HSENI announces joint awareness campaign on hazardous substances in inks used for tattoos and permanent make-up

Date published: 17 June 2022


HSENI has launched a joint initiative with local councils to measure compliance with the restriction of hazardous substances in tattoo inks and permanent make-up pigments.

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Over 4,000 substances, identified to be hazardous to health, are now restricted for tattooing purposes in Northern Ireland. This will directly impact suppliers, shop owners and consumers alike. The restriction aims to ensure substances known to cause allergic reactions or even cancer are not injected into the body when there is insufficient research to determine the associated long-term health risks.

As enforcing authorities for REACH (the regulation creating the restriction), HSENI is interested in the manufacture and supply of compliant inks and pigments ensuring that NI suppliers and shop owners are complying with the new restriction. Local council Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are focused on maintaining consumer protection through the application of compliant inks.

The purpose of the campaign is to measure supply chain compliance, not to ban tattooing or permanent make-up activities. Furthermore, this initiative aims to inform and educate both those who carry out this work or undergo the service on how to identify compliant inks or pigments for tattooing purposes.

Ronan Magee, Head of the HSENI Chemicals Team, said: “These restrictions were introduced in January 2022 following a long period of consultation. The chemicals involved have all been identified as being harmful to human health and their use in tattoo and permanent make-up inks is considered to put clients at a higher risk of harm.

“The tattoo ink industry has been aware of the restrictions since January 2021 and many manufacturers have taken measures to create inks that are compliant with the new requirements, are clearly labelled and easily identified.

“The aim of this campaign is to promote the use of only compliant inks to ensure the health and safety of clients. Tattoo shops and permanent make-up salons must 

ensure they only buy and use ink and pigment products that are compliant and have the documentation and labelling to support this.”

Over the coming weeks, a questionnaire will be issued to tattoo and permanent make-up artists to ascertain the impacts of the restriction and how it has been implemented thus far. Following analysis of the data obtained, HSENI inspectors and EHOs will carry out follow-up visits to premises to measure compliance with the changes in legislation.

For further information on tattoo inks please visit Tattoo inks and permanent make-up - ECHA (europa.eu).

Notes to editors: 


  1. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy (DfE).
  2. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland and shares this responsibility with the Environmental Health Departments of the 11 local councils in Northern Ireland. Local councils enforce health and safety in retail tattoo shops and permanent make-up premises.
  3. REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 is the European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals.  A restriction on chemicals used in tattoo inks and permanent make-up came into force in January 2022.The reduction of hazardous substances in inks which have been shown to be skin sensitisers or irritants as well as those which could cause cancer or other serious health conditions has been outlined. CLP is a regulation concerning the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemicals. The labelling and packaging of tattoo inks/pigments will change according to the regulation and is essential for compliance.
  4. Research is still ongoing on the direct health implications of many of the restricted substances via injection under the skin and whilst most have been proven to be hazardous to health through alternative routes of exposure, this restriction is primarily a precautionary measure based on what is known of the substances at this time.
  5. For media enquiries please contact HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249 or email media@hseni.gov.uk. For out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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