Copenhagen’s Tattoo Parlours Hit by New EU Rules

Copenhagen’s tattoo artists and parlours have been hit hard these past couple of years. First a pandemic that led to their business being stripped away – now a new challenge, EU regulations.

A new EU rule implemented last month has forced artists to change their way of work. A whole series of colours can no longer be used, and replacement inks are being enforced.

This has led to uproar from some tattoo parlours and has given many Copenhagen artists an uncertain feeling about the future of their industry.

The EU’s chemical agency EHCA released a statement explaining their decision to ban certain inks.

“The aim is not to ban tattooing but to make the colours used in tattoos and permanent make-up safer.

Chronic allergic reactions and other inflammatory skin reactions from tattoo and permanent make-up inks are expected to decrease thanks to the restriction. More serious effects such as cancer, harm to our DNA or the reproductive system potentially originating from chemicals used in the inks could also decrease.”

This decision has been met with harsh criticism from the tattoo community, there are at least 54 million inked up European citizens. Artists and shop-owners, who have already had a rough couple of years, are now facing new costs, confused customers and, in some-cases, changing their artistic-style.

Thank You Tattoo, based in Vesterbro run by Johnny aka ‘Rain Dog’, have had to adapt quickly to the new rules.

“It was annoying because we had to change our routine and find new places to order. The customers where thinking what will we do now, what will happen? As a tattoo artist you worry because you must find the same colour to finish the tattoo.” Said Johnny.

Mikkel Ingperg, a medical student from Copenhagen, is one of many who has doubts about the new regulations. He questions how valid the studies are and thinks this is a futile regulation that was completely avoidable.

“There’s not enough proof to suggest that these pigments can cause cancer. This has been backed up by some doctors. it’s not so clear cut as they suggest, it’s a controversial decision.”

As I speak to Mikkel, who is getting a tattoo across the entirety of his stomach, he references Prof. Jørgen Serup, MD, DMSc – a chief dermatologist at Bispebjerg hospital.

Prof. Jørgen Serup has been repeatedly quoted across television, print and radio regarding the ink ban. He believes the studies are not enough evidence to make wholesale changes to the regulations.

Serup says that “not a single case has been described where tattoo colour has given cancer to either the skin or internal organs. It is pure theory. It is pure naivete and populism. One can always hunt cancer in all possible contexts. It abounds with cancer claims. There is no professionalism associated with this.” (DR)

Johnny of Thank You Tattoo also has concerns about incoming regulations. He thinks that just as the parlours have negotiated this hit from the EU and found a new way to work – there are more rules coming.

“I think we must think more about what will happen a year from now – we can’t use blue or green. There will be some new restrictions, most likely blue and green will get banned.”

Copenhagen parlours and artists have successfully found their way through the current EU rules and regulations – however the future remains uncertain for many in the city as a new set of ink bans lurk on the horizon.

By Greg Kennedy