About Tattoo Dangers & Side Effects

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Make sure your tattoo artist wears protective gloves.
Make sure your tattoo artist wears protective gloves. (Image: Tattoo man image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com)

After a visit to a tattoo parlor, hopefully you will end up with a beautiful piece of body art that will last a lifetime. However, several complications can occur after the tattoo is finished. You will be better able to decide whether you want a tattoo for yourself if you know about the tattooing process and its dangers. If you do want a tattoo, there are ways to reduce the risk of dangerous side effects.

Function

Before you know the effects tattoos can have on your skin and body, you should first know how tattoos are created. Your tattoo artist will use an electric tattoo machine that uses several small disposable needles to inject ink into the dermis, the lower layer of your skin. Unlike the epidermis (upper layer of skin), the dermis doesn't flake away, so the ink permanently remains in the skin. This is why tattoos are so difficult to remove.

Warning

Tattoos can cause skin problems such as granulomas (red bumps caused by inflammation) and keloid scars, and they can provoke allergic reactions, making skin itch and break out. These allergic reactions can occur with no warning, years after you get your tattoo. Getting a tattoo also puts you in danger of getting diseases such as AIDS, tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C (although you can reduce your risk by selecting a good tattoo parlor). In addition to these health problems, tattoos can cause a hassle at the doctor's office. Don't tattoo over a mole, as this makes it harder to detect cancerous growth. If you get an MRI scan on a tattooed part of your body, you may experience swelling or burning, although these effects aren't permanent.

Prevention/Solution

You can significantly reduce your risk of contracting a disease or developing a skin infection by using a tattoo parlor that follows proper sterilization procedures. Check that the tattoo parlor is licensed by the local or state health department. In addition, ask whether the tattoo parlor uses disposable needles and tubes and throws away used pigments and trays. A tattoo parlor should have an autoclave (a machine that sterilizes nondisposable tools), and surfaces such as tables should be wiped down with disinfectant. The tattoo artist should wash his hands with antibacterial soap and wear latex gloves. After you get your tattoo, your tattoo artist should give you a list of instructions on how to take care of your new tattoo. Follow these instructions to prevent infection and color loss.

Considerations

Even if you experience no side effects, your tattoo will still be a permanent part of your appearance. If you get tired of it, you'll have to go through the process of tattoo removal, which is costly and painful. It can also leave scars behind where the tattoo used to be. Changes in your appearance can also change the way your tattoo looks. If you gain weight, stretch marks can ruin your tattoo. Women planning on pregnancy should avoid getting tattoos on the stomach or breasts.

Potential

If you want a tattoo now but not forever, there may be hope on the horizon. Scientists have developed biodegradable tattoo inks that are easier to remove than traditional tattoos. Infinitink (see Resources) is contained inside a tiny plastic bead. When a tattoo-removing laser hits the bead, the ink is instantly blasted away, eliminating the need for several rounds of removal treatment. However, Infinitink is more expensive than regular tattoo ink and therefore isn't commonly used.

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