FDA Warns Against Temporary Tattoos

Spurs Mixed Reaction In Industry

Temporary TattoosThe U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned late last week that temporary tattoos can cause allergic reactions and the federal agency is encouraging consumers to report problems that occur in connection with the skin art. Made during a seminar last week, the FDA announcement has spurred mixed reactions in the advertising specialty industry. Some suppliers say that sales, margins, and prices connected to temporary tattoos could be negatively impacted. Others proclaim the FDA’s pronouncement should have no effect on business.

According to the FDA, dyes used in the creation of certain temporary tattoos can cause rashes and blisters. Longer term, scarring, skin changes and increased sensitivity to sun may occur. “If you had a reaction to a temporary tattoo or any cosmetic product, the FDA wants to know,” said Katherine Hollinger, an epidemiologist with the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors.

Currently, the FDA cannot provide information on the number of allergic reactions temporary tattoos cause annually. What’s more, it’s yet unclear if the temporary tattoos that abound in the advertising specialty industry have been behind any adverse reactions. These tattoos are typically printed on special paper and then transferred onto a consumer’s skin with water, similar to how a wet decal is applied. Other temporary tattoos are hand-applied or painted on, and may contain plant-based and synthetic dyes, including a hair-dye ingredient called p-phenylenediamine (PPD). It’s possible that some of the transfer-on types may contain PPD, too.

“It’s the PPD that has caused most of the skin reactions,” said Leeton Lee, a product safety specialist who serves as vice president of regulatory compliance and general counsel at Top 40 supplier ETS Express (asi/51197).

In the wake of the FDA announcement, some end-buyers could potentially avoid temporary tattoos in favor of alternative products, says Lee. “The last thing they need is a publicity nightmare if consumers complain to the FDA that a promotional temporary tattoo has caused allergic reactions,” he said. “Vendors that want to compete in the temporary tattoo marketplace will need to ensure safety and compliance so that they can give their clients adequate assurances that their tattoos are safe.”

Rigorous testing is something California Tattoos (asi/43530) already says it ensures for its products. The supplier, which specializes in temporary tattoos, told Counselor that it has never had an allergic reaction reported in connection with one of its products. Confident in the safety of the tattoos it offers, California Tattoos believes that its sales will remain strong, unaffected by the FDA’s declaration. “Announcements like this come out pretty much every year,” said Claudia Folch, strategic assistant to the president and CEO of California Tattoos. “We’ve never felt an impact from them. For us, this latest announcement is not going to be an issue.”