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Vice _ interview to Yuri Basso from Italy about ink situation

No, colour tattoos will not disappear on 4 January

What do EU regulations say about colour tattoos? What will happen from 4 January 2022?

By Niccolò Carradori



On Thursday, 16 December, several newspapers and online journals carried the news that from 4 January 2022, following a new European Union regulation, it will no longer be possible to get tattooed with coloured inks.

"On that day," as an article by Fanpage reads, "a new European regulation will in fact be triggered, banning tattoos with coloured inks: only those in black and white will be allowed. Or rather, those that do not contain isopropanol, a solvent that the EU has decided to ban [...] because they can irritate the eyes, dry the skin, cause damage to the nervous system and are potentially carcinogenic."

The issue has clearly unleashed a wave of panic and endless debate, both among people in the industry and enthusiasts. In a little over two weeks, will it really no longer be possible to get a tattoo in colour? Will tattoo artists who make the use of colour their distinctive feature have to reinvent themselves? The answer, let's say it now, is no.


As Yuri Basso, board member of the Confederazione Nazionale Tatuatori e Piercer (whose press release you can also read) explains to me, on 4 January 2022, the new restrictions set out in the REACH (Registration, Evaluation Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation will come into effect, effectively banning certain substances used in the formulation of colours.

"The new legislation bans 4000 substances, including 27 colour pigments: 25 of these are easily replaceable by others; the only two for which no substitutes can be found are Blue15 and Green7. The fate of these two colours, however, will have to wait until 2023 (there is a petition to save them, Save The Pigments, which currently has more than 170,000 signatures). Until then, however, the world of colour tattooing will not be restricted."

As for the isopropyl alcohol (or isopropanol) mentioned in many articles, this is indeed one of the sterilants and preservatives banned by the REACH regulation. In fact, as Yuri Basso explained to me, it is contained in almost all colours: even in most blacks and whites. From this point of view, there is no discrimination between pigments, therefore, in view of 4 January.


The short-term problem, if anything, concerns the timing of production and distribution of inks that do not contain the offending substances. As publicist Beatrice Maudino argued well in a long thread on Twitter, this European legislation has been known for some time; 'but ink manufacturers', Yuri explained to me, 'have not been able to adapt quickly to the new restrictions. Because it's one thing to say that a base substance can be replaced chemically, but then companies have to create inks that also have a certain result in terms of colour rendering and tattoo durability. Research and testing have taken a long time, and with 4 January approaching, it is possible that some manufacturers are behind schedule and will not be able to cover the distribution of the new standard colours throughout Europe."

The point, adds Basso, "is that the European Union has not allowed manufacturers and tattoo artists to run out of stock: a more reasonable solution would have been to prevent non-standard colours from entering the European market from January onwards, while allowing for a longer transition phase. Many are now having to throw away stock that they have bought in the past few months - a paradox when you consider the vein of sustainability issues. You put me in the position of wasting materials and disposing of substances that are also difficult to dispose of."

The impact of the situation on the market, according to Basso, will not be limited to this. In order to deal with the new regulations and the associated problems in a short space of time, manufacturers have had to invest a lot: 'the raw materials cost ten times as much as the old ones. So prices are bound to rise. Which, presumably, will also mean higher prices for the final tattoos.


Finally, these issues have been compounded by the wave of sensationalist and very biased information about the new rules.

Translated with (free version)

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