Effects of tattoos on the skin



Is tattoos unhealthy for the skin? Is it cancerous? Does it cause any negative effects on the skin? Can tattoos be removed after some time? Is tattoo really fashionable? What does each tattoo represent? Does tattoos designs have meaning? These are questions one keep on asking. As it stands now, almost everyone is tattooing. It one vanity trending everywhere. Tattoos are seen as being fashionable and worn by the wannabes.

Tattoos remain famous and people get them for many vanities reasons. But before you finally make the decision to “ink” your skin, it’s worth understanding all the potential risks. Let’s begin with how the skin works for the body.

What is the function of the skin on the body.

1. Protection of the body

  • Ultraviolet radiations e.g sun damage
  • Dehydration
  • Micro organisms
  • Mechanical trauma/ physical injuries

2. Sensation

It helps in transmitting to the brain information about the surroundings.

  • Pressure/ touch
  • Heat/cold
  • pain

3. It regulates body temperature.

  • Release sweat
  • Regulate blood flow

3. For Immunity

4. It enables movement and growth without injury.

5. Excretion from the body of certain types of waste materials such as water, urea, ammonia and uric acids.

6. Endocrine function; synthesis of vitamin D

To make a tattoo permanent, a tattoo artist punctures the skin with hundreds of needle pricks. Each prick delivers a deposit of ink into the dermis, the layer of skin that lies below the epidermis, which is populated with blood vessels and nerves.


Once the ink is inserted into the dermis, it doesn’t all stay put, research is finding. Some ink particles migrate through the lymphatic system and the bloodstream and are delivered to the lymph nodes. Research on mice suggests some particles of ink may also end up in the liver. Severe complications can arise if the devices used are poorly sterilized. And always ensure that the tattoo parlour is hygienic and clean.

My Experience

In 2016, I went to my hair stylist to fix my hair in the salon and fortunately, there was a segment within the saloon tagged as tattoo parlour. Suddenly, a lady walked in with her man. She wanted to do her nails, then her man saw the tattooist and cajoled his girl to do tattoo, without having a second thought she obliged. The tattoo guy came and she picked a design and the work commenced.

Surprisingly, I was just staring at the whole processes from the cleaning, sketching, to the design. Within few minutes, we heard a loud yell, every eyes turned to her direction, suddenly she began to cry, her man was persuading her, the tattooist was also doing same.

She opted out that the pain was too much and she can’t bear it no more, the tattooing was stopped. After so much persuasion she came back to finish what she started. That’s when I knew that it was painful. I believed she doesn’t know so much about getting a tattoo but gave in to her boyfriend’s request.

Tattooing implants permanent granules of pigment granules under the skin. Aside from the usual dangers (HIV and other blood-borne infections).

Tattoos Ink and Colours

According to an article in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, “classic pigments and their degradation products used in tattooing, such as dichromate (green), cobalt (blue), cadmium (yellow) and mercury salt (red)-based pigments are responsible for these kind of allergy reactions with permanent tattoos.”

Carbon black, which is one of the most common ingredients in tattoo inks, appears to break down readily into nanoparticles and end up in the lymph nodes, the study found. The team also looked at titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is a common ingredient in a white pigment usually combined with other colors to create certain shades. This type of ink does not appear to break down into particles as small as those found with carbon black,

What kind of reactions may occur after getting a tattoo?

More severe complications include a high fever, chills and sweats. You may need to treat an infection with the aid of antibiotics or have surgery. A rash could indicate an allergy to the ink – remember, tattoo inks are permanent, which means the reaction may persist.

See your doctor if you have any concerns about, or adverse reactions to tattoos. while people may spend time considering what design to have pierced onto their bodies, few may consider exactly what happens to the ink once it is injected under their skin. In fact, scientists are still investigating that question.

To be clear, most of the tattoo pigment stays put after a person gets a tattoo. The ink that’s not cleared away by special repair cells, called macrophages, stays in the dermis within trapped macrophages or skin cells called fibroblasts. It then shows through the skin, perhaps spelling out “Mom” or featuring that eagle design you spent weeks choosing.

But researchers are now taking a closer look at the tattoo ink that does travel to other parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes.

Case studies

In 2015 report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology described how doctors at first thought a woman’s cervical cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. After surgically removing the nodes, the doctors realized that what had appeared to be malignant cells were actually tattoo ink particles.

“I was very curious about the chemical side effect of tattoos,” Schreiver said. “I think people are aware that you can get skin infections from a tattoo, but I don’t think most are aware that there may also be risks from the ink.”

The ingredients within tattoo ink itself also remain largely unknown and under-regulated. A study from Denmark in 2011 found that 10 percent of unopened tattoo ink bottles tested were contaminated with bacteria. And that 1 in 5 tattoo inks contained carcinogenic chemicals.

Tattoo ink manufacturing in the United States is overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but as a cosmetic. As the FDA states, “because of other competing public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety problems specifically associated with these pigments, FDA traditionally has not exercised regulatory authority for color additives on the pigments used in tattoo inks.”

“People have tattooed their bodies for thousands of years. Clearly, they’re not going to stop,” Ortiz said. “So, we need more testing on both the tattooing process and the ink to know potential reactions in the skin so we can optimize the safety of tattoos.

