What Is the Lifespan of Your Color or Black Tattoo Ink
Mar 3rd 2023
For most tattoo artists in the US and around the world, client safety is their number one priority. One major element that goes into ensuring both client safety and outstanding results is the quality and condition of the tattoo ink that you use. Using high-quality inks from reputable sources is crucial to preventing unintended results, infection, and other tattooing nightmares. Equally important is ensuring that your inks remain safe to use after you initially open them. Keep reading to learn how to tell if your ink is safe.
Does Tattoo Ink Have an Expiration Date?
In the literal sense, yes. Tattoo ink does have an expiration date. The shelf life is usually about 2 years. Reputable Tattoo Ink brands will have a label with an expiration date as well as a lot number.
These allow them to track reports of any potential problems if a safety recall is required. While these are not common in the tattoo industry, recalls, like the one in 2019, do occasionally happen.
Signs That Your Tattoo Ink Has Expired or Gone Bad
Some may point out that the individual ingredients that make up tattoo ink don’t actually go bad. While it is true that the individual ingredients, like water and pigments, don’t go bad, once they are mixed together, it is a different case altogether. Over time, a few things can happen that can make tattoo ink unusable:
- Evaporation: Once a seal is broken, the liquids in tattoo ink can start evaporating. Over time, this can lead to the ink drying out and not being a good consistency for tattooing.
- Separation: Especially when it comes to inks with natural powder pigments, some separation of the pigments from the liquid is normal. In fact, at Quantum we say, “Best when shaken…just like a martini.” However, when the separation becomes so severe that shaking doesn’t fix it, the ink has likely gone bad.
- Contamination: Even ink that was perfectly safe and sterile upon opening can go bad if it is contaminated. The longer it is open, the longer the chances increase because even germ particles in the air can taint your ink. But that is not the only way that your ink can become contaminated. For example, touching the tip of your bottle to the same ink cap where you have dipped a tattoo cartridge needle can contaminate the ink inside. The same is true for ink that has been diluted with water or other unsafe substances. For maximum safety recommend using only Holy Water Shading Solution for diluting black tattoo ink. If you would like to dilute color tattoo ink, including pink tattoo ink, blue tattoo ink, or brown tattoo ink, choose Holy Water Color Solution.
Tattoo Ink Storage Requirements
As long as it has not been contaminated, remains properly sealed, and is properly stored, tattoo ink has about a two-year shelf life. The expiration date set by the manufacturer and shown on the label is the best indicator of this shelf life. To make the most of this shelf life, make sure that you are storing your tattoo ink in a cool, dry place. It should also be kept away from direct sunlight and possible contaminants. Improper storage conditions can lead to evaporation, separation, and contamination. All of these factors drastically decrease the lifespan of your color or black tattoo ink.
The Dangers of Using Expired or Bad Tattoo Ink
As mentioned throughout this article, contamination is one of the most common reasons that tattoo ink goes bad. Contaminated tattoo ink is also one of the most dangerous factors when it comes to tattooing. Using contaminated tattoo ink can lead to Staph, Strep, and other dangerous infections. These infections can lead to improperly healed tattoos, permanent scarring, or even sepsis. Aside from the health risks associated with bad tattoo ink, using expired tattoo ink can also lead to less-than-optimal results.
Old, expired black tattoo ink can lead to dull gray results when used. Likewise, the vibrant colors of blue tattoo ink, pink tattoo ink, and other color tattoo inks will not be as vibrant and true as they were when the tattoo ink was fresh. Additionally, if the liquid in the ink has evaporated, the texture of the ink will be affected. This will impact the way it packs into the skin. Artists may be tempted to mix dried-out ink with water to reconstitute it. Not only can this lead to contamination, but the ink will not hold as well or last as long in the skin.
How Can I Make Sure My Tattoo Ink Is Safe?
- Buy Only Genuine Products: Reputable tattoo ink manufacturers like Quantum go to great lengths to ensure that their inks are sterile, safe, and properly labeled. Tattoo ink counterfeiters take none of these precautions and sell unsafe, often tainted products. To learn more about how to avoid counterfeit tattoo inks, make sure to read our blog on the topic.
- Make Sure it Is Properly Labeled: Genuine tattoo ink will be clearly labeled with an expiration date and a lot number. This not only lets you know how long the ink is good for, it can also help you report any potential problems to the manufacturer.
- Only Open What You Need: It seems basic but is worth the reminder. Only open tattoo ink once you are ready to use it for the first time. That is relatively easy when you are only using black tattoo ink. However, when doing color work it can be tempting to open a rainbow of colors to work with. If you already have a blue and a pink tattoo ink open and need purple, consider blending it yourself if you don’t use purple often. Quantum Original Sets of 16 Colors plus white tattoo ink provide a ton of colors to work with and blend to your heart’s content.
- Store it Properly: As previously discussed, storing your tattoo ink properly increases its longevity and reduces the risk of contamination.
- Be Careful With Diluting: Only mixing solution, such as our Holy Water, or sterile water should be used to dilute tattoo ink.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
Is it really worth the $15-20 you spent on that bottle to allow potentially bad ink to harm your client or ruin your reputation? It may sound cliche, but whether the expiration date on the bottle has passed or your ink just looks and feels off, it is better to be safe than sorry.
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