Tattoos: Think Before You Ink

Most people think of their body as a blank canvas in need of decoration. ‘Tattoos’ have come from the western world and gained a lot of fame because many celebrities, athletes, and people in the fashion industry get it done.

You can get a tattoo inked in your body in a matter of hours, but you need to think before you ink. It is permanent body art, and so you need to have complete knowledge about its potential health benefits and risks.

But, Are They Safe?

The tattoos have become renowned, but the rules of the industry haven’t. You would be amazed to know that the federal government does not govern the tattoo-ink. Surveillance of tattoo artists and parlors at the local and state level is not regular.

Some cities and states are putting restrictions to some extent, but not all tattoo stores require to be licensed or tattoo artists to be certified. So, we are unable to ensure that they always make use of clean and fresh needles.

Some dermatologists say, “many people visit our clinics with bad allergic reactions.” In tattooing, you’re introducing a foreign substance into your body that may cause several health risks.

Read the full blog and get to know why tattooing can be dangerous for your health.

How Are Tattoos Done?

Tattoos are the permanent design or mark made on the skin by inserting pigments through pricks into the top layer of the skin. The tattoo artist uses a hand-held machine, which resembles much with the sewing machine. It consists of more than one needle that pierces on the surface continuously. The tiny ink droplets get inserted into the skin with every puncture made on the skin.

The whole process is done without anesthesia and can cause slight bleeding and pain.

Know The Health Risks

Read the health risks associated with tattooing, before you decide to be a part of the contemporary world of tattoos.

1. Allergic Reactions

It’s normal to have an allergic reaction after getting tattooed or inked. But these allergies can go beyond just the simple skin reaction. The skin can itch, swell, or even become filled with pus.

If you’re allergic to perfume, lotion, and other makeup products, you can have a similar allergic reaction in tattooing as well.

Some people have a misconception that tattoos comprise harmless paint or ink. But, the truth is entirely different.

The ink of the tattoo is filled with many harmful chemicals and unnatural ingredients, which can harm or irritate your skin. So, if you frequently have allergic reactions or chemicals, please check with your dermatologist or allergist before getting a tattoo on your body.

How To Detect An Allergy?

The severity of allergic reactions varies from person to person. Mild allergic reactions can cause the following symptoms:

  • Itching
  • rashes or bumps
  • redness or irritation
  • skin flaking
  • swelling or fluid build-up around tattoo ink
  • scaly skin around the tattoo
  • skin tags or nodules

When the reactions become severe, it may affect your entire body. Consult a doctor if you start experiencing the following things:

  • Fever
  • Chills, or hot splashes
  • Hard, bumpy tissue
  • Intense pain or burning sensation around the tattooed-region
  • Pus oozing from the site

The answer is, ‘No.’ Your allergy can arise out of many factors, including a skin condition, an immune system response, or an excessive exposure to light or other allergens.

What Are The Types Of Allergic Reactions?

  • Dermatitis: You may develop the symptoms of contact dermatitis if you’re allergic to the ink itself. The symptoms include itching, swelling, and flaking. One important thing to note is that dermatitis is usually associated with red ink.

  • Photosensitivity: The constituents in individual inks can quickly react with bright lights or sunlight. You can have some symptoms such as redness, swelling, and itchy bumps. The common culprits for such reactions are black, yellow, red, and blue inks.

  • Acute Inflammatory Allergic Reaction: You may not be allergic to the ink, but you can still get an allergic response. It is due to the process of tattooing that leaves your skin irritated.

Granulomas: Following ink, the ingredients can also cause you red bumps or granulomas:

  • Iron oxides
  • Mercury salts
  • Manganese
  • Cobalt chloride

Red ink is the main culprit of granulomas, like in the case of dermatitis. 

  • Lichenoid Allergic Reaction: You can identify this reaction with the small, discolored bumps over the region where ink was injected. The skin is generally not itchy or irritated but can extend beyond the area where the ink was inserted.

Lichenoid allergic reaction also happens because of the red inks. 

