The recent European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) 2015 Congress, held in Copenhagen, announced a number of concerns in relation to tattooing and called for a Europe-wide standard to be put into effect for the inks used during these procedures.
The safety of scalp micropigmentation, the art of inking stubble-like dots to conceal hair loss by mimicking the appearance of hair, and other forms of tattooing – including permanent makeup and regular body art – were called into question.
Bacteria found in tattoo inks
European hygiene regulations regarding tattoos, which were designed to prevent infections and diseases such as HIV, were established in 2008. However, a point discussed at the 2015 EADV Congress revolved around the fact that the actual tattoo inks, which is embedded into the skin, are still largely unregulated. This follows a recent study which found that tattoos can cause long-term itching in some instances.
A press release summarising the discussion, which centred on the importance of quality and sterility when it comes to tattoo inks, noted how a Danish study found a number of inks contained potentially harmful bacteria. The release states that, of the 58 inks that were studied, 10 per cent were found to be contaminated with bacteria such as Staphylococci, Streptococci, Pseudomonas species and Enterococcus/Coli. Whilst this could lead to infection in anyone, it claims ‘people with heart diseases, diabetes and patients with a weak immune system’ were particularly at risk.
The EADV also states that in August 2014, the FDA discovered unopened tattoo inks from a company called A Thousand Virgins, Inc, had microbiological contamination. It says, ‘ The company recalled the products, but the FDA is concerned that tattoo artists are continuing to use these contaminated inks from their current stock’.
Allergies and toxicity concerns were also raised as delegates debated whether the requirements and restrictions already in place were sufficient to guarantee safety.
In addition to pigments and dyes, inks used in the tattoo process are made up of additives and, the EADV claim, ‘even nano-particulate traces of heavy metals and also impurities of the production process (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAH and primary aromatic amines PAA)’. They believe that ‘in many cases’ these ingredients and chemicals are not clearly labelled and the market is generally poorly controlled. Particular issue was taken with the fact that some of the pigments used in tattoo inks ‘are not listed by the Scientific Committee for Consumer Products (SCCP), an advisory body to the European Commission, and therefore are not allowed in cosmetics’, as well as the easy availability of illegal, poor quality inks on the internet.
”We need a positive list of safe pigments and ingredients. Tattoo inks should at least meet the same standards as cosmetic products”, said Congress Chair, Dr. Christa De Cuyper, MD. “We need data on toxicity and biokinetics, and the inks should be tested for their potential toxicity, phototoxicity, substance migration, carcinogenicity, and possible metabolic conversion. We need further research, but as a first step, we need a uniform European standard to protect consumers! And let’s not forget that up to 20% of individuals regret their decision of having a tattoo and ask for medical advice to get it removed! To avoid regret and complications I insist that tattooing should be a well informed decision, performed by a well trained professional, in hygienic conditions and with safe materials.”
Scalp tattoos for hiding hair loss
Whilst this debate is clearly just in the discussion stage for now, any regulation that makes tattooing safer can only be a good thing, particularly as it is becoming increasingly more common. Due to its recent rise in popularity, there are now a number of scalp micropigmentation specialists in the UK, and this can produce impressive-looking cosmetic results.
If you are considering this type of tattoo to conceal baldness – where the follicles are no longer active and skin takes on a smooth and shiny appearance – it is important to do your research to ensure the person carrying it out is a reputable professional. Whilst the internet can be helpful, there is also a lot of misleading information and speculation about so it is always best to visit a number of recommended specialists until you find one you are comfortable with. They should also carry out a patch test well in advance of the procedure to check for any potential allergic reactions.
Another option for those whose hair follicles are receptive – where there are still hairs present on the scalp, even if they are thinning – is treatment.
There are effective and clinically-proven male hair loss treatments available to help stabilise shedding and promote regrowth, which address the root cause of Male Pattern Baldness rather than masking it cosmetically. The MHRA and FDA approved components finasteride 1mg and minoxidil can also be used in conjunction with growth boosters for optimum results, and an experienced hair loss specialist will be able to tailor a bespoke treatment plan to your precise needs.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.