Can You Use Pen Ink For Tattoos? Ink Poisoning And Tattoos

Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by Chase Reiner

Using pen ink for tattoos is dangerous. Pen ink is not sterile, contains toxins, and can cause ink poisoning. Professional tattoo ink is FDA-approved, sterile, and safe. Over 6% of tattoo-related infections result from non-professional ink use.

Can You Use Pen Ink For Tattoos

Can You Use Pen Ink For Tattoos?

Inking one’s body with a tattoo is an art form that dates back thousands of years. In recent years, DIY tattoos, popularly known as “stick and poke” tattoos, have gained popularity. A question, however, arises: Can you use pen ink for tattoos? To delve into this critical matter, a series of points need to be carefully looked at:

1. Understanding Tattoo Inks

Tattoo inks are specially designed to be safe for subdermal application. Professional tattoo inks ensure vibrant, long-lasting colors and are strictly regulated to confirm they are safe for human skin. Using pen ink, which is not designed or regulated for this purpose, raises significant safety concerns.

2. Chemical Contents of Pen Inks

Most pen inks contain chemicals such as propanol, butanol, and resins. Pen ink is not created for human skin but for paper. Hence, using it for tattoos can potentially result in harmful chemical reactions on one’s skin.

Pen Ink ConstituentsPossible Effects
PropanolIrritation in skin and eyes
ButanolCentral nervous system depressant
ResinsAllergic reactions

3. Infections and Allergic Reactions

Another danger of using pen ink for tattoos is the potential for infections and allergic reactions. The non-sterile nature of pen ink makes it a breeding place for bacteria and fungi, which can cause severe skin infections when tattooed. Additionally, allergic reactions to the chemicals in the ink can result in dermatitis, resulting in a red, itchy rash.

4. Irregularities in Color and Appearance

Even if immediate health risks are set aside, using pen ink for tattoos often results in poor quality and dull coloring. Whereas professional tattoo ink is designed to retain its color and shape over time, pen ink will likely fade, blur or change color.

5. Legal Implications

In many regions, it’s illegal to use any ink for tattoos that’s not specifically approved for this purpose. Anyone performing tattoos, professionally or otherwise, using pen ink could find themselves subject to legal repercussions.

6. Professional Tattoo Artists’ Advice

Unanimously, professionals in the field strongly advise against using pen ink for tattoos. The risks far outweigh the benefits, and the safety and lasting impact of your tattoo could be compromised.

In Summary:

The appeal of DIY or budget-friendly approaches can often lead people to consider using pen ink for tattoos. However, the risks associated with this can be severe and potentially long-lasting. The advice is clear: always use professional tattoo ink, created and regulated expressly for the purpose of long-lasting, safe, and vibrant body art.

Side-Effects Of Pen Ink

Pen ink should be the last thing on your mind if you are willing to carry a design on yourself. Infections, swelling, and some of the other illnesses might trigger using pen ink, leading to expensive medications or even the possibility of losing a life.

It is not an issue to be very selective while choosing the right tattoo ink. Pen ink is NO WAY good for your skin. It is generally very important to choose the best product for designing tattoos. You might also need to use Dr. Ink for the tattoos, as it is made with a very careful and concerning mix of a perfect formula. 

You should also know the side effects that you may face if pen ink gets into your blood. It is said that ink poisoning is very uncommon and usually only occurs if a substantial amount of pen ink gets inside your bloodstream. It usually happens while impregnating your hands in ink for a long period, which would cause some serious harm to you. 

Recommendation Of WHO (World Health Organization)

According to dissemination by the World Health Organization (WHO), “ball-point pens, fountain pens and  felt-tip pens, accommodate so little amount of ink that it is not enough to cause any sort of poisoning, even if it is sucked from a pen. Some inks might cause swelling in the mouth, whereas, if large amounts of ink is swallowed from a bottle, it could cause an aggravation, but no serious poisoning has been reported.”

The WHO also suggests drinking plenty of water if you have accidentally swallowed ink. 

The Symptoms Of Ink Poisoning

If it is about the ink contained from pens, highlighters or markers, etc., it is comparatively less toxic because it consists of very small quantities. Whereas symptoms are usually like a stained tongue or skin, and the chances are that your stomach might also get upset because of a minor poisoning. But if the ink has been consumed from the printer, stamp pads and cartridges, it would require serious medical attention because of the large quantity. 

