tattoo on arm of two snakes twisting

How Safe Are Tattoos?


As of 2012, more than a fifth of the U.S. population has at least one tattoo. As tattoos become increasingly commonplace in today’s pop culture the negative health implications tend to be talked about less.

While shows like L.A. Ink and pictures of celebrities sporting various tattoos may make the process seem safe and regulated, in reality it is not.

Like any procedure, there are inherent risks with getting a tattoo. Infections such as hepatitis and HIV can be transmitted through needles both of which have devastating long-term consequences. In addition, scarring can occur on or around the area as well as granulomas which are small bumps that form under the skin. Scarring and granulomas can cause the tattoo and surrounding to look deformed or unpleasant.

While the main concerns surrounding tattoos used to be unsafe and unsanitary practices such as needle sharing and improper equipment cleaning, there has recently been a shift in thinking when looking at the potential side effects of tattoos. More recently, experts have been looking into the chemicals used in tattoo ink as well as the mental repercussions on a person’s health.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never conducted systematic studies on the ink used in tattoos and therefore can not regulate or implement standards regarding  the ink. To date, the FDA has not approved any pigment used in tattoos.

In addition to the potential for allergic reaction, many inks used in tattoos include known cancer causing agents. Glow-in-the-dark tattoo ink even include chemicals that risk radioactivity.

Tattoos also effect your mental state of mind. A study shows that more than 14 percent of people with tattoos regret getting them and five percent feel that their tattoo makes them less attractive. This feelings can lead to lowered self esteem and can be harmful to a person’s view of themselves and overall mental health.

The process of removing a tattoo can be extremely difficult, painful and expensive. It can also lead to skin pigmentation, and is not guaranteed to work. 

Clearly getting a tattoo is a decision that should be made over time and with full knowledge of all of the health risks and implications.

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