Tattoos and Permanent Makeup: Not without risk

Almost one in ten Germans is wearing a tattoo, according to a poll conducted by a major German polling institute. Also, the number of those with a so-called permanent make-up as a replacement for makeup only in certain areas of the face, the skin is dyed, is increasing. As a precautionary measure, the BfR (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) points out that wearers of tattoos may, under certain circumstances, assume a health risk that can currently only be estimated to a limited extent scientifically. When tattooing and applying permanent make-up, color pigments are introduced into the middle skin layer (dermis) with the help of needle sticks. From there they can also reach deeper layers of the skin, from where they can be distributed and converted via the bloodstream in the body.

Risk allergy

Severe allergic skin reactions and inflammation are, according to reports of German dermatologists, the most common adverse effects of a tattoo. Allergic reactions are in most cases attributed to the substance para-phenylenediamine (PPD). It is used in henna to darken and thus gets when making black henna tattoos on or in the skin. PPD can trigger severe dermatoses. Individuals who are once sensitized to PPD may experience lifelong allergic reactions to the substance or to colors of similar chemical structure. Metal-containing components of the color mixtures can also trigger allergies.

Other dangers

Further sources of danger are impurities in the color mixtures as well as certain azo dyes, which can be split into carcinogenic aromatic amines. Such azo dyes pose a danger also in the removal of tattoos by means of laser technology. They may possibly be split by laser beams into carcinogenic amines, which are then distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. Other possible consequences of a tattoo removal are scars, pigmentation of the skin and inflammation.

Used colors are not tested for this purpose

The BfR expressly points out to consumers, and especially the parents of juveniles and children, the risks associated with tattooing and permanent make-up. Unlike dyes used in cosmetic skin-care products such as blushes, eyeshadows or eyeliners, the colors used for tattooing and permanent make-up have not been tested for their health effects. So far, nothing is known about the long-term effects of these foreign substances in the body, although they usually remain there for a lifetime. While cosmetic products that are applied to the skin are regulated by the German Food and Commodities Act, the European Cosmetics Directive and the German Cosmetics Regulation, tattoo inks are currently not subject to any comparable regulation. There are no statutory provisions regarding the purity, quality and testing of the health safety of tattoo inks. Tattoos and permanent make-up are similar to the makeup of the jewelry of the body and thus cosmetic purposes. But because the colors are injected into the skin during tattooing, they are not cosmetic products in the sense of the valid legal definition.


The BfR therefore recommends that you only use colorants for tattoos and permanent make-up up to a legal regulation that meet the requirements of the European Cosmetics Directive and the German Cosmetics Regulation and that have been tested and approved for use in cosmetic products. However, this also does not ensure that no undesired reactions can occur. The BfR calls on the medical profession to report to the BfR health problems possibly caused by tattoo paints.

Share with friends

Leave your comment