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Health Risks of Temporary Tattoos

By Leigh Ann Morgan ; Updated July 18, 2017

Temporary tattoos provide an alternative to tattoos made with a permanent ink. While temporary tattoos reduce some of the risks of tattooing, these tattoos have their own health risks. Because the ingredients in temporary tattoos vary widely from one brand to the next, their safety also varies. Check the list of ingredients for any temporary tattoo before applying it to your skin.

Skin Reactions

Some of the ingredients in temporary tattoos act as allergens, which causes skin reactions such as itching, redness, swelling and irritation. While these reactions usually fade quickly, some temporary tattoo ingredients cause skin sensitization. This means that future exposure to these chemicals could lead to more serious reactions. Antihistamines and corticosteroids treat the symptoms of skin reactions caused by temporary tattoo ingredients, but you should see a doctor if your symptoms persist.


Temporary tattoos may contain ingredients that cause rashes and other skin reactions. The textile dye known as paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, gives black henna its dark color. This chemical causes allergic reactions in some people who receive black henna tattoos. Dr. Gregory Sonnen of Baylor Health Care System explains that an allergic reaction to PPD results in weeping skin lesions that cause itching and irritation. These lesions take on the shape of the temporary tattoo. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not approved the use of PPD for application to the skin, so avoid temporary tattoos with this ingredient.


Some temporary tattoos require application with a needle even though the ink does not last permanently. The use of needles in the application of temporary tattoos increases the risk of infection, particularly with hepatitis and HIV. Tattoo needles also transmit bacterial infections if tattoo artists do not follow proper sterilization procedures. Reduce your risk of contracting an infection by working only with artists who use sterile equipment and practice proper tattooing techniques.

The equipment used to apply temporary tattoos may also increase the risk of infection. Some pieces of equipment have small parts or intricate details that make it difficult to clean them thoroughly. Since inadequate cleaning allows infectious organisms to build up between uses, the risk of infection increases with each use.

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