Europe Bans Colored Tattoo Ink Due To ‘Cancer-Causing Chemicals’

The European Union has outlawed the use of colored ink for tattoo artists beginning on January 4, 2022. The EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) banned roughly 4,000 chemicals typically found in most colored tattoo inks as they believe the chemicals can cause “cancer or genetic mutations.”

Close up tattoo artist demonstrates the process of getting black and red tattoo with orange paint. Master works on the professional blue mat in black sterile gloves.
  1. Some of the chemicals are already banned. Many of the chemicals covered in the new law are already banned from being applied topically to the skin, so it’s not all that surprising that they’re now being banned for use inside the skin via tattoos as well.
  2. The ban actually came into effect last year. The law banning colored tattoo inks was enacted in January 2021 but the EU gave artists a year “grace period” in order to find suitable replacements that adhere to the new laws. That period expires in January 4.
  3. Two colors in particular have been hard to replicate. Pigment Blue 15:3 and Pigment Green 7 play a major part in color tattoos and artists have decried their loss. REACH responded by giving manufacturers until January 2023 to come up with replacements for those two colors.
  4. Many tattoo artists say their business will be affected. A lot of artists have complained that progress has been slow on getting in new, alternative supplies, meaning they may not be able to give colored tattoos to clients. They worry that people may turn to “backyard artists” who provide illegal services if better, safer alternatives aren’t developed quickly.
  5. Scientists haven’t totally confirmed the link between the inks and cancer. However, many of the chemicals in the inks have been deemed carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, so it stands to reason that there’s a link.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill