Ultrathin serial sections of human biopsy specimens, taken at 24 hours, 1 month, and 1, 3, and 40 years post-tattooing were examined under the electron microscope. The ink particles found in cells were measured and compared with control ink particles embedded in agar. Freshly tattooed skin showed an inflammatory reaction followed by ultrastructural necrosis. The time of healing, about 1 month from introduction of ink to complete healing, has been divided into three phases: inflammatory reaction and necrosis, formation of basement membrane, and normal epidermis and dermis. Once the skin showed normal ultrastructure, ink particles were found only in dermal fibroblasts.