Distribution of nickel and chromium containing particles from tattoo needle wear in humans and its possible impact on allergic reactions

by Science Editor
Scientific Article

Many Cosmetic Tattooist are aware that clients with a history of allergy or sensitivity to metals such as Nickel may be precluded from having a cosmetic tattoo due to the risk of triggering an allergic response, the assumption has often been that some tattoo pigments may contain traces of metals such as Nickel (due to impurities within the source colourants use to compound the pigment), however there has also been the suspicion that tattoo needles also play a role in some of the cases of allergic/inflammatory skin reactions after tattooing due to the fact that the stainless steel used in tattoo needles undoubtedly contain traces of other metals.

This particular article is important because it provides a high degree of evidence that tattoo needles can deposit minute particles of metal from the tattoo needle into the skin during the tattoo procedure and this establishes that the tattoo needle, which has long been suspected, is indeed a contributing factor in some of post tattoo skin reactions and allergies.

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Distribution of nickel and chromium containing particles from tattoo needle wear in humans and its possible impact on allergic reactions.

Abstract: Allergic reactions to tattoos are amongst the most common side effects occurring with this permanent deposition of pigments into the dermal skin layer. The characterization of such pigments and their distribution has been investigated in recent decades. The health impact of tattoo equipment on the extensive number of people with inked skin has been the focus of neither research nor medical diagnostics. Although tattoo needles contain high amounts of sensitizing elements like nickel (Ni) and chromium (Cr), their influence on metal deposition in skin has never been investigated.

RESULTS: The authors report;
"the deposition of nano- and micrometer sized tattoo needle wear particles in human skin that translocate to lymph nodes. Usually tattoo needles contain nickel (6-8%) and chromium (15-20%) both of which prompt a high rate of sensitization in the general population. As verified in pig skin, wear significantly increased upon tattooing with the suspected abrasive titanium dioxide white when compared to carbon black pigment. Additionally, scanning electron microscopy of the tattoo needle revealed a high wear after tattooing with ink containing titanium dioxide. The investigation of a skin biopsy obtained from a nickel sensitized patient with type IV allergy toward a tattoo showed both wear particles and iron pigments contaminated with nickel".
Industry Significance Rating: Groundbreaking research - providing a significant advancement in industry knowledge base.
Publication: Particle and Fibre Toxicology. 2019 Aug 27;16(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12989-019-0317-1.
Authors: Ines Schreiver, Bernhard Hesse, Christian Seim, Hiram Castillo-Michel, Lars Anklamm, Julie Villanova, Nadine Dreiack, Adrien Lagrange, Randolph Penning, Christa De Cuyper, Remi Tucoulou, Wolfgang Bäumler, Marine Cotte & Andreas Luch
Links:  Article Link Link to Publisher Pdf Link Search Google
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This is a groundbreaking piece of research as it establishes that metal particles from the tattoo needle are likely to be deposited into the skin during the tattoo service and that abrasive ingredients within the tattoo ink such as titanium dioxide may increase the amount of metal particles released from the needle, there may be a direct connection between some cases of post tattoo metal allergy responses and needle particles released during the tattoo service.

The study authors concluded that "
Previously, the virtually inevitable nickel contamination of iron pigments was suspected to be responsible for nickel-driven tattoo allergies. The evidence from our study clearly points to an additional entry of nickel to both skin and lymph nodes originating from tattoo needle wear with an as yet to be assessed impact on tattoo allergy formation and systemic sensitization".


Clients who have pre-existing metal allergies may still be at risk of tattoo reaction even if a pigment is used that contains no ferrous compounds due to the fact that metal particles from the tattoo needle may be implanted during the tattoo service, medical advice prior to considering tattooing is advisable for any client with any allergies and particularly metal allergies.


Scientific Report, Nickel, Chromium, Allergy, Tattoo, Needle, Particles, Titanium Dioxide


The Education Team here at CTshop.com.au keeps a close eye on the scientific and medical literature for new publications relating to cosmetic and medical tattooing that may be of interest to our customers. The intent is to alert industry members to important publications within the literature to expand the knowledge base particularly in relation to high impact reports.

NB. CTshop.com.au does not host this publication on our server we merely provide an overview with links to the publisher, the authors and their publisher hold copyright to the actual article.


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