Does Tattoo Ink Expire? Can You Use Expired Tattoo Ink?

Whether you are about to get your first tattoo or are a newbie tattoo artist yourself, the expiration of tattoo ink may come to your mind. Does tattoo ink expire? What if something goes wrong because of it? Can you use expired tattoo ink? How do you check its standard? Should you ask for brand-new ink?

Tattoo ink expires. Apart from its expiration date, there are some other factors like incorrect storage, bacterial contamination, and the age of the ink associated with it. You cannot use expired tattoo ink.

The rest of the article addresses the mentioned answers in detail. Have a read!

What Are The Signs Of The Expiry?

Let me be technical here. The tattoo ink components never expire on their ink, be it powdered ink or pre-dispersed ink. Powder ink is the one you mix up before applying. The latter is wet and also ready for use.

The pigments of ink colors may be of metals, plastic, or other components. You have to mix them with water or alcohol to make ink. Neither of the materials will go bad over time. But they will split, making the tattoo ink unusable.

The problem with the liquid ink is that it will evaporate after a while too.

Tattoo ink often expires due to contamination. Once you let it get contaminated, bacterial will grow, causing infection when you needle it into the skin. So, even if the ink is not contaminated, but you suspect it might be, you should not keep it anymore.

Expired Tattoo Ink

Is Tattoo Ink Getting Expired Common?

Most tattoo inks have an expiration period of two years. But tattoo studios usually finish them way before their expiry. It is up to the tattoo artist.

A tattoo artist that only works with grey and black shades will finish only a couple of colors within a short time.

In contrast, a tattoo artist specializing in photorealism has to use different tattoo ink colors. But they need a little of each. That means the artist can use them for long, giving them the chance to go wasted.

I have to mention a fact here that FDA does not regulate tattoo ink. The regulation process is under state jurisdiction. Overall, the US tattoo industry maintains high standards, so there is little scope for contamination. Any well-reputed and professional tattoo artist will not use tattoo inks after their expiry. But if you want to be sure and safe, you can request them to apply fresh ink.

Additional Read:

How Does Tattoo Ink Get Contaminated?

After leaving the manufacturer, tattoo inks should be somewhere sterile to prevent contaminants from getting to them. Some ink-manufacturing companies comply with rigorous health standards to preserve their products, namely Intenze, Dynamic Color, and StarBrite Colors.

Intenze is a third-party sterilization facility used to sterilize tattoo inks. The second one provides you with a safety data sheet (SDS) that shows the safety precautions and protective measures of Dynamic Color. The third one makes their tattoo inks in clean rooms with certification. They also use gamma-ray to sterilize their ink.

Once you buy the ink, you should store it as per the manufacturer’s direction. Usually, that means keeping the ink somewhere dark, chilly, and sterile. Also, make sure the company has sealed the ink properly.

Every time you unseal the ink bottle, air reaches it. The air bears contaminants from people that come to the tattoo parlor. So, if you can minimize air exposure, it will help the ink stay fresh.

Taking Tattoo Expiry Dates Seriously

The expiry dates you see in the bottles of pre-dispersed inks are not for the tattoo ink only. Often, it is the expiry date for its packaging. The bottle, its lead, and seals will deteriorate slowly over time. Therefore, when you see the period is over, you should not use the tattoo ink again. That also applies if you do not think it has really expired or is contaminated. If you do not do so, the jar itself may contaminate the tattoo ink without you knowing.

Why You Can’t Use Expired Tattoo Ink?

Okay, you know now that you cannot use expired tattoo ink. But if you still want an irrefutable reason, I will give you three.

1. Dull Tattoo Outcomes

A grave and unavoidable side effect of applying old ink is getting dull tattoo outcomes. Fresh ink gives you lively shades and colors that catch your eyes. But expired and old ink gives your tattoo a fainted and unattractive appearance. You may even feel like you would be better off without it.

Even more, when the ink liquid begins to evaporate, its texture changes. Tattoo artists using more alcohol or water to distill their ink increase the chances of contamination. Also, they thin out the ink. Again, your skin will not hold thin tattoo ink well enough, lowering the tattoo design quality.

2. Bacterial Infections

It is the most definite reason why you can never use expired tattoo ink. Contaminated or expired ink can give your tattooed skin bacterial infections. Signs you have got bacterial infections are swelling, excessive redness, bumps, and pus. You may also get a fever or chills.

Tattoos are sore by nature. They scab over during their healing period. But if you experience other symptoms, chances are it is an infection, and you need treatment. Some antibiotics should make it alright.

Although it is most unlikely, you cannot rule out the possibility that tattoo ink contaminated badly can get you infected with tetanus, hepatitis, and non-tuberculous mycobacteria.

3. Permanent Tattoo Scars

There is more to bacterial infections. While causing you an infection, the bacterial will also disrupt the tattoo healing process. It may also distort the tattoo ink, giving you permanent scars.

It is the worst repercussion of applying an expired tattoo ink. Permanent tattoo scarring is not negligible at all. Imagine getting an entire tattoo on your back and getting the place infected. The scars you will have will be extremely difficult to camouflage it by using a cover-up tattoo.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Know That Your Tattoo Ink Has Expired?

There are several visual signs to notice that. For instance, the ink texture will become very thick. While giving off an unpleasant odor, the solid portion of the ink will have separated from the liquids. Meanwhile, the bottle should be overflowing.

Notwithstanding that, sometimes, there may not be any visual sign. So, if you do not want to take any risk, you should not wait for the signals and throw the ink instead once the expiration period is over, or when you suspect ink contamination.

Will It Hurt If I Get A Tattoo Done With An Expired Tattoo Ink?

No, it will not hurt more than getting a tattoo done with fresh ink. The ink quality does not make any difference here. But the bacterial infections you might get from expired tattoo inks will be excruciatingly painful, not to mention the permanent scars in extreme cases.

How Long Is It Before A Tattoo Ink Usually Expires?

The average period is approximately two years. But manufacturers should tell you that on the individual tattoo ink bottles. If a seller does not provide it, you should not purchase their ink.

Is It Safer To Use Pre-Dispersed Tattoo Ink Than To Use The Powdered Ones?

Yes. Pre-dispersed tattoo inks are usually safer because they are not as likely to get contaminated as powdered ones.

Companies mix artificial ink components with liquid in somewhere hygiene and sterile to make pre-dispersed ink. But in the case of powdered tattoo ink, the tattoo artist has to mix it on their own. If they do not have a neat and clean place and tools for sterilization, the ink will run the risk of getting contaminated.

Final Words

The tattoo ink components may not expire. However, they have a specified expiry period, even before crossing which, the ink may become contaminated, evaporate, or split. Whatever the case is, it will make the ink unusable.

Thus, as a tattoo artist, you should never use expired or contaminated tattoo ink because the consequences are not worth it at all. You might even lose your popularity for this. You should always try to avoid tattoo ink contamination and store the ink according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

And, as a client, if you have concerns, feel free to ask your tattoo artist to check their tattoo ink’s expiration before starting the process. Or you can request them to purchase fresh tattoo ink to make your tattoo. Remember that it might cost you some extra bucks if their regular ink still works fine.

That would be all for now. Thank you for reading.