Melody says:

I have some magenta nautical stars on my foot, a year later they started to get puffy and wicked itchy. Going to a dermatologist next week, apparently I have an allergy to magenta.

December 16, 2013 at 2:48 am
(67) Bela says:

I can only tell you my story in hope that is may help others.

All 28 of my tattoo’s are red – I never use any other colour.

I suffer from Systemic Lupus, Systemic Rheumatism & Diabetes – resulting in one very suppressed immune system. If someone is open to this allergy it sure is going to be.
But no…

When one of my illnesses is kicking off. My tattoo’s raise up like Braille.
They itch a little but no more that anywhere else.

The first thing I do with a new tattoo is smother it with Tattoo Goo and just keep it on all the time – if I run out of goo I use Bepanthen.

I think the key is to never stop moisturizing the tattoo.

Don’t allow it to dry out – use more goo/bepanthen or some emollient – you will find that at some point all the scale of the tatt will start to move and you must resist scratching/pulling it off. I moisturize a new tattoo every 2 hours in a day – and continue it for a minimum of 2-3 weeks.
Another bonus about constant application of whatever emollients is that it makes the color really pop too.
I feel dreadful for all of you poor people and whats happened – I can only just suggest trying my moisturizing regime. And I pray someone finds it works.

January 22, 2014 at 5:41 am
(68) jen says:

Hi everyone
I have a red and black tattoo on my leg, been there over 20 years, no problem at all, still perfect, I recently had a tattoo pure red ink only on my other leg, big problems from day 1,

I knew it wasn’t right, most of the scab has fallen now 1 week after,
I have scarification, it looks like I have had this tattoo cut into my skin, its so ugly compared to the beautiful picture I asked them for.

at times it feels like I have bugs crawling under my skin, of course I typed into google ” bad reaction to red tattoo ink ” to find this site, Its only the people that are having bad reactions on here. I had never before heard you could even have a reaction to it. so why the research, youd have to be quit anal to even think youd have a reaction, when you’ve already got one that still hasn’t had problems.

February 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm
(69) theotattoos Roses Spain says:

Hello to all,I have been tattooing for 35 years.
I started having problems with red like 25 years ago.
I did some investigation and found out that the red I used(ordered at a famous tattoosupply firm in america)
was cadmium based. I changed for a non toxic red. But little by little I had more and more frequent allergic reactions. Like at first one a year then two a year then four a year and now regularly.
It followed the overall general allergy curve and frequency.
In the meanwhile I continued my inquiery for a solution and reply to my problem.
My solution:
When somebody wants red in the tattoo I ask if the client allready has some whatever allergy (this is a common denominator with the appearence of the later allergic reaction to the red),I never have the problem with non allergic clients.
Why is there an allergic reaction?
Because colours have a radiofrequency (check on the net) and the radiofrequency of red is exciting (blood heat, imagin everything which is symbolised with red).So on an allready allergic sensible person the red in the skin provokes an inflammatory allergic reaction.
Solution,change the colour (retattoo to mix the red) or hydrating cream and or the same treatment as with burning injury.
Hoped I helped out some with this total personal experience based theory.
So if you have allergic tendency NO RED
The black is carbon based, so never allergic, for those who do not want to take any risk.
Greetings from the Costa del Sol

March 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm
(70) Amie says:

I got my first tattoo (red roses) exactly 20 years ago. In January of this year, I got a tattoo with two very small red parts. All was well until a few weeks ago when the red parts started to hurt and “blister.” So far, the other red tattoos I have are unaffected.

I contacted my artist (very reputable artist and shop), and he confirmed my “red reaction” suspicion. He said to let him know when it’s healed completely and they will “see what can be done” and “obviously, we will not put any more red in you.” I guess the best I can hope for is that this new red heals okay.

So far, coconut oil mixed with tea tree oil has been the most effective at keeping the “blisters” at bay. Any other thoughts, ideas, or input would be appreciated. So many of my questions have been answered here.

March 23, 2014 at 10:36 am
(71) Dana B. says:

Hi! I got a new tattoo in September 2013 of some flowers. I got a red poppy that hurt worse than the others. A few months after, the red got intensely itchy and sore. Next came huge firm lumps under the red. I pretty much knew it was an allergy. I finally went to a dermatologist March 11th. I got it injected all over with steroids. Best thing ever and I wish I had gone sooner! The swelling is almost completely down except for my worst lump. No more itching or pain! I do have some white flaky looking spots, but I think that is from my skin that was so swollen, going down flat. I keep it moisturized so no big deal. My tattoo artist told me the brand of ink/color to avoid for next time. Mine was Eternal ink- lipstick red. I am now scared to get another tattoo and I want so many more. I have been reading that some do turn into squamous cell carcicnoma and that once you have a reaction to the heavy metal/chemicals in the red you are now more prone to reactions from other colors because it is a sensitizer, meaning it makes you more sensitive to other chemicals/metals and not just in tattoo ink.

My advice, get the injections as soon as you can! They only feel a little uncomfortable at first (not bad at all!), then you feel nothing due to the lidocaine that is mixed in with the steroids. No where near the pain of getting a tattoo! I can now enjoy my beautiful tattoo! Good luck to other red ink allergy tattoo lovers!

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