My boyfriend is pretty much covered in tattoos.


I think sometimes people preemptively judge him (and others) for this. Apparently if you have tattoos you must also do the following: drink, smoke, go to jail and steal candy from small children. They don’t know that he is the nicest guy in the world, has a masters, has a great job in the music industry, literally never drinks and hasn’t smoked a cigarette in his life.

That’s all well and good, and I love his tattoos; but recently I  began wondering: what’s in the ink? I’m so concerned with what we put in our mouths and on our skin, that I never really considered what Scott has put in his skin. According to Scientific American,

It is true that some red inks used for permanent tattoos contain mercury, while other reds may contain different heavy metals like cadmium or iron oxide. These metals—which give the tattoo its “permanence” in skin—have been known to cause allergic reactions, eczema and scarring and can also cause sensitivity to mercury from other sources like dental fillings or consuming some fish. While red causes the most problems, most other colors of standard tattoo ink are also derived from heavy metals (including lead, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt nickel and arsenic) and can cause skin reactions in some people.

Well that’s a bummer.

Tattoo ink does vary from brand to brand and color to color. Unfortunately tattoo ink manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients in ink. Studies have shown that inks often contain not only mercury, lead, antimony, beryllium, cobalt, nickel, and arsenic, but also cadmium, iron, copper and titanium. And it’s not only colored inks, black ink often contains benzo(a)pyrene, a carcinogen that causes skin cancer in animal testing.

You may have heard that women are not allowed to get a tattoo while pregnant. I always thought this was due to the risk of infected needles. Wrong. It’s because several inks, particularly red ink, contains mercury which can negatively affect the baby (and mama!).

Scientists at Bradford University in the UK performed a study proving that tattoo ink contains cancer causing chemical that can also damage collagen,

The new study found that nanoparticles from the tattoo dye enters the blood stream and accumulates in spleen and kidneys. Both the organs play significant roles in keeping the body healthy by cleaning it. Spleen is a vital organ of the body that helps fight infection and balance body fluids. On the other hand, kidneys regulate water content and remove waste products from the body.

According to Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D, ink carriers can also be carcinogenic. They normally consist of ethanol, propylene glycol, glycerin, witch hazel and purified water, but can also contain more dangerous substances like denatured alcohols, antifreeze and formaldehyde (which is a proven carcinogen).

Dr. Helmenstine also provides the composition of ink pigments:

  • black – iron oxide, carbon
  • red – cinnabar, iron oxide, cadmium red
  • orange – disazodiarylide and/or disazopyrazolone, cadmium seleno-sulfide
  • yellow – cadmium yellow
  • green – chromium oxide, malachite, lead chromate

How To Detox Heavy Metals

Detoxing heavy metals is serious business and should be done under supervision. The most effective way to detox is to not put toxins in or on your body. I am a huge fan of detoxing, and not just from tattoos. When we consider the toxic load we encounter each day that prior generations never had to experience, we quickly realize that detoxification is necessary.

Broken cell wall chlorella is extremely effective at binding to heavy metals and removing them. Bentonite clay also binds to heavy metals and flushes them out. Both chlorella and bentonite clay not only bind to metals, but toxins in general to remove them from the body.