Red tattoos are notorious for so many reasons. From the controversial red ink to the perpetual itchiness of red tattoos, these seem to cause a lot of issues. However, people still like them because they make every tattoo design stand out and pretty unique. However, can the pros really outweigh the cons in the case of red tattoos?
In the following paragraphs we’ll discuss everything you need to know about red tattoos; from the red ink and the potential issues to the best red tattoo designs. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Red Tattoos and Red Flags: Ink and Other Issues
What Is The Issue With the Red Ink?
Red ink is controversial in the tattoo community for many reasons. Let’s first discuss the very ingredients used in red ink.
It is fair to say that the majority of tattoo artists don’t know what’s in the inks they use, because tattoo ink is not FDA approved nor standardized. It is also well known that tattoo inks contain a lot of toxic and harmful compounds, like heavy metals for example. And, red ink might just be representative in terms of toxicity and potentially harmful ingredients.
The ingredients a standard red ink contains are as follows;
- Iron oxide
- Naphthol-AS pigment
- Hoof gelatin
- Toxic pigment carriers like denatured alcohols and formaldehyde
Of course, this is not a complete or exact list of red ink ingredients. There are so many other toxic components found in red ink, including ethylene glycol (also known as antifreeze), rubbing alcohol, and a bunch of animal-originating components like animal fat glycerine, cod liver oil, or beeswax.
As you can tell, there is a reason red ink is notoriously avoided in the tattoo community. The ingredients found in red ink can directly cause severe ink allergies and infections, and long-term health issues like skin hypersensitivity, burning, and scarring of the tattoo, skin rashing, and even cancer.
Ingredients found in red ink are on the EPA list of the common causes of allergic reactions, infections, and cancer, which is a red flag on its own.
And then, there is the problem of potential, perpetual itching of the red tattoos. Now, all tattoos itch when they’re brand new and healing. Itching is a part of a proper healing process, which can be managed with different lotions and ointments. It doesn’t last long and it’s pretty easy to deal with.
However, red ink tattoos tend to itch, long after the tattoo has healed, completely. Some people experience itchiness years after they’ve gotten a tattoo. That is because the body simply never gets used to the ingredients in the ink and the skin develops particular sensitivity to a red tattoo.
The reason red ink can be potentially dangerous isn’t just the fact that it contains such harmful ingredients. The problem stretches to the ability of the red ink to stay in the skin longer than any other ink. Red ink is incredibly hard to remove; for example, if you go to get a laser tattoo removal, you can expect to have double the sessions for a red tattoo than for a, let’s say, black tattoo.
That is why red ink is more prone to cause allergic reactions and skin sensitivity long after the tattoo has healed. The body simply never gets used to it, and as a result, experiences immune system deficiencies which can potentially result in cancer. Red ink starts to circulate in the bloodstream throughout the whole body, and never stops doing so.
How To Deal With Red Ink Tattoos?
Because red ink is more likely to cause an allergic reaction and infection than any other ink, it is essential to know how to deal with it if you’re willing to get a red tattoo.
- To minimize the potential for an allergic reaction, we recommend you get an allergy test with an allergist before you get a red tattoo. The test will show a list of components that could potentially cause an allergic reaction in your body.
- Then, make sure to only get tattooed at a highly professional, high-quality tattoo studio. Chances are that high-end tattoo artists will use red inks that are checked for toxic elements and other harmful components.
- Try to get a multicolored tattoo, that contains other ink colors alongside the red ink. You’ll minimize the chance of an allergic reaction or perpetual itchiness once the tattoo heals.
- Avoid wearing scratchy fabrics, like wool. Such fabrics can promote the itchiness of the tattoo and even promote rashes and itchy bumps. Some people experience wool allergic reactions, so they especially should avoid such fabrics.
- Make sure to moisturize the tattoo, even after it’s fully healed. Hydration via lotions and ointments will help with itchiness and rashing, so make sure to include that as a part of your aftercare routine for the tattoo even after it’s healed.
- If you notice swelling, redness, tenderness, and oozing out of your new red tattoo, make sure to seek medical help as soon as possible. Chances are you’re dealing with an allergic reaction or infection, which needs to be professionally treated.