But it is worth it to think and have a rethink, before getting a tattoo. “Tattoos have become an almost integral part of the millennial culture, but many people don’t do all their homework before sitting under that needle.

“Studies are currently still looking into more long-term health effects of tattoos and the inks themselves.” And research may reveal some interesting info, in the coming years. But since so many people get tattoos, and have a great experiences doing so.

Here are a few interesting ways experts say a tattoo can affect you, as well as how the process might make you feel.

1. Skin Reactions, Rashes & Bumps.

Our skin reacts differently, but if you notice a skin reaction that’s causing little bumps in your tattoo, it may be due to infection called sarcoidosis. “Sarcoidosis is a multi-system disease that can effect almost any organ system but commonly manifests in the lungs.”

“It can appear in tattoos as small bumps that typically stay within the boundaries of the tattoo. It can be treated, but difficult to cure. This can occur at any point in time after the tattoo is placed.”

2. Allergic Reactions to Red Inks

Some persons experience allergies to the ink in their tattoo, which can happen with more traditional black inks. But if you’re going for something a bit more colorful, you may be more likely to run into a skin problem.

“Reports have found that most allergic reactions are connected to the use of colored inks,” Hoff says, with red being the one most common culprit. “These allergic reactions can reoccur even after the tattoo is healed.” So if you notice some itchiness or swelling, it advisable you see a doctor.

3. Burning or Swelling When Getting an MRI Test

Honestly, some people experience burning sensations and swelling on their tattoos when getting an MRI test, Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert with Maple Holistics, says. “Furthermore, tattoos and permanent makeup have been found to obstruct the quality of the imaging process.” If you need to get this test, your doctor will find a way around it. But it’s definitely something to consider. A tattoo may lead to complications during medical procedures

A case study

You’re probably not thinking about MRIs when you’re having a tattoo done but studies show that metal-based ink tattoos can react with magnetic resonance imaging studies.

An article in the American Journal of Roentgenology reports a man who received second-degree skin burns in two tattoos while having a cervical spine MRI. He complained of a burning sensation on his arm – his tattooed skin was raised and swollen. In another case, a professional football player sustained a burn on a tattoo following an MRI of his pelvis.

4. Bacterial Infections

Something to be think about when choosing your tattoo shop are their cleaning practices — especially since it’s so easy to get an infection.

Whenever a needle is introduced into the skin there is risk of introducing with it bacteria or more rarely, micobacteria,” Dr. Greenfield says. “This infection can be treated.” But it’s still a good idea to choose a clean tattoo shop, and follow all healing protocols, to lower your risk.

skin and soft tissue infections can be caused by community-acquired methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA); treponema pallidum can cause syphilis; and Mycobacterium leprae which causes leprosy.

5. Pet Infections

After getting a tattoo, it is advisable to refrain from pet in your home. During this time the skin is still trying to heal. “It only takes one single tiny little hair to sneak under the wrapping, or your dog licking your tattoo and you can develop an infection,” tattoo expert Johan.

If you start to feel significant heat, redness, or tenderness, you may have developed an infection, or if you start to feel unwell or gain a fever or see pus come up in the area of the tattoo, these can be typical signs of an infection.

“If a tattoo is treated with care and based on real knowledge, then the risk of getting an infected tattoo is at an absolute minimal.”

6. Blood Borne Diseases

In more extreme cases, it’s possible to get a blood borne diseases like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis B and hepatitis C. This can happen if the equipment used for your tattoo is infected with contaminated blood. But, as Hoff says, “Finding a reputable, licensed, clean establishment can reduce your risk of these dangerous side effects.”

7. Skin Cancer

While this isn’t as likely with smaller tattoos, large ones — like full arm sleeves — can make it difficult for dermatologists to “detect skin color changes, especially in moles … which means it is more difficult to detect skin cancer,” Dr. Greenfield says. “Ask your board-certified dermatologist if you are at high risk for skin cancer,” and if you are, discuss whether or not a large tattoo would be a good idea for you.

8.  More Endorphins are Released

After getting a tattoos, there is the healing process, but the process of getting tattooed can actually release endorphins in your brain, due to the sensation caused by the needle. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relievers.” says, Lisa Barretta, author of Conscious Ink. “These chemicals come directly from the brain, flooding your body. Endorphins are ‘feel-good’ chemicals and help us realize on some level that we are more resilient to pain than we think.”

9. It could affect how you sweat

Tattoos implant on your skin, may interfere with how your skin sweats – compared with non-inked skin, tattooed skin releases about 50% less sweat.

“We also found the sodium in sweat was more concentrated when released from tattooed skin,” Maurie Luetkemeier, a professor of physiology at Alma College in Michigan, said. Your skin usually reabsorbs sodium and electrolytes released during perspiration, but he says tattoos may partially block this reabsorption.

It won’t really matter if you have a single small tattoo but if you have a large tattoo – particularly on your back, arms or other areas with many sweat glands – your body may struggle to cool itself down and hold onto nutrients.

10. Job Denial

There are certain jobs that prohibited tattoos. Some jobs do not allow their employees with pierced body such as tattoos on the skin. For example, the military.

knowing all the possible side effects of tattoos ,whether they’re physical, emotional, or otherwise. You can go into your appointment feeling more prepared. And, when it’s comes to putting something permanent on your body, that’s never a bad thing.



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