Are Temporary Tattoos Safe? (What to Look Out For)

By | February 9, 2014

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I had them as a child and you probably did, too. Temporary tattoos, though known for their evanescence, have always been in fashion. But are temporary tattoos as safe as they are fun, and are all temporary tattoos created equally? The invested parent or guardian may be a little weary of temporary tattoos, especially as the season warms up and the short sleeve shirts are prominent. Learn how to protect yourself and your children from questionable temporary tattoos and always ensure you do not have to compromise your own or child’s safety.

First of all, everyone, adult or child, reacts differently to temporary tattoos, whether they be from paper or a machine. This is because everyone has different allergies to different products. Therefore, it’s important to remember that, though someone may be following the guidelines for safe temporary tattoos, there is always room for the unexpected. Obviously, no one should live in temporary tattoo fear, but it is significant to note that what may be safe for someone could potentially, though very rarely, cause some sort of irritation. If you’re extremely concerned for your own or child’s safety, you can always discuss the matter with a medical practitioner. However, there are a number of steps you can take to realistically and greatly reduce the risk of temporary tattoos.

Read Your Temporary Tattoo’s Ingredients
No one is expected to be en expert on temporary tattoos or have encyclopedia knowledge of which specific temporary tattoos are safe – that’s a little crazy. However, some temporary tattoos carry specific ingredients which are universally less safe than others. For example, henna offers a type of temporary tattoo that is generally one color and considered safe, as it has been used for almost as long as there has been civilization.

However, some henna-based temporary tattoos include ingredients such as silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye and chromium. In case you were curious, silver nitrate is the chemical the author of “Black Like Me” used to dye his skin to impersonate an African American for long enough to understand the effects of racism and segregation. Yeah, it’s kind of powerful. Luckily, these types of less-than-safe ingredients are not usually in pure henna but found in “black henna” and “pre-mixed henna”. Regular henna is different and considered safe.

Make Sure Your Temporary Tattoo is FDA Approved
This safety tip may seem a bit ridiculous to some at first. However, temporary tattoos are essentially a chemical being applied to the skin, therefore, much like any other type of cosmetic, temporary tattoos can either be approved by the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) or not. For example, neither black henna not pre-mixed henna are approved by the FDA as safe cosmetics, or for use of temporary tattoos. All temporary tattoos legally sold in USA stores are FDA approved. Don’t worry if the temporary tattoos are imported; the FDA has blocked imported temporary tattoos when ingredients have not been considered safe. Though there have been isolated cases of temporary tattoos causing irritation with some children, the cases were so few and far between the FDA did not find anything wrong with the specific temporary tattoo product.


“Dye of the Needle: How Safe Are Kids’ Temporary Tattoos?: Scientific American.” Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. Scientific American, 2011. Web. 16 June 2011. .

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