A tattoo is a skin decoration with ink that is injected into the lower layers of the skin with the help of a needle. The regulations governing tattooing focus on colourants and other substances used in their creation, as well as to the tattoo services themselves. From a legal point of view, tattooing is not comparable to cosmetics.
Colourants and other chemicals used in tattooing
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health steers and develops chemicals legislation, which also covers colourants and auxiliary ingredients used in tattoos and permanent pigmentations. The colours and the auxiliary ingredients used in tattooing have not previously been regulated at EU level for use in tattoos, although they have been regulated in cosmetic use. This gap in legislation was corrected when, in January 2021, a restriction was imposed under Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evalua-tion, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), With the new restrictive regulation, (Under Commission Regulation (EU) 2020/2081) a large proportion of colourants and auxiliary ingredients were either prohibited or restricted.
The purpose of these restrictions is to ensure that the substances used in tattooing are safe. The restriction will be applied for the most part as of 4 January 2022.
Tattooing as a service
In accordance with the Consumer Safety Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Eco-nomic Affairs and Employment, tattooing is defined as a consumer service. Therefore, a notifica-tion of the provision of tattooing services must be submitted to the local authorities. The tattooist must provide a safety document including a plan for identifying, managing and communicating the risks associated with the service. The act also requires that tattooing service providers inform consumers of the risks involved and ensure that the service and consumer goods provided do not pose a risk to health.
The premises where tattoo services are provided are governed by the Health Protection Act. Ac-cording to the Health Protection Act, the tattoo artist must notify the local health protection au-thority of their services, in which case the premises will be subject to regular supervision.
Tattoos and health
Tattoos are not recommended for those under the age of 18. In particular, pregnant women, those with severe underlying conditions and those receiving medication that affects the immune system should be aware of the health risks associated with tattooing. Most of the adverse reac-tions associated with tattoos are unpredictable. They may occur at any time during a person's lifetime.
Tattoos are long-lasting, as ink usually remain in the skin for at least several decades. Some of the tattoo ink breaks down in the body over time or passes into the lymph nodes, for example. Within the framework of chemicals legislation, the use of substances specifically as tattooing colourants has not been separately assessed, so there is very little research on the risks of long-term exposure to them.
Hypersensitivity reactions caused by pigments and inks are the most common adverse reactions associated with needle tattooing.
In case of insufficient hygiene, needle tattooing may predispose customers to blood-transmitted infections such as hepatitis B and C, HIV and severe bacterial infections. Chronic skin disease may also break out in the tattooed skin area. So far, it is unclear whether there is a link between tat-toos and skin cancer.
Supervision of tattooing services
The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) monitors that tattoo inks on the market comply with the requirements of chemicals legislation.
Tukes also monitors the safety of consumer services, i.e. that the facilities, equipment and other supplies used in the service comply with the requirements. The supervision also helps ensure that the customer has been given the necessary information and care instructions as well as knowledge of the potential risks.
Municipal health protection authorities supervise matters such as hygiene and the storage of equipment at tattoo parlours.
Customs may also intervene in violations of legislation when importing tattoo inks and accesso-ries.