Safety Standards

Know the Facts and Evaluate Risks

For most children and adults, decal-style temporary tattoos, also known as press-on or water-transfer temporary tattoos, are perfectly safe. These temporary tattoos go on painlessly, generally come off easily and are available in vivid designs that are popular with diverse audiences.

Decal temporary tattoos, when legally sold in the United States, have had their color additives approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cosmetics — meaning the FDA has determined these colorants are safe for “direct dermal contact.” While the FDA has received some accounts of minor skin irritation, including redness and swelling, from this type of temporary tattoo, the agency has found these symptoms to be rare and not significant enough to support public warnings.

Unapproved pigments, however, which are sometimes used by non-US manufacturers, can provoke serious allergic reaction. Understanding the types of temporary tattoos available to consumers, knowing where they are manufactured, and ensuring they come from a reliable source are keys to determining whether a specific temporary tattoo is safe.

Know the Types of Temporary Tattoos for Safety Reasons

There are five basic types of temporary tattoos, including:

  1. Decal-type/press-on/water transfer temporary tattoos are the most and the most easily applied
  2. Airbrush-style temporary tattoos are generally applied by a tattoo artist
  3. Henna tattoos are painted on the skin by an artist: red-to-brown henna tattoos made from plant-based substance and black henna tattoos which include added dyes
  4. Temporary tattoo kits for laser or inkjet printers
  5. Micro-Injection temporary tattoos

Decal-Type (Press-On) Temporary Tattoos

People are most familiar with decal-type temporary tattoos as prizes in packaged products and those handed out to children at special events. However, temporary tattoo designs have become very sophisticated in the past 25 years, gaining broad appeal among adults as fashion accessories and promotional products. In fact, most tattooed actors in motion pictures and television productions have not committed to permanent ink—they are wearing temporary tattoos created for their characters.

Application: The decal-type temporary tattoo is an image printed on water-permeable paper. First, the tattoo is placed ink-side down onto the skin Water is applied to the temporary tattoo’s backing and the image is transferred to the skin as the saturated backing is peeled off.

Safety: The FDA requires that pigments used for decal-type temporary tattoos are subject to the same approval processes as those used for any other cosmetics. This means that decal-style temporary tattoos manufactured in the U.S. are non-toxic and hypo-allergenic. While some temporary tattoos can last as long as a week, they easily can be removed with rubbing alcohol or baby oil.

Not all decal temporary tattoos, however, conform to FDA regulations. Import alerts have been issued for certain temporary tattoos made in China and Taiwan that include non-approved ingredients and products which do not declare their ingredients on the packaging. Do not buy decal-type temporary tattoos that give no indication of the ingredients used to manufacture them.

Additionally, press-on-type temporary tattoos printed on laser and ink-jet printers are not made with FDA-approved colorants. Always make sure to ask if temporary tattoos are made with dyes and colorants approved by the FDA for direct dermal contact.

Airbrush Temporary Tattoos

Although they have become more popular and usually require a greater investment, airbrush temporary tattoos are less likely to look like a real tattoo, and may not last as long as press-on temporary tattoos.

Application: An artist sprays on airbrush temporary tattoos using a stencil with alcohol-based, FDA-approved cosmetic inks. Some artists may apply the temporary tattoos freehand without a stencil.

Safety: When the artist uses FDA-approved cosmetic inks, airbrush-style temporary tattoos are as safe as US-made, decal-style temporary tattoos. The types of airbrush paints manufactured for crafting, creating art or decorating clothing should never be used for temporary tattooing. These paints are not approved for direct dermal contact, and can be allergenic or toxic. Always ask the airbrush tattoo artist what kind of ink he or she is using and whether it meets FDA approval. Like temporary decal tattoos, airbrush temporary tattoos also are easily removed with rubbing alcohol or baby oil.

Henna Temporary Tattoos

Red-to-Brown, Traditional Henna Temporary Tattoos

Traditional henna tattoos generally contain no additives. Henna is a plant-derived substance which, when applied to the skin, creates a reddish-orange-to-brown stain. Because of the semi-permanent nature of henna, the lack of the realistic colors typical of decal-type temporary tattoos, and the time-consuming application process, it is a relatively poor option for children.

There are now a variety of decal-style temporary tattoos that come in henna designs. US-produced, decal-type henna designs are as safe as all US-made press-on temporary tattoos.

Application: A henna tattoo artist applies temporary tattoos by painting designs directly on the skin. Kits are now available where the consumer mixes the paste and then applies it using an application bottle and a stencil.  The paste-like paint is left on the skin for a minimum of six hours, and when removed leaves behind a red-to-brown rendering of the design.

Safety: True henna temporary tattoos are always red-to-brown in color.  There is no natural form of black henna.  If you choose henna temporary tattoos, applied by an artist or from a kit, always ensure that all ingredients meet FDA regulations.

Dermatological publications report that allergic reactions to natural henna are very rare and the product is generally considered safe for skin application. Serious problems can occur, however, from the use of henna with certain additives. The FDA and medical journals report that painted black henna temporary tattoos are especially dangerous.

Black Henna or Pre-Mixed Henna Temporary Tattoos

There is no naturally-occurring black henna.

 Application: Black henna tattoos are applied in the same way as natural henna temporary tattoos.

