May 25 2016

Why Choose Tattoos With Organic Inks?

The word “Tattoo” comes from a wrong form of pronunciation of the Samoan word “Tatau” by the first European travelers, which is the name of a traditional Samoan tattooing technique. The earliest known tattoos origin from Egypt, first found on female mummies. Through time tattoos were used as cultural symbols from religious beliefs, bravery marks, status and fertility marks to punishment signs for convicts, slaves and even identification numbers during the Holocaust. The tattoo trend started in the 90’s and today tattoos are a popular skin decoration all around the world, but it has been discovered that chemical inks used for tattoo art can be very damaging for our skin and very dangerous for our health. Therefore more and more people tend to decorate their skin using organic inks. Here you can read about benefits of tattoos with organic inks and different world known tattooing techniques.


Disadvantages of tattoos with chemical inks

A lot of people who choose to get a tattoo done don’t exactly realize what kind of chemicals they get injected into their skin. Many of inks that are used today as a tattoo inks are a mixture of various metallic salts, rust and plastic based pigments. Inks that are used for colored tattoos are especially toxic, because various pigments have to be mixed to get a specific color, which are made of heavy metals like aluminium, lead, titanium and iron. These ingredients are literally injected into our skin layers and as they are intended to stay there permanently, they are releasing the toxins into our body and bloodstream day after day. A few of these ink ingredients are not even meant to be used in tattoo inks but they are originally used in copy machine, printer and pen inks.


Effects of non-organic inks

The use of chemical pigments are carcinogenic and can cause allergic reactions, inflammation, skin mutations and other damages to our body. The main problem are the carriers, which carry the pigments into our skin layers through the tattooing needle. In various cases tattoo artists use alcohol as a carrier or a skin disinfectant, but this kind of disinfection causes even more problems because it carries more toxins from our skin layers into our bloodstream and makes the ink even more harmful. The long term consequences are still unknown, due to the small amounts of toxins being released into our bloodstream and the long period of time before any effects are shown on our health. The diseases and symptoms that are related to toxic tattoo inks can be mixed up with other health issues and can be mistaken for other health risks causing the disease. Due to these risks of tattooing, you should definitely consider getting a tattoo with organic inks or ancient techniques that are still being used all around the world, do some serious research before you decide to get a tattoo done and explore which technique is the best choice for you.


Why use organic inks

Through the years tattooing industry has developed and manufacturers have become more conscious about the safety of inks and sterility of tattooing instruments. The ministries of health worldwide have more strict regulations about tattoo inks manufacture as an attempt to eliminate carcinogenic ingredients from the tattoo inks, as much as possible. Regulations are still not totally consistent on an international level, so it is better that you ask your tattoo artist about non-toxic organic ink options for now. Even though many of the harmful, toxic and carcinogenic ingredients have been eliminated from inks that are used for tattoos nowadays, it is still better if you decide to get a tattoo with organic, vegan and non-toxic inks.

The ingredients that make an ink non-vegan are based on burnt animal bones (animal based charcoal) and animal based glycerin. On the other hand, pigments used in the organic inks are based on charcoal and vegetables. Manufacturers also use carbon and herbal based pigments instead of plastic based ones. The important indicator, which shows you that inks are organic, is the brightness of the tattoo colors. The more the tattoo colors are bright the more likely it is that the ink contains plastic based pigments.

As mentioned before, the crucial part of ink safety are the carriers, which were alcohol and animal based glycerin until now. Nowadays, tattoo artist prefer to use purified water as a pigment carrier, which significantly decreases the amount of toxins that are carried to our skin layers. Despite that, it is still recommended that you consider using organic inks. Of course not every single toxic ingredient can be removed from the tattoo inks, because we can find various toxic elements in the nature also, but of course the risks are lower.


Traditional tattoo techniques with natural inks 

Tattoos are still used as cultural symbols by many nations around the world as a mark of beliefs or traditional rituals and they still use organic inks.

The most interesting traditional tattoo technique, in my opinion, is the Indian Mehndi skin art, which is done for weddings, as a decoration of the bride and traditional ceremonies. It is done with the pigments of the Henna plant, which is believed to be a symbol of health and good look. They make a paste from the Henna plant and apply it on the skin in different shapes of sun on the palm. It is common for women to wear it on their palms, showing their outer and inner sun.

Another traditional tattoo technique is the Sak Yant (or Yantra or Sak Yan), an ancient Southeast Asian technique, used in Thailand and also Cambodia. The tattoo is a symbol of protection and strength, originally engraved on warriors by Buddhist monks. The ink used in this technique is believed to be made of charcoal, herbs and even snake venom.  However, the ingredients of the ink are not really known, because ink mixture is only known by the monks. The ink is punctured into the skin, creating animal and geometrical shapes in addition to Pali phrases, with a long bamboo stick (called mai sak) or a sharpented metal rod (called khem sak).

A traditional tattoo technique Irezumi is a Japanese tattoo, which serves as a spiritual sign and a status symbol. It is created with a brush of needles that are being repeatedly tapped into the skin and it requires time and patience. The ink used for this tattoo is known as the Nara ink that turns blue or green under the skin. The Irezumi artists are known by their word-of-mouth advertising.

The next interesting traditional tattoo technique is Samoan Malofie or better known as Pe’a, which is a traditional tattoo (tatau) for men and Malu, which is a traditional tatau for women, from the waist down. The word tattoo is believed to origin from this traditional tattoo technique called tatau, as mentioned before. The Pe’a and Malu symbolize cultural pride and represent the passage to manhood and womanhood, due to the very painful tattooing process. The men that are untattooed are considered to be naked. The traditional ink is based on black soot that is collected from burned wood of the tree called Lama and is being tapped into the skin with the handmade tools, which are made of bone pieces and a turtle shell.

When you decide to get a tattoo done make sure that you gather as much information as you can. The most important things in the tattooing process are the carrier and the ink. Ask your local tattoo artists which carriers and inks are used in the tattooing process that they provide. The organic tattooing consists of a carrier based on purifying water and an organic ink, which significantly decrease the effects that tattoos can have on your skin and health.



Written by: Lara Lekič Omerza for Bring Back Nature – a benefit corporation