Microbiological survey of commercial tattoo and permanent makeup inks available in the United States

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Microbiological survey of commercial tattoo and permanent makeup inks available in the United States

Abstract: AIMS: Tattooing and use of permanent makeup (PMU) has dramatically increased over the last decade, with a concomitant increase in ink-related infections. The aim of this study was to determine whether microorganisms are present, and if so, the number and their identification, in the commercial tattoo and PMU inks available in the United States.

METHODS AND RESULTS: We surveyed 85 unopened tattoo and PMU inks, purchased from 13 companies. We incubated 100 μL of ink samples on trypticase soy agar plates for bacterial growth, 7H10 Middlebrook medium for mycobacterial growth, and Sabouraud dextrose medium for fungal growth. ....
Industry Significance Rating: High - Industry alert, report has major implications related to health and safety.
Publication: Journal of Applied Microbiology - 01/02/2018
Authors: Nho S, Kim SJ, Kweon O, Howard PC, Moon MS, Sadrieh NK, Cerniglia CE.
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The authors found that "42 inks were contaminated with microorganisms (49%)." (N 42/85) and "Thirty-three inks were contaminated with bacteria, 2 inks with fungi, and 7 inks had both bacterial and fungal growth."

Of particular concern the authors found that amoung the micro-organisms that were identified "
Thirty-four (41%) possibly clinically relevant strains were identified, including P. aeruginosa, Dermacoccus barathri and Roseomonas mucosa, some of which have been previously reported to be associated with human skin infections."

The authors concluded that their "
results indicate that commercial tattoo and PMU inks on the US market surveyed in this study contain a wide range of microorganisms, including pathogenic bacteria" and "that microbial contamination of tattoo and PMU inks available in the US is more common than previously thought".


The results of this survey have major implications for product safety particularly for clients/patients who are in any way immunocompromised.

Service providers offering cosmetic and medical tattoo services are encouraged to purchase and read this report and conduct their due diligence related to product safety.


Scientific Report, microorganisms, contamination, inks, pigments, product safety, pathogens


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