Titanium Dioxide – Pigment Chemistry
Posted in ArticlesFor Artiststattoo

The role of titanium dioxide in tattoo pigments

Have you taken a look at the labels of your tattoo pigment lately? One thing you may notice is that there is almost always titanium dioxide in your pigments. Why is that?

Titanium dioxide ( TiO2 ) is something that is ubiquitous in our society. You may not have heard of it before but, trust me, it is everywhere. We find TiO2 in sunscreens, food as an additive and commercial products like paint and steel. It gets spread on our faces, doughnuts and spaceships. When I said ubiquitous… I meant it.

TiO2 is sourced from raw minerals and is defined for specific uses by the size and dimension of the individual particles. The particles have a high refractive index, are photostabile in high UV applications and, although costly to manufacture, are in high demand globally.

So why oh why do we put this into our tattoo pigments? Is it safe? What should we know so that we can be a better educated client/tattooer in the world?


Titanium dioxide in our pigments

TiO2 manufacturing is kind of complicated and, since this is a tattoo blog, we won’t get into what goes into the sourcing and processing. If you want to learn more, Google is your friend.

TiO2 is used in our tattoo pigments because its use makes our pigments look brighter. This particle refracts light and disperses wavelengths that are enhancing to colors. The refractive ability is determined by the particulate size and can be tailor made by manufacturers to most sizes… even nano-particle sized.

Titanium dioxide health concerns

While TiO2 may be a food-safe product there are questions about the safety of this product when injected into the body. Here is a paper that discusses the health effects of TiO2!

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles induce DNA damage and genetic instability in vivo in mice

Evidence that ultrafine titanium dioxide induces micronuclei and apoptosis in Syrian hamster embryo fibroblasts.

Human safety review of “nano” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide

and a couple of papers for whomever wants to read them:

Chemistry Handbook- TiO2

Titanium Dioxide white paper from DuPont



Rian Othus got his initial break into the tattooing industry in the early 2000’s. He worked in many locations throughout the United States and Canada. The opinions expressed on this site are based on his experiences and time spent in the industry. Some are also from amateur scientific study.

The journey to increase his knowledge began on the road. At times Rian had to travel far from home. Others, he had to beg to get any information. It was an amazing journey and it paved the way for Rian to start analyzing the tattoo industry to figure out where he fit into it.

These articles are written to engage and educate those who are out in the wild world of tattooing, working in a shop or just enjoying the culture. He admits that some of the articles may be very specific regarding who they are written for, but hopes that anyone who reads them is able to take things from a different angle or better understand what someone else may be experiencing.

Rian Othus


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