What To Do With Cremation Ashes: Tattoo Ink

After a loved one is cremated, families often wonder what can be done with their loved one's cremated ashes. There are the usual ideas like scattering them or placing them in an urn—but maybe you'd prefer something more unusual, yet still meaningful?

If you wish there was a way that you could carry something of that special person around with you forever, tattoo ink with your loved one's ashes might appeal to you.

Yes, you can have tattoo ink made with the cremated ashes of your loved one. These are referred to in the tattoo industry as ritual or commemorative tattoos.

How It Works

Essentially, a ritual tattoo is one where a small amount of cremated ashes are added to regular tattoo ink, to create an ash-infused ink solution. It is then injected into the skin, just as a regular tattoo would be.

There are some challenges involved with the procedure, the most important of which is getting the cremated ashes to a fine enough consistency where they will blend into the tattoo ink smoothly.

Working with the ash/ink solution can be somewhat challenging, which is one reason why it is best to find a tattoo artist who is experienced and familiar with doing ritual or commemorative tattoos.

Is It Safe?

Since cremated ashes are heated to over 1,800 degrees fahrenheit during the cremation process, the risk of infection is no higher than from using any other material.

The most important consideration with regard to safety is how the ashes are handled prior to mixing with the ink. Many state regulations require—and most reputable tattoo artists freely follow this procedure even when not required to do so—that all tools, equipment and materials used to make tattoos be autoclaved before use to minimize risk of infection.

If you're considering getting a commemorative tattoo, discuss with your tattoo artist what specific steps he or she will take to minimize risk of infection.

Precautions and Considerations

Commemorative tattoos are a relatively infrequent procedure; tattoo artists who do ritual or commemorative tattoos may only do a few each year. Most state and federal health agencies have created regulations specific to them.

The tattoos are somewhat controversial within the tattoo industry itself, and some artists decline to do them. For the most part, however, tattoo artists approach them as any other tattooing procedure.

Neptune Society supports the rights of family members and friends to memorialize their loved ones in the way that feels right to them. If you feel that a cremation ash tattoo would be right for you, we recommend interviewing tattoo artists in your area to find the most experienced artist, and asking your health professional about health- and safety-related questions prior to getting the tattoo.

For more information about cremation, please contact your nearest Neptune Society representative.

This article is part of our "What To Do With Cremation Ashes" series in which we intend to highlight the lesser known memorialization options available to families who choose cremation. If you or a loved one is considering cremation, we at Neptune Society encourage you to consider carefully your own position on the memorialization and make the choice you believe is right for you and your family. For more articles in this series, please see our article archive.

The Neptune Society is the nation's oldest and largest provider of affordable cremation services. Whether you have an immediate need or want to plan cremation services in advance, we are always available to assist you and your family.

Call 1-800-NEPTUNE (800-637-8863) today or contact us online to learn more.

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