Allergies to inks, adhesive bandages (Saniderm), numbing creams and piercing metals

When we think of tattoos and piercings the first thing that comes to mind is not allergies. However, it is something we should consider especially if you have a history of sensitive skin, skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or health conditions such as diabetes, HIV, cancer or similar immune compromising conditions. 


First lets talk about tattoo inks; 

Most tattoo inks are made of carbon based compounds, these compounds get inserted under the skin during the tattoo process and can cause allergies. This is because many inks have various compounds that break down with time through our own bodies healing process and with UV that change the structure of that compound.

Our body can respond to this change by way of rashes, pushing the ink out (rejecting ink) or scarring. When it comes to allergies to inks, it is rare that I see clients who have this allergy in 12 years I’ve had 3 clients who had a unknown red ink allergy. We’ve found with time, the most common color to be allergic to is red pigment.

It should be noted that our bodies do change over time and we can develop allergies as we age and as new ink compounds are developed some may be easier accepted by our skin than others. 

If you are concerned about allergies to inks you can request a ink-dot test where we tattoo a few dots of color on an inconspicuous location and see how our bodies react.


When your tattoo is done we have to cover the area for a set amount of time depending on what aftercare you’ll be using ( refer to my aftercare page on my site). We can use;

 A.) soaker pad with medical tape, that stays on for a max time of 3 hrs and then use a healing ointment such as aquaphor or another artist approved aftercare. After 7 days use unscented lotion to moisturize skin.

B.) Saniderm or second skin as a skin barrier. This method stays on the skin for 4-7 days and uses your own bodyfluid to heal the tattoo. It’s then removed in the shower after the 4-7 day period, followed by using an unscented lotion to help moisturize the skin. 

Ive found clients with skin sensitivities or skin conditions mentioned earlier have a higher likelihood of having an allergic reaction to either the medical tape, or the skin adhesive on the Saniderm.

Although this type of allergic reaction is a nuisance, it doesnt affect the quality of the tattoo and how the tattoo will heal in most cases.


When using numbing creams its important to first make sure the numbing cream is specifically for tattoos or permanent makeup and/or safe to be inserted under the skin. You should ask your tattooer or permanent makeup artist if they have a trusted brand they use. If you are unsure if you’re allergic to any ingredients in the numbing cream do a test patch. Most allergic reactions present between 2-24 hrs of application. Unlike aftercare bandages and skin adhesives, numbing cream reactions CAN affect the quality of the tattoo and in some cases cause scarring or intense itching where applied.


Most allergies to jewelry come from the other alloys inside the jewelry such as nickel, that has the highest likelihood of causing an allergic reaction.

Jewelry can cause an allergic reaction for a few reasons. How the metal breaks down or withstands being inside our body with our acidity which is different for everyone. Good quality metal should be able to be safe for long term wear and body safe for long term wear. Meaning it can take being inserted under the skin AND withstand our bodies acidity as to not breakdown and expose us to the other alloys sealed under the coating.

Allergic reactions to jewelry may include, rash, intense itching around the pierced area, swelling long after the designated healing period and a history of issues with jewelry allergies.

The widest known metal for piercings is 316L implant grade surgical steel, L stands for low carbon which makes it more corrosive resistant. Corrosion is what happens when you wear jewelry for long periods of time and our bodies acidity and natural wear do to the metal. Good quality 316L surgical steel with proper coatings are great low cost option for piercings and can be worn safely. 

Titanium is the best quality jewelry for piercings as titanium contains no other additive alloys that can cause a reaction, the most common one being nickel. Since it doesn’t contain nickel this makes it a great option for people who are prone to allergies from nickel or have sensitive skin. 

We carry both options at our shop and pride ourselves in having great piercers to answer your questions about piercings and what might be the best option for you. 


Allergies to skin adhesives, inks and body jewelry are all different and can have various affects on how our skin heals. However, this doesn’t mean you cant get that tattoo or piercing youd like. Our tattooers and piercers are happy to help accommodate your needs so you have a body modification you can feel good about.

If you have any questions regarding allergies feel free to email us, book a consult or give us a call. 

***This information is not a replacement for seeking medical advice from allergy specialist, dermatologist or your primary care provider.

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