Does Tattoo Ink Expire?

A desirable tattoo outcome has a lot to depend on its ink. It does not matter how skilled you are as a tattooist if your ink has poor quality. It can make the entire design go wrong. One of the things that people do not always consider is whether the ink’s expiry plays a role here. Many even do not know if it expires or if expired ink is usable.

But it does. Tattoo ink expires on its due date. Besides, the ink’s age, bacterial contamination, and improper storage can cause it to perish sooner. So that addresses the other issue: expired ink is not safe for making a tattoo.

That may be brand-new information for some readers. So the article will emphasize the important details about tattoo ink expiration.

How Do I Know That My Tattoo Ink Has Expired?

The first thing to be clear about is that the ink components will not expire on your ink, whether it is powder ink or pre-dispersed. Mix the powder before applying, whereas the other is readymade and wet. You will see that the ink pigments are generally metal or plastic-made. You either blend them with alcohol or water to prepare the ink. Now, the components will not lose their quality over time. However, they may split at some point, and that is when the ink loses its substance.

The issue with liquid ink is evaporation. It will evaporate if you do not use it up within a certain period. Contamination is also responsible for the expiration. Once you allow it to become contaminated, bacteria will grow inside the jar. That will cause infection when injected into your skin. So, if you even think something may be wrong with the tattoo, you better replace it ASAP.

Can I Use Expired Tattoo Ink?

No, you cannot. “But what’s the harm in using expired tattoo ink, Karen?” Let Karen tell you about the harm below.

Undesirable Tattoo Results

There is a significant difference between the two tattoos made with fresh and expired ink. The colors and shades will be vibrant and catchy when the ink is new. On the other hand, expired ink makes the tattoo look dull and fainted. You might even regret getting the tattoo because it can be that disappointing.

Furthermore, the texture does not stay the same when evaporation occurs. Then an artist applies more water or alcohol to distill the ink, which, in turn, scales up the risk of contamination. Along with that, the ink will become thinner. Since your tattoo cannot hold it steadily, it will reduce the design quality by a large margin.

Infections Caused By Bacteria

This one is the most crucial reason for not using expired tattoo ink. You can suffer from bacterial infections because of it. The signs of infections include excessive redness, pus, bumps, swelling, and skin irritation. Getting chills and catching a fever are also common.

Every tattoo becomes flaky and causes scabs during their recovery. But if there is any symptom I just mentioned, you should pay attention and get yourself treated. Some antibiotic medications should fix it. Also, you cannot let go of the chance that highly contaminated ink can infect you with hepatitis, non-tuberculous mycobacteria, and tetanus. Although not likely, it is the worst-case scenario. So you should be mindful of it.

Permanent Scars

Infection is not the end of it. The bacteria that cause infection can also delay your healing. You may get permanent scars if they distort the ink.

That is the worst consequence of applying expired ink to create a tattoo. That said, you cannot neglect it in any way. Imagine having a tattoo on your body only to get infected afterward. You will have serious trouble trying to have it camouflaged with a cover-up design.

(See? For once, Karen thought about your best interest. Listen to her!)

Is It Common For Tattoo Inks To Get Expired?

Most inks come with a lifespan of 2 years, although they run out faster because of frequent use. It depends on you. If your area of work is black and grey shades, you will use up some specific colors early.

Contrastingly, photorealism experts apply various ink colors to their art pieces. So they have a vast collection. As they need only a little portion of each ink, they can keep them for a long time, within which the ink may lose its validity.

Note that the state jurisdiction has the authority to regulate tattoo inks, not the FDA. Since the tattoo industry in the USA complies with rigid rules and standards for production, it lowers the risk of ink contamination.

How Does The Contamination Take Place?

The suitable environment for storing tattoo inks is somewhere sterile. It helps to keep the contaminants away. When you buy your ink, look for the manufacturer’s instructions on its package. Usually, they recommend storing the ink somewhere cold, sterile, and dark. Besides, check if the ink is properly sealed during your purchase.

Each time you open the ink jar, you allow air into it. Remember that the air has germs and bacteria from people coming to your parlor. The less air exposure is, the better it is for the ink.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the average lifespan of tattoo inks?

The average lifespan of tattoo inks is around 2 years. But the specific information should be on the ink jars. If you do not find it anywhere, do not purchase that ink.

Does it hurt to get a tattoo made with expired tattoo ink?

No. There is no difference between expired and new ink from that aspect. But if you get infections from the expired one, it will be intensely agonizing with added scars for life.

How do I tell that my tattoo ink has become substandard?

There will be some visual changes in your tattoo ink. For example, the texture will thicken, a poor odor will occur, and the ink liquids will separate from their solid portion.
Sometimes the signs may not be present. But if the ink does not seem satisfactory to you, do not keep using it and wait till the signals show up. Dispose of it when it passes its expiration period or when you get an inkling of ink contamination.

Which one is safe to use between powdered ink and pre-dispersed ink?

Pre-dispersed ink is safer than powdered ink since it has less likeliness to get contaminated than powdered ink.
Companies producing pre-dispersed ink use a sterile, secure, and hygienic environment to process the ink materials. Therefore, you do not need any preparation before use as it is readymade.
But when you buy powdered ink, you have to prepare it yourself. If you cannot get the essential tools and surroundings to sterilize it, it will become spoiled anytime.

Do tattoo needles expire too? Why? 

Yes, tattoo needles expire, too, because they lose their ability to protect you from bacteria or viruses after their expiration period. 

Which ink companies follow proper health standards?

Ink manufacturers like StarBrite, Intenze, and Dynamic Color strictly follow proper health standards to sustain the safety and longevity of their products.
You can buy from them. Intenze uses a third-party sterilization arrangement to sterilize their ink. StarBrite has certified lab rooms to make their inks, where they apply gamma rays to make their ink sterile. And as for Dynamic Color, they will give you a safety data sheet (SDS) showing their protective and safety measures.

Is the expiry period on an ink jar only about the ink itself?

No. The expiry period often involves the packaging of an ink jar, meaning the lead, seal, and container will decay over time.
So, you should dump the ink once the date is over. Even if the ink seems okay, the container may already have marred the ink quality without you noticing.

Final Words

Although the ink materials may stay okay for use, it will not matter if the ink expires. Sometimes the ink is good till its expiry date, but sometimes it expires sooner because of splitting, evaporation, or contamination. Whatever the situation, it makes the ink unsuitable for making a tattoo.

The same applies to tattoo needles. If they expire, they will lose their sterility and cannot protect against viruses and bacteria. No tattooists should ever use either because the output is not worthy. Instead, it may cost them their reputation. It is best to avoid contamination by storing the ink per the company’s suggestions.

If you are a client, you can always ask your artist to check the ink’s expiration beforehand. You can also have them buy new ink to create your tattoo, which may cost you extra. Keep in mind that everything will pay off from both the artist’s and the client’s perspectives as long as they prioritize safety. Good luck!

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