What’s in the pigments I use?

A reputable cosmetic tattoo pigment manufacturer provides full details of ingredients. Note that with ‘fakes’ you’ll be lucky to get any information, or possibly false ingredient labels. If the supplier is prepared to mislead you on who made the pigment and sell it at a cheap price you might think they will put whatever they want in the pigment, safe or otherwise.

Here is an example of the ingredients in a popular properly manufactured pigment, and how to interpret the label:

Nouveau 272 Soft Ash
Ingredients (label): Aqua, Isopropyl Alcohol, Glycerin, INCL: 77891, 77492, 77499, 77491

Aqua is water. Isopropyl alcohol is a solvent and steriliser. Glycerin keep the colours in suspension and adds thickness. These ingredients are in most reputable pigments.

“INCL” lists the colorants, in this case listed by Colour Index (CI) number. You may also see the CI name or the CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) number.

  • 77891 is titanium dioxide, a white pigment in common use also in sunscreens and cosmetics.
  • 77492 is yellow iron(III) hydroxide, a naturally-occurring non-toxic mineral. Safety warnings for this mineral relate to the powder form, when it can irritate eyes and skin (not when it is in a liquid).
  • 77499 is black iron(II,III) oxide, naturally occurring mineral called magnetite in common use in cosmetics.
  • 77491 is brown iron (III) oxide, a naturally occurring mineral that also forms iron rust and is present in blood.

There are hundreds of colorants in use in cosmetic tattoo pigments, and at THink MBC we monitor what is in the pigments we sell and reject any where we have concerns. Some of the labelling is less clear than with Nouveau Contour. The 3mL Biotouch bottles are too small to have an ingredients label, and on the 15mL bottle there are colorant names. Here we get more detail from the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that Biotouch supplies.

At THink MBC the full list of MSDS for our pigments will soon be published on our website. We’ll cover other aspects of pigment safety in future THink Tech Talk articles.

October 18, 2016 — Robert McGowan

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THink Tech Talks is our informative blog series that discusses technical industry news, training advise and more! Written in partnership with THink Aesthetics, an industry-leading training school that specialises in all things cosmetic tattooing.