It has been demonstrated with increasing clarity and frequency that the quality of ink is decisive in determining the occurrence of side effects upon tattoo removal, regardless of the method used.
Nowadays nobody with a tattoo knows what dye was applied to their body, nor what the dye contains or where it came from. Mostly, not even the original tattooist knows exactly what is involved. One thing is clear: a few years after the tattoo is applied, there is practically no way to ascertain what kind of dye was injected into the skin. In addition, according to Dr. Klaus Hoffmann, head of the department of Cosmetic Medicine and Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology at the St. Josef Hospital in Bochum, every tattoo is problematic because “Sixty to eighty per cent of the ink that is injected does not end up in the tattoo, but instead accumulates elsewhere in the body.” (1). The safety data sheets that are mandated by the European Cosmetic Directive are rarely available for each individual ink in the tattoo parlour. If the authorities monitor compliance with the regulations at all, they only do so extremely rarely. The BfR (the Federal Office for Risk Assessment in Germany) noted in an official statement: “According to a study by Klügl et al (2010) around two thirds of all people with tattoos develop associated skin conditions, which are chronic and enduring in around six per cent.” (2)
A study by the University of Northern Arizona has recently demonstrated that the ingredients and raw materials of dyes from different manufacturers can have entirely different compositions (3). Isabelle Catoni, a dermatologist from Paris, wrote in the French Huffington Post: “Some Asian wholesalers use paints or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to increase the intensity of their colours.” Tattoo artists compete with one another and one competitive aspect is the brightness of their tattoos. Accordingly a tattooist will usually use his or her own “secret” mixture, i.e., each artist prepares his or her own colour cocktail. Once a tattoo has been inked, the composition of the ink is almost impossible to determine.