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We've updated our guidance on NICNAS to AICIS transitional arrangements.

Tattoo and permanent make-up (PMU) inks

Chemicals used in tattoo and PMU inks are classified as industrial chemicals in Australia.

What is tattooing?

Tattooing is the process of injecting ink into the dermal layer of the skin in order to colour the skin. Body art tattooing permanently colours the skin.

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.

What is PMU ink?

PMU inks can be different from tattoo inks. They often use different colourants from those used in body art inks.

Is AICIS doing any work to assess tattoo and PMU inks?

Part of our work is to assess and make recommendations about the introduction of industrial chemicals in Australia (this includes tattoo and PMU inks). We publish our findings in assessment and evaluation statements.

We have previously published these reports on tattoo and PMU inks:

These reports were published under our former scheme, NICNAS.

What are the rules on importing and manufacturing tattoo and PMU ink chemicals?

As well as being the subject to the same requirements as any other industrial chemical under our laws, because they’re injected under the skin, introducers of these chemicals need to meet extra requirements.  For example, we may need to assess the risks and issue a certificate before the introduction can occur – find out more about our assessment processes. 

Introducers must also register their business with us and categorise their introduction. This starts with them checking to see if the chemical they plan to use in a tattoo or PMU ink is listed on our chemical database, the Australian Inventory of Industrial Chemicals. In general, if the chemical is listed on our Inventory, it can be introduced as long as all regulatory requirements are met. If the chemical is not on our Inventory, the introducer needs to continue with their categorisation to work out the level of risk to human health and the environment. Depending on the outcome, AICIS may need to fully assess the introduction.

All introducers have record-keeping and reporting obligations.

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

State and territory authorities are responsible for regulating body art and PMU tattooing businesses as well as the safety of tattoo inks, including product labelling and restrictions on their use in tattooing.

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