Cool Red Tattoo Design Ideas
If you’re comfortable enough to get a red tattoo, and the aforementioned information doesn’t scare you, then you should check out our top red tattoo design ideas. The following tattoos only serve as an inspiration and shouldn’t be used and copied for your tattoo. You don’t want to be stealing someone else’s work.
Red Dragon Tattoo
A red dragon tattoo is often inspired by the illustrations and tattoo styles of the Far East. The tattoos generally have an oriental vibe and are mostly associated with the Japanese and Chinese tattooing styles and illustrations. The red dragon tattoo can be done with only a red shape outlining or can be filled in completely with red ink and shaped using shading and lining.
Red Butterfly Tattoo
If you’re looking for a simpler, minimal design, we recommend you go for a cute, subtle, yet very effective red butterfly tattoo. It is a common design idea to get a few smaller butterflies scattered around a medium-sized area on the body for the best effect. However, you can also get a single butterfly design, big or small, if you want to stay subtle. Either way, butterflies are always a good design choice, regardless of the ink color.
Red Snake Tattoo
Another fierce tattoo design for red ink is the snake design. It seems to work best with red ink, just like the dragon design. The red snake tattoos always look bold and powerful, even if the tattoo is small and subtle. Just like the dragon design, red snake tattoos can be done in simple red outlining or can be filled in with red ink for an even bolder effect.
Red Rose Tattoo
One of the best, simply timeless tattoo designs is a red rose. Throughout the decades, the red rose has been a staple in the world of tattoos. The red rose symbolism can be used for different designs, ideas, and stories people are trying to convey with their tattoos. So, if you’re not sure which tattoo design to go for, we’re telling you that you cannot go wrong with a simple red rose.
Other Interesting Red Tattoo Designs
If none of the aforementioned designs don’t suit your preferences, don’t worry. There are plenty of unique and interesting red tattoo designs you can get inspired by. From small to big designs, from serious to quirky, there is something for everyone.
Red Tattoo: More FAQs
Can I Get a Red Tattoo If I Have Dark Skin Tone?
Indeed, some ink colors aren’t recommended for darker skin tones. However, there is no rule saying that red ink doesn’t look red on darker skin. Sure, the shades of red may vary in the payoff depending on the shade of the skin. But, colorful ink will show on dark skin, but the results may vary.
Professional tattoo artists know how to take into account the tone of the skin when choosing ink colors. That is the best approach to get the best results. For example, a tattoo artist won’t use bright red on darker skin, since it won’t look good. Instead, they will adapt the tone of the red and use earth tones, deep rich reds, or salmon/peach pink to create the best skin tone and ink color combo.
Do Red Tattoos Fade (Faster)?
Compared to darker ink colors, like black or dark blue, red ink tends to fade much faster. However, yellow and orange ink tends to fade even more quickly, especially on paler skin. Red ink specifically tends to lose its initial vibrancy and intensity, but the fading of course depends on the location of the tattoo, how well you’re taking care of it and whether it is exposed to UV rays or frictions.
Is Red Ink More Expensive?
No, red ink is not more expensive than other inks. The color of the ink isn’t the thing determining the final cost of the tattoo. However, the fact that you’re going with a colored tattoo can increase the total tattoo cost, of course. So, what you have to consider in regards to the cost of a tattoo is the size, the design, the placement, and the use of colored ink, as well as the tattoo artist and their work.
Is Red Tattoo Ink Dangerous?
As we mentioned, red ink is proven to contain ingredients, like toxic elements and heavy metals, which are directly related to ink allergies, tattoo infections, skin hypersensitivity, swelling, redness, itchiness, and unfortunately cancer. The milder symptoms can be treated with antibiotics and steroid creams, while serious reactions to the ink require immediate medical help.
Red tattoos are pretty controversial because of the numerous issues with red ink. If you want to get a red tattoo, we highly suggest you get it done by a high-end, professional tattoo artist. Such an artist is more likely to use higher quality ink that is tested for toxic and harmful components. Also, before you get a tattoo, go get an allergy test just to see what might trigger an allergic reaction and whether you can trigger it via ink.