Poisoning From Ink On Your Skin

Ink poisoning cannot occur from drawing some tattoo on your skin unless it gets involved with your bloodstream. Ink could only cause some temporary stain on your skin, but it would not harm you. 

Poisoning From Ink In Your Eye

Unlike skin, eye irritation caused by ink is a very common problem. If you have accidentally got some ink in your eye, all you need to do is, rinse your eyes with plenty of cold water until the irritation is gone. Whereas the sclera might get stained for some time, ink in your eye is expected not to cause any long-term or permanent complications. If you continuously get any discomfort, irritation, or vision gets blurred, you should see your doctor.

Ink Poisoning And Tattoos

According to a poll held in 2015, of 2,225 U.S. adults, about 29 per cent of the Americans have at least one tattoo. Out of those 29 per cent people, 69 per cent have two or even more tattoos. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, also known as (FDA), which is a Trusted Source, indicates that while you’re getting tattooed, you should avoid any unhygienic practices. The equipment that has not been decontaminated, ink should also count in as solicitude. Tattoo ink or dye that is infected or adulterated with mould or bacteria could result in infections.

Tattoo ink is regarded to be a cosmetic or skincare product by the FDA. There is no dyestuff (ingredients containing colors) for the injection into the skin for the cosmetic objectives with FDA consent.

Tattoo Allergic Reaction And Infection

After getting tattooed, you might also notice a rash in a certain area. It is a part of an allergic reaction or some infection, usually reported by the people with sensitive skin. 

According to some experienced surgeons, the coloured tattoos that are most likely to cause some allergic skin reactions are:

1. Green

2. Yellow

3. Red

4. Blue

An assertive infection could also have symptoms, such as

1. Chills

2. Sweats

3. High Fever

4. Shakes

It is usually healed from antibiotics for treating an infected skin or tattoo, but you require hospitalization or surgery if the case gets serious. 


The ink that is consumed from pens and markers only is considerably minimally less toxic. Thus, the probability that you may get ink poisoning just by ingesting ink from a pen or getting some of it on your skin or in your eye is comparatively very less. Whereas, the probability of getting harmful or poisoned by a tattoo ink has more to do with the cleanliness of the equipment used in the process and the tattoo artist’s practices.

The Table Below Describes Different Types Of Skin Sensitivities And Laser Tattoo Design Indication Accordingly. 

Skin Type 1Skin Type 2Skin Type 3Skin Type 4Skin Type 5Skin Type 6
Highly sensitive to sun exposureHighly sensitive to sun but transSensitive to sun trans graduallyModerately sensitive to the sun always tanMinimum sensitivity to sun exposure Least sensitive to sun exposure
Recovery Approved WavelengthsRecovery Approved WavelengthsRecovery Approved WavelengthsRecovery Approved WavelengthsRecovery Approved WavelengthsRecovery Approved Wavelengths
Picoway:1064, 785, 730, 532Picoway:1064, 785, 730, 532Picoway:1064, 785, 730, 532Picoway:1064, 785, 730, 532Picoway 1064Picoway 1064
Ink ColoursInk ColoursInk ColoursInk ColoursInk ColoursInk Colours

All colours

All colours

All colours

Black, green, blue, red, yellow, purple, orange reduction

Black, red, green, blue, purple reduction

Black, green, blue, purple reduction


1. Does A Coloured Ink Tattoo Fade?

The most vivid colours like hot pink, light green and yellow tend to fade comparatively much faster. Darker colours, like deep red, are usually more fade resistant. 

2. What Kind Of Ink Is Used For Tattoos?

True Black, Hard Orange, Red Cherry, Bowery Yellow, Dark Green, Baby Blue, Deep Indigo and many more colours are used for tattoos. 

3. How Long Do Colored Tattoos Last?

Tattoos eventually start fading just after they are made or designed. But in general, they last around 12 years at least in the shoulders and arms area, before the colour gets degraded. 

4. Do Colour Tattoos Hurt More?

Unlike contouring, shading is not that necessary for every tattoo. Colour and shading merely provide more extent than line work. Many people have reported that the shading hurts less than outlining. 

5. What Sort Of Pen Ink Is Safe For Tattoos?

A non-poisonous ink, just like Indian ink, could be your best bet. It is very natural and carbon-based as well as lessens the chance to cause any infection.


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