Most Commonly Asked Questions About Tattoo Safety

A Harris Poll from 2015 confirmed something we already knew, which is that tattoos are more popular than ever, with roughly 29% of people surveyed saying that they have at least 1 tattoo. With this popularity comes an increase in infections caused by contaminated ink or from a reaction to the ink. This is according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Reports of adverse reactions to tattoos have been flowing into the FDA, with a total of 363 coming between 2004 and 2016.

What is More Concerning? Unsafe Practices or the Tattoo Ink

You should probably be concerned about both. Unsafe practices include the use of equipment that has been improperly sterilized, with infections often coming from mold or bacteria on said instruments. Some tattoo shops also use non-sterile water to dilute the pigments, but that is one of many potential offenses.

There is no easy way to tell if an ink is safe to use. Contamination may still occur even when the container is sealed and marked as sterile.

What is Used to Make Tattoo Ink?

Research has revealed that pigments used in car paint or printer toner sometimes show up in tattoo ink. No pigments used for injection into the skin have been approved by the FDA.Consumers and healthcare providers are who commonly reports adverse reactions to the FDA, but they may also hear from state authorities who regulate tattoo shops.

What Reactions can be Expected after Getting a Tattoo?

Redness or a rash may be present in the area where you were tattooed, and you may also experience a fever.

If the infection is more severe, you may experience chills, shakes, sweats, and a very high fever. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection, and may take months of treatment. You may also find yourself in a hospital for surgery. All of this may be a sign of an allergy to the inks, and as they are permanently in your body, the reaction may continue unabated.

Is There the Potential for Scar Tissue after a Tattoo?

There is a definite chance of scar tissue forming, or perhaps small bumps or knots known as granulomas. The latter is a sign that your body views the ink as being a foreign object. People prone to keloids (scarring beyond normal boundaries) may also develop a reaction.

Can Tattoos make MRI’s Uncomfortable?

People who have had a tattoo sometimes complain about a swelling or a burning sensation when they have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), although these cases are rare and the symptoms short-lived. Make you MRI tech aware of your tattoos before the procedure.

Are DIY Tattoos and Ink Kits Safe?

DIY kits are perhaps the most unsafe way for consumers to get a tattoo. Allergic reactions and infections are common, simply because consumers may not be aware of all the things they need to do to avoid contamination.

Could There be Potential Long-Term Problems?

The FDA and other agencies are still researching the long-term effects that may come from pigments, contaminated inks, and other sources. The FDA has received reports of people experiencing issued shortly after being tattooed, as well as some from consumers who did not experience issues until years later. Tattoos that contain phenylenediamine (PPD) may lead to you becoming allergic to other products.

There are also potential issues involved with the removal of tattoos, as very little is known about the consequences of breaking down pigments via laser treatments. What is known is that permanent scarring can occur after the removal of a tattoo.

What’s the Next Step if you Get an Infection after being Tattooed?

The first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor.

Secondly, let your tattoo artist know about the infection, as it may be a sign that their ink is contaminated. Ask them to tell you the color, brand, and batch number of the ink, as getting to the source of the infection may help with treatment options.

The Permanent Removal of Tattoos is Not That Easy

Getting a tattoo should be considered a lifetime commitment, as getting tattoo removed after the fact is a long process that will likely leave you permanently scarred.


 

 

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Seven Important Questions to Consider When Getting a Tattoo

1. Has the FDA studied Tattoo Inks?

The FDA has limited information about tattoo inks. However, the FDA is examining tattoo inks and pigments to see if they contain heavy metals, contaminants, degradants, toxic chemicals like coating agents, microbicides and pH stabilizers, and other substances that may not be tolerable in the human body. For example, some reports claim tattoo ink has pigments that can be found in car paint and printer toner.

 2. Should I be concerned about a tattoo from a non-sterile needle or the actual ink?

Actually you should be concerned about both of them. It’s no surprised that people can get infections from non-sterile needles, but some people get infections from the ink itself because of contamination from invading mold and bacteria when the ink was made or while the ink was in the tattoo shop. When the ink itself is the culprit, it’s often due to using non-sterile water to dilute the ink (but it’s sometimes due to other reasons).

You can’t tell if ink is safe just by smelling it or looking at it. If the ink was improperly made from the manufacturer, it can be sