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Arch Dermatol. 2001 Feb;137(2):143-7.

In vitro quantitative chemical analysis of tattoo pigments.

Author information

1
Naval Medical Center, San Diego, CA 92134-2000, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The composition of cosmetic tattoos might prove relevant to their treatment by high-powered lasers.

OBJECTIVES:

To test the accuracy and completeness of information supplied by the tattoo ink manufacturers and to perform an elemental assay of tattoo pigments using scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive x-ray analysis.

DESIGN:

Samples of 30 tattoo inks were examined using "standardless" energy-dispersive spectrometry. This technique uses quantitative electron x-ray microanalysis. The technique reliably identifies all elements with the exception of those elements with atomic numbers less than 11.

SETTING:

A major national referral laboratory for microscopic examination and biochemical analysis of tissue. These results were compared with ink compositions compiled from manufacturer-supplied material safety data sheets.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

(1) The percentage of any given element in whole tattoo pigments. (2) The presence or absence of elements and/or compounds as recorded in material safety data sheets supplied by the tattoo ink manufacturers.

RESULTS:

Of the 30 tattoo inks studied, the most commonly identified elements were aluminum (87% of the pigments), oxygen (73% of the pigments), titanium (67% of the pigments), and carbon (67% of the pigments). The relative contribution of elements to the tattoo ink compositions was highly variable between different compounds. Overall, the manufacturer-supplied data sheets were consistent with the elemental analysis, but there were important exceptions.

CONCLUSION:

The composition of elements in tattoo inks varies greatly, even among like-colored pigments. Knowledge of the chemical composition of popular tattoo inks might aid the clinician in effective laser removal.

PMID:
11176685
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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