Background  The prevalence of mild adverse reactions, i.e. complaints, in tattoos is sparsely described.

Objective  The demography of tattoos in a young population representing an index population of the recent trend was studied. The prevalence of complaints related to tattoos, and tattoos by number, size, localization and colour were registered.

Methods  The data were collected through personal interviews and examinations of consecutive individuals who spontaneously attended a clinic of venereology.

Results  Of 154 participants with 342 tattoos, 27% reported complaints in a tattoo beyond 3 months after tattooing. The complaints were predominantly related to black and red pigments. The participants reported complaints in 16% of their tattoos. Fifty-eight per cent of those complaints were sun induced. The complaints varied in intensity but were mainly minor. Skin elevation and itching were most frequent. The responders stated overall satisfaction with 80% of all tattoos. Eight per cent of tattoos were situated on anatomical sites prohibited by Danish law.

Conclusion  We found a remarkably high prevalence of tattoo complaints, including photosensitivity, among young individuals tattooed with carbon black and organic pigments especially red.