  • Pseudolymphomatous allergic reaction: There will be no visible symptoms just after the tattooing process. The symptoms include rashes, irritation, and red skin bumps over the site.

It usually happens as a response to red inks and may take several months to develop. 

2. Cancer

Do tattoos cause skin cancer? It has been a topic of controversy among researchers for several years. Although there is no direct link between tattooing and skin cancer, some constituents of tattoo-ink may lead to cancer.

In regards to cancer – black ink is the main culprit. 

Do you know why black ink is harmful? It’s because of the high levels of benzo(a)pyrene contained in it. IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) enumerates black ink as a carcinogen. Most researchers and health officials are worried as black ink is widely used for tattooing purposes all across the world, and it’s, in fact, the most loved and preferred color.

Researchers are also concerned about the growing trend of ‘Blackout Tattoo Technique.’ It involves covering up large portions of your body in thick, heavy solid black ink.

The ink of these tattoos are not the only concern; people are even worried about the way they cover up your body. Slight changes in skin pigmentation may be an indication of skin cancer. Blackout tattoos make it very difficult to recognize the changes in the pigmentation. For this reason, avoid getting them over your birthmarks, pre-existing moles, or other similar skin abnormalities or discoloration.

Another reason for concern is that tattoos fade with time. It is particularly true in the case of blackout tattoos, which begins to break out more rapidly. The fading of tattoos releases many cancer-causing compounds and hence can be harmful to health.

Also Read: Skin care myths you should never believe

3. Hepatitis

Hepatitis is one of the biggest concerns while it comes to tattooing. Hepatitis is spread between individuals when they share common needles.

While tattooing, the tattoo artist will make several piercings on your body and insert ink over there. The bigger the tattoo, the more piercings you’ll have. And the more the piercings, the more the needle will come into contact with your bloodstream.

You can eliminate this particular concern by ensuring that your tattoo artist is using a brand new needle. The new needle means that it has never come into contact with any virus or an infected person.

If the needle has already been utilized with someone with a bacterial or viral infection, the chances are high that the microbes can transmit to your blood as well.

How To Protect Yourself?

  • Is the tattoo parlor Authenticated? Choose a tattoo parlor that is licensed and has certified tattoo artists.

  • Does the tattoo artist wash his hands before starting the procedure? Although the artists generally wear gloves, you need to ensure that they are washing their hands before and after the process. Also, make sure that they are putting on a clean and fresh pair of gloves every time.

  • Is the device sterilized? Being clean and being sterilized are two different things. When we wipe a cloth over a surface, the surface may appear clean. But, it can still be infectious. Sterilization is a process by which surfaces are disinfected with heat, viruses, killing bacteria, or certain chemicals.

4. MRI Complications

From allergic reactions to infectious diseases, tattoos can cause several side effects. One of the most overlooked safety hazards in this regard is MRI-related complications.

MRI test involves locating tumors in the body utilizing a strong magnetic field. The red tattoo ink contains a dye which is magnetic and is prone to magnetic fields used in MRI.

How To Take Proper Care Off Your Tattoo?

If you still want to get a tattoo even after knowing their potential risks, consider the following points, and take good care of your tattoo.

  • Keep the tattooed skin always clean: Make use of gentle soap and water and clean the tattooed region with a soft touch. While showering, don’t allow the direct steam to apply on the tattoo. Then, pat the area dry, DON’T RUB.

  • Use a gentle moisturizer: You need to apply a gentle moisturizer several times a day on the newly tattooed region.

  • Avoid excessive sun exposure: For a couple of weeks, avoid excessive sun exposure over the site.

  • Choose the appropriate type of clothing: Avoid wearing clothes that may adhere to the tattoo.

  • Avoid swimming: Stay away from hot tubs, pools, lakes, and rivers, and all other water bodies, while your tattoo is healing.

  • Give about two weeks healing time: Don’t pick at any itches as it can elevate the risk of infection and can damage the design of your tattoo and give rise to scarring.


Tags: Are tattoos safe, Information about tattoos, Can tattoos cause cancer

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.