Avoid the Mark of Tattoo, Body Piercing, and Cosmetic Allergies

Love the look of tattoos and body piercings? While these forms of body art are great for expressing individuality, for some people they can trigger allergy symptoms. And many cosmetic products can also cause similar problems. That is why you should proceed with caution when exploring any of these options.

Tattoo Allergies: A Widespread Problem

With as many as one in four people now sporting a tattoo (or multiple tattoos in some cases), tattoo allergies have become quite common these days according to researchers at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in fall 2010.

The cause of tattoo allergies is typically related to the dyes (red ink is one of the most common problems) that are made from a variety of chemicals such as aluminum, iron oxide, mercury sulfide, ferric hydrate, and manganese, among many others. In some people, the signs of a tattoo allergy could present itself within 24 hours, while in others, the reaction can be delayed for a week or two.

For those who are quite sensitive, even temporary tattoos (like those drawn using henna) can pose a challenge. The American Academy of Dermatology says that in the case of temporary tattoos, a chemical called para-phenylenediamine or PPD that's used to extend the life of the temporary tattoo is often what causes the sensitivity.

When Body Piercings Spark Reactions

Getting body piercings, whether in the ears, nose, tongue, lip, or belly button, can also be a hazard for some people with allergies. The body piercing itself usually isn't the issue, but rather the jewelry. Many studs are made from nickel, which can trigger symptoms. So if you've been experiencing allergy symptoms because of your body piercing, be sure to wear nickel-free jewelry instead.

The Widespread Cosmetic Allergy Problem

A number of popular cosmetic items can lead to an allergy reaction often due to the chemicals and fragrances they contain. Compounding the problem is the fact that the manufacturing process for cosmetics isn't well regulated, leaving room for inferior safety practices, increasing the odds of a cosmetic allergy.

What You Can Do

The types of symptoms these allergies can cause include redness, itching, swelling, dryness, peeling, crusting, and thickening skin. The best way to protect yourself from experiencing these discomforts is to avoid tattoos, piercings, and cosmetic products entirely.

Seek Alternatives

Instead of tattoos, consider other, less permanent ways to express yourself, such as wearing unique clothing or showing off an unusual hairstyle.

If you're set on expressing yourself through jewelry, opt for the stick-on nickel-free variety. If you have children who also want piercings, allergists stress the importance of waiting until they're older than 10 before their first exposure. This can help minimize their risk of having a nickel allergy.

Play it Safe with Makeup

When you're worried about a cosmetic sensitivity but don't want to do without makeup entirely, ask your doctor for suggestions on what types of products will be safer for you. Today, you can find many hypoallergenic options in pharmacies, department stores, and online.

Finally, when you're unsure exactly what you're allergic to or how best to treat the problem, always see an allergist rather than trying to play doctor yourself.


"Hold The Phone: Prolonged Cell Use Can Trigger Allergic Reaction; Body Piercing, Tattoos and Cosmetics Spark Allergies, Too." American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ACAAI.org, 14 Nov. 2010. Web, 4 Jan. 2011.

"Lecture To Look At Cosmetics, Jewelry, Tattoos." American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ACAAI.org, n.d. Web, 4 Jan. 2011.