A new study has found that bacteria known to cause disease are in the inks used for tattoos and permanent makeup.

Tattoos are becoming popular as a fashion statement among Nigerians and the youths globally.

Makeup artists and their businesses in Nigeria continue to find better ways to beautify clients.


Some use “permanent makeup” as a longer-lasting beauty option, which is also gaining popularity.

However, a new study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology sampled some ready-to-use commercial inks and found almost 40% contaminated disease-causing bacteria.

The scientists say this is of concern because persons with tattoos have these permanent inks lodged in the dermis.


The dermis is the middle layer of the skin.

The researchers said this part of the skin has enough nutrients and the right conditions for the growth of both normal and disease-causing bacteria that require oxygen (aerobic bacteria) and those that do not need it (anaerobic bacteria).

The study, which sampled 75 different ink products, found 34 bacterial germs that belong to 22 diverse groups of bacteria.

It was also confirmed that over 50% of the bacteria groups belonged to potentially disease-causing bacteria.


These were dominated by the groups Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, Sphingomonas, Cutibacterium, and Stenotrphomonas which required both aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

The study further found both disease-causing bacteria Cutibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis in the same ink product.

Seong-Jae Kim, the lead researcher of the study, said: “Our findings reveal that unopened and sealed tattoo inks can harbour anaerobic bacteria, known to thrive in low-oxygen environments like the dermal layer of the skin, alongside aerobic bacteria.

“This suggests that contaminated tattoo inks could be a source of infection from both types of bacteria. The results emphasize the importance of monitoring these products for both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, including possibly pathogenic microorganisms.”


Previous studies have reported that tattoos could increase cancer risk by up to 21 percent.

Researchers of the current study say it is further confirmation that there are more risks associated with having tattoos and using permanent makeup.

“It should be noted that microbial infections constitute just one aspect of these complications [associated with wearing tattoos and permanent make-up],” they stated.

“In addition to microbial infections, immunologic complications such as inflammatory reactions and allergic hypersensitivity, as well as toxic responses, represent a significant portion of these issues.”


The inks used in the study were bought from manufacturers in the US, Germany, France and China.

The researchers stated that almost two-thirds indicated their products as sterile.

Kim, a microbiologist with the US Food and Drug Administration, said at least one manufacturer from each country had contaminated products.

“In light of our study results, we want to emphasize the importance of continuously monitoring these products to ensure the microbial safety of tattoo inks,” he added.

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