I'm John Swierk, assistant professor of Chemistry at Binghamton University, State University of New York. My team and I are working to understand the molecular composition of tattoo inks to provide a broader understanding to artists and consumers....
Hello all, I've been studying the photochemistry of tattoos - my team has been investigating the particle size and molecular composition of tattoo pigments using Raman spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and electron microscopy. Currently, we're in the process of analyzing popular tattoo ink brands - the resultant information will be collated and added to the website "What's in My Ink". As of now, we've confirmed the presence of ingredients that aren’t listed on some labels. For example, 23 out of 56 different inks analyzed to date suggest the presence of an azo-containing dye. Although many azo pigments do not cause health concerns when they are chemically intact, bacteria or ultraviolet light can degrade these into another nitrogen-based compound that is a potential carcinogen.
In August 2022, my work was featured in Interesting Engineering, and the publication helped organize this AMA session. Ask me anything about what goes into tattoo inks and how one can make informed decisions before getting a tattoo, and understand the accuracy of the provided information.
2 pm EST: Thanks everyone for participating and for the questions! Unfortunately, I have to run to a meeting but I enjoyed getting to share a little bit about our work. -JRS