Are Sharpies Toxic on Skin? Important Things to Know!

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

are sharpies toxic on skin

There are a lot of toxic chemicals that can potentially harm our bodies. Though chemicals in permanent markers like Sharpies are made and tested for safe usage, are Sharpies toxic on skin?

Sharpies, like any other permanent marker pen, are non-toxic to the skin when used appropriately. On the other hand, when you expose your skin to a lot of Sharpie inks, it can cause minor skin irritation and some health risks.

These side effects are possible for those with sensitive skin conditions which are immunocompromised. It is still important for people who use Sharpie markers to avoid overusing them, especially in our bodies.

What Are the Sharpie Ink Ingredients?


There are chemicals found in nature and also made in the laboratory. Companies like Sharpies take safety seriously, which is why their markers are trusted by so many.

Sharpie’s ink is known as permachrome, which is made of alcohols and dyes. It also contains toxic and non-toxic chemicals from organic chemicals, oils, and resins to solvents.

To know more about Sharpie inks and how is Sharpie bad for your skin, here is the list of its ink ingredients:

  • Alcohol – This ink ingredient helps with the smell of markers. Other chemicals cause the marker to stink, but alcohol, such as ethanol, neutralizes it.

It is also one of the primary solvents in other inks, not just for markers. Other alcohols that are present in the Sharpie inks are propanol, diacetone, and butanol.

  • Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether – This chemical evaporates quickly and is also one of the principal solvents of markers. It is present in cleaning solvents and paints.

It is known to be present in Sharpie’s black ink, which helps with combining different pigments to create the black color. Also, irritates skin and eyes and is toxic when ingested.

  • Dye or pigment – This ingredient gives markers their color. Sharpies are composed of 49 light and dark-colored markers.

There are also special colors like silver, gold, and other unique colors of Sharpies. Besides that, there are dyes when in contact with the skin that causes irritation to some people.

It is best to avoid certain colors with dyes that you are allergic to so that they cannot trigger your skin conditions.

  • Resin or polymer – This substance is a binding agent that is applied to the ink. It helps to leave the ink on the surface once the solvent in ink evaporates.

That way, whatever you write on any material will remain, which can also be difficult to erase.

  • Xylene – This organic chemical is where the unpleasant smell of the markers came from. It is also commonly found in consumer products such as gasoline, paints, and adhesives.

This colorless mixture, Xylene, is useful for the process where it acts as a solvent. It helps with mixing compounds in paints that dissolve poorly in water.

Ingesting or breathing it in can be hazardous. When possible, use a Sharpie marker that does not have xylene to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

Which Types of Sharpies Are Safe on the Skin?


Generally, Sharpie Fine Point markers are non-toxic and xylene-free. It is harmless to use those markers on your skin in moderation.

Appropriate for external use only; do not consume, inhale, or taste. When it occurs, it might induce vomiting, headache, and nausea.

Other Sharpie markers, Magnum Sharpie, Touch-Up Sharpie, and King Size Sharpie, contain xylene. Some side effects of xylene long-term exposure may lead to permanent damage to your health.

Why Are Permanent Markers a Health Risk?

Since both toxic and non-toxic compounds are used to make permanent marker inks, prolonged exposure to them can be damaging. Depression, sleeplessness, hearing loss, difficulty focusing, and cognitive impairment are all potential side effects.

Also, a chronic solvent-induced encephalopathy condition is known as “organic solvent syndrome,” which is linked to xylene exposure. Using Sharpies excessively poses a risk of sharpie ink poisoning when you ingest and inhale the permanent marker, but not much when in contact with the skin.

Whether you intentionally put sharpie drawings on skin or not, Sharpies ink only penetrates the outermost layer of your skin. If you have sensitive skin, avoid putting it on your skin.

Read more: The easiest way to get Crayola marker off the skin.

Are Sharpie Tattoos Safe?


This is debatable. It could be fine for healthy people, but it may not be for those with pre-existing illnesses.

There are tattoo artists who still practice Sharpie drawing on skin. Usually, red markers have azo dyes, which can cause allergic reactions.

Before deciding to have a Sharpie tattoo, you should check out whether you have any sensitivities. The company Sharpie produces high-quality markers that are up to health standards, but they do not recommend putting their markers on your skin.

Can Sharpie Kill You?

No, it can’t kill you unless you use it other than its recommended use, such as for arts and crafts. Sharpie conducts quality assurance testing on its products to ensure they are risk-free for people to utilize.

However, it can be fatal if you ingest a Sharpie marker, which can clog your airways. Do not attempt to put the entire pen or its cap in your mouth.

Can Sharpie Cause Skin Cancer?

Putting Sharpie markers on your skin will not cause skin cancer. But it can probably trigger health issues that already exist in your body.

While the ingredients of Sharpie’s ink, such as xylene, alcohols, and dyes, can cause minor health issues, it won’t be enough for someone to acquire skin cancer. Health damages such as skin irritation, and allergies, when you expose yourself to too much permanent marker ink on your skin.

It is best to ask your doctor if you have been exposed to too much permanent marker inks. Especially if you have underlying health issues.


To answer the question: are Sharpies toxic on skin? One thing is sure, too much of something is dangerous. You should always use precaution while using any type of marker, even Sharpies.

Permanent markers only have minimal toxicity when you are exposed to small doses. On the other hand, permanent markers on skin’s dangerous only if you are exposed to high doses of it, and they can cause health issues.

Remember to keep Sharpie markers out of the reach of small children and use it responsibly.

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