Anyone who has ever suffered from a contact allergy knows the agony that comes with touching a nasty allergen: imagine a bad case of poison ivy, or the chicken pox, or an ugly weeping rash. Contact allergies can come from all kinds of things – certain chemicals, metals and even types of plant matter. Contact allergy symptoms begin to slow once the allergen is no longer in contact with the skin. But what happens if the allergen cannot be removed from the skin? Is it possible to be allergic to a tattoo?
The good news is that the most common allergic reaction resulting from tattooing is not related at all to the tattoo ink. Latex allergies are a common allergy, and the latex gloves used by a tattoo artist can cause a reaction in those with latex-sensitive skin. If you have a latex allergy – even if your allergy is very slight – it is a good idea to let your tattoo artist know ahead of time so that an alternative can be found. You will already be taxing your skin by getting it inked, and there is no need to compound the irritation by coupling it with a latex reaction. The prevalence of latex allergies has made non-latex gloves easy to find an inexpensive.
Another less common tattoo-related allergy is an allergy to the lotions or creams used to promote healing of the finished tattoo. A&D Ointment is a favorite among many tattoo enthusiasts to promote healing of a new tattoo, but some A&D lotions contain cod liver oil as the main ingredient. Fish and fish oil-related allergies are not uncommon, and placing A&D on already irritated skin can be bad if not downright dangerous idea if you have a fish allergy. If you are unsure about a fish allergy, there are many, many alternatives to A&D and other cod liver oil based lotions. Ask your tattoo artist what he or she recommends.
As for the tattoo ink itself, red ink seems to be the most common cause of allergic reactions, although some accounts of allergic reactions to yellow inks have been reported.
Photos of red ink allergy, as presented by Nicholas White MRCS and Gulraiz Rauf FRCS in a letter to the British Journal of Plastic Surgery:
Sadly, the options for someone with a tattoo ink allergy are limited. The tattoo can be removed, or the sufferer can simply “put up with it” and treat the affected area with lotions and creams to ease the discomfort. If you have concerns about how the ink will react to your skin, talk to your tattoo artist about the ingredients in the ink he or she uses. There are a lot of broad statements on the Internet about tattoo ink, but the truth is that every person is different and different tattoo artists use different inks with different ingredients. No standard answer on the Internet will be appropriate for all cases, no matter what Yahoo Answers says.
Ask questions first, and go directly to the source – the person who will be doing your tattoo – for the answers. If you still don’t feel comfortable with the possibility of an allergic reaction, then don’t get the tattoo. Simple as that.