for tattooed people, and those who want to be

Allergies and aftermath


Skin layers: epidermis, dermis, and subcutis, ...

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A week or so ago, I bought some new makeup  from a well-known, reputable company whose products I have used many times in the past with no problems at all.  The product I bought was relatively new and had been advertised extensively, and it looked like something I could really use.

The first day I wore it, I had no problems.  The second day, I noticed that my face was a little itchy when I washed it at the end of the day.  The third day…  whoa.  Within minutes of applying the makup my face hurt and itched like crazy.  When I washed the product off, my skin looked like it had been sunburned and my whole face was swollen.  I had to make a mad dash to the drugstore to buy some soothing products to wash and coat my poor flaming skin.

I emailed the company’s customer service department and they were very courteous about it and said they would look into the problem.  They may request that I send the rest of the product back.  I’m satisfied with the response I got, but even so, it took several days for the redness and itchiness to go away.

And this was a product from a well known company whose cosmetics had always served me well before.

Which is why I wanted to talk about allergies again today.  If you use the search box on the right and type in “allergies” you’ll see that this subject has come up before and that people are vitally interested in it.  Because tattoo ink is  injected under the skin, if an allergic reaction occurs, treating it is difficult.  Cosmetic products can be washed off and the skin can be treated and left to heal, but if you’ve got a weepy, oozing, itching tattoo you’ve got big problems.  I went through that with the red ink on my ankle tattoo, and the swelling and itchiness literally took years to go away.  I’m very thankful that it did eventually go away, but I went through a lot of skin-soothing and anti-itch preparations before my skin settled down.  That’s one reason I’m hesitant to get any more ink.  As with the makeup, something that’s applied once may not cause problems.  Apply it again and you’re in trouble.

And that’s why the standard advice to try a patch test isn’t necessarily going to tell you anything.  You can certainly have the artist put a few dots of color in an inconspicuous place first, and wait to see if there’s a reaction–but that application might just be what rouses your body’s defenses to begin an all-out attack on the next application of the ink.

Just about any ink color can cause problems, although black seems to be the least troublesome.  Blue based ink may contain nickel, and a lot of people have nickel allergies (myself included).  Red pigments seem to cause a lot of problems as well, perhaps because of the ingredients used to give the deep red color.

I think it would be a wise idea to ask the artist for the brand name of the ink he or she uses, and to write that information down.  That way, if something happens, you will know that brand’s not good for you, and you have a chance of being able to look up the ingredients and take the information to your doctor.

Yes, I advise going to see a doctor for any serious allergic reaction.  A small raised area or a small amount of itching, OK, you can get away with treating it yourself.  But a weeping, oozing patch ought to be seen and treated by a doctor as soon as you can manage it, a dermatologist if possible.  You do not want to end up with a big hole in your skin or a permanent ugly scar instead of your nice tattoo.

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