 Safety: The FDA regularly issues warnings about avoiding any temporary tattoos labeled “black henna” or “pre-mixed henna” as these may contain potentially harmful ingredients, including silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye and chromium. Black henna often gets its color from paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a textile dye.

Research has linked these ingredients to a range of health problems including allergic reactions and chronic inflammatory reactions, sometimes occurring long after application. Neither black henna nor pre-mixed henna are approved for cosmetic use by the FDA.

*NOTE: All colorants used in US-manufactured, decal-type henna-design temporary tattoos, including “black” henna-style tattoos, have been approved by the FDA.

Tattoo Kit Temporary Tattoos (Inkjet or Laser Printed Temporary Tattoos)

A variety of “temporary tattoo kits” for producing custom temporary tattoos one-at-a-time are now in the marketplace. These kits generally include temporary tattoo paper, temporary tattoo adhesive and application sponges. The tattoos are printed on the kit paper with an inkjet or laser printer.

Application: These kit-based tattoos are applied in the same manner as decal-type, press-on temporary tattoos. Inkjet printing, whether dye- or ink-based, cannot compare to the printing presses and quality control used to manufacture temporary tattoos such as those made by Tattoo Manufacturing and other major manufacturers.

Safety: Though the paper and adhesives in these kits are safe, they are designed to be used in dye-based, inkjet printers—not the typical inkjet printers used in homes and offices. The inks generated by inkjet printers are not approved by the FDA for “direct dermal contact. It is difficult (and expensive) to purchase FDA-approved, dye-based colorants for printer or laser printers from a local store, printer manufacturer or even online.

Additionally, many web-based sellers that produce color custom temporary tattoos in very small quantities use inkjet printers, which is the only cost-effective way to produce very small quantities of custom temporary tattoos.  Carefully check the reverse of any tattoo, the packaging or information from the retailer for the list of ingredients that have been used to produce the temporary tattoos. Always ensure the inks used in producing these low-quantity, custom temporary tattoos are not potentially toxic and are made with FDA-approved colorants.

Micro-Injection Temporary Tattoos

Microinjection machines are used to apply colorants into the skin, but not to the depth of typical permanent tattoo processes. The resulting tattoos are considered “semi-permanent,” with the inks sloughing away or fading over time.  While occasionally found at corporate events and festivals, they are not commonly used in the United States and are banned in the U.K.

Application: While the process is similar to that of applying permanent tattoos, the equipment is different.

Safety: Permanent tattoo equipment designs allow it to be completely sterilized between customers, usually with an autoclave, which is the process used for sterilization in dental and medical practices. Some microinjection and micropigmentation machines cannot be adequately sterilized and may facilitate the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis.

What are Tattoo Manufacturing’s Temporary Tattoo Ingredients?

Decal-type temporary tattoos produced by Tattoo Manufacturing contain the following ingredients:  Acrylates Copolymer, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Linseed Oil (Linum Usitatissimum), Soybean Oil (Glycine Soja), Polyethylene Terephthalate, Petroleum Distillates, Cerium Carboxylate, Manganese 2-Ethylhexanoate. They may contain: Black 2 (Cl 77266), Blue 1 (Cl 42090), Yellow 5 (CI19140), Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Red 7 (Cl 15850:1) and Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891).

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) may be present in temporary tattoo adhesive or the glitter used in glitter or “sugar” temporary tattoos. PET is a plastic and should not be confused with “phthalate,” short for “orthopthalate,” a chemical additive used to make some plastics soft and pliable.  In the United States, beverage bottles are made with PET, not phthalates, and are in compliance with the FDA.  Although polyethylene terephthalate (the plastic) and phthalate (the additive) may have similar names, the substances are chemically dissimilar.  PET is not considered an orthophthalate and PET does not require the use of phthalates or other softening additives.  The use of PET in Tattoo Manufacturing’s temporary tattoos is in compliance with the FDA. The laminate used to cover and protect Tattoo Manufacturing temporary tattoos contains no phthalates and has been rigorously tested for other harmful elements. Testing documentation is available upon request from Tattoo Manufacturing.

Make sure that any temporary tattoos you purchase clearly list ingredients on the packaging per FDA requirements. Every Tattoo Manufacturing product package and individual temporary tattoo contains this information, and the reverse side of every individual tattoo has a product number and a link to a website where any concerns about safety can be reported by the consumer. Tattoo Manufacturing has been manufacturing temporary tattoos since 1989.

FDA Approval of Temporary Tattoos

The FDA does not “approve” any temporary tattoos.

The FDA approves the color additives used to produce temporary tattoo products. Although you may see “FDA Approved” on websites, this is a misrepresentation (or possible misunderstanding) by those who are selling temporary tattoos. It is prudent to purchase temporary tattoo products from a reputable manufacturer that uses FDA-approved color additives and has met or exceeded the safety testing requirements. Tattoo Manufacturing exceeds these safety standards, which is generally a requirement to export to many of the countries to which it ships its products throughout the year.

You can visit the FDA’s page about temporary tattoos to learn more about its oversight of these products.

What is the Best Option for Temporary Tattoos?

Tattoo Manufacturing makes only decal (press-on) temporary tattoos because the company believes it is the best temporary tattoo option for children and adults. Our products offer safety and deliver a high-quality, realistic effect. Tattoo Manufacturing’s temporary tattoos exceed United States, Canadian & European Union safety standards.

Knowing what to look for and what to ask is the best way to protect your health and ensure a high quality, temporary body art product.