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Friday, December 9, 2022

In Europe, tattoo artists are working with a more limited colour palette

Coral and fish are illuminated by the light that is reflected off of the ocean’s surface as it travels down an exposed chest and down an exposed leg. Vivid frogs seem to be getting ready to leap from the damp leaves while perched on a lower leg. A playful youngster with eyes that sparkle in the blue peers out from inside an inner bicep.

Alex De Pase studied images of some of the hundreds of tattoo designs he had inked over the course of his career as a tattoo artist while sitting in his home workshop in the hamlet of Grado, which is located in northern Italy. However, it is probable that it will not be feasible to recreate similar skinscapes in the year 2023, at least not with the same colour palette.

New limits on tattoo inks and permanent cosmetics that started taking effect throughout the European Union in January were aimed to decrease the danger of containing substances that might be harmful to one’s health. These laws came about as a result of concerns over the safety of these products. Ink makers have had to reformulate their whole product lines in order to comply with the requirements, which has forced the sector to undergo the most significant upheaval in recent memory.

When the prohibitions on green and blue pigments take effect the next year, ink makers believe it may be hard to find a suitable replacement for those pigments. This creates the risk of even greater disruption for artists. This has resulted in an outcry among tattooists, who contend that the limits are too wide, cause unwarranted fear among customers, and diminish the value of their work as an art form.

In the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration has some authority over inks and pigments, new laws similar to those in place in Europe might signal impending reforms in that country. When Dr. Linda Katz, director of the agency’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, was asked whether the United States would align its regulations with Europe’s in November of 2016, while giving a presentation at a conference on tattoo safety in Berlin, she responded, “That remains to be seen, and we’re working on that area itself.”

Traditional ink manufacturers have, over the course of time, incorporated heavy metals such as barium and copper into their pigments in order to create a wider palette of colours. In addition, high concentrations of neurotoxic agents such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic have been documented in some inks. These components are also often included in so-called vegan inks, which differ from traditional inks only in that they do not contain any glycerins or other compounds derived from animals.

Since 2015, Europe has mandated that producers label inks with a list of any potentially harmful compounds that the ink may contain. Raw pigments, on the other hand, are often not as pure as one might hope for in a substance that is injected under the skin because they are produced on an industrial scale for use in a wide variety of products, including clothing and automobiles. This is due to the fact that these pigments are used in so many different products.

The usage of two pigments, Blue 15:3 and Green 7, had been associated in studies that dated back many decades to an increased risk of bladder cancer when they were used in hair colours. These pigments were included in the ban. In spite of the fact that the commission was aware of the concerns raised by ink makers about the absence of suitable replacements for the pigments in question, it decided to postpone the implementation of its ban until the following year.

According to Mr. De Pase, who also owns a chain of nine tattoo parlours, the workers tossed aside their old colour inks at the end of 2021 and spent the first three weeks of this year working solely with black and grey inks. Mr. De Pase also owns a network of nine tattoo parlours. At this time, his workshops are investing around 5,000 euros (approximately $5,200) per month on stocking new coloured inks. Mr. De Pase was pleased with their performance, but he predicted that it would be many years before he could evaluate how well they worked in the skin of his clients.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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