Tattoo and permanent make-up inks used in Australia

What is tattooing?

Tattooing is the process of injecting ink into the dermal layer of the skin in order to permanently colour the skin for body art.

What is permanent make-up (PMU)?

PMU, or cosmetic tattooing, is a specialised form of tattooing used to impart a semi-permanent cosmetic effect to the body.

What is tattoo ink?

Tattoo inks may include multiple colourants to achieve a certain colour, as well as other chemicals such as water, glycerol, isopropyl alcohol, witch hazel, preservatives, resins and contaminants. The colourants used include both pigments (that are insoluble in water) and dyes (that are soluble in water); however, pigments represent the vast majority of colourants used in tattoo inks.

Tattoo inks used in Australia—FAQs

What is PMU ink?

PMU inks are usually different from tattoo inks. They are complex formulations that can have organic and inorganic colourants to achieve specific colours.

Rules on importing and manufacturing tattoo and PMU ink chemicals

Chemicals used in tattoo and PMU inks are classified as industrial chemicals in Australia. Their introduction is subject to the same requirements as any other industrial chemical under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989.

Importers and manufacturers (known as introducers) of industrial chemicals must be registered with NICNAS. If a chemical used in a tattoo or PMU ink is listed on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS), then in general the chemical can be imported into or manufactured (introduced) in Australia without notifying NICNAS. However, if the chemical is not on the AICS, or is listed on AICS with specific conditions, it must be assessed by NICNAS before it can be introduced.

Who regulates the use and safety of tattoo and PMU inks?

State and territory authorities are responsible for regulating tattoo parlours and the safety of tattoo inks, including product labelling and restrictions on their use in tattooing.

or  Download full report: Characterisation of tattoo inks used in Australia  [PDF 457 KB]

Last update 29 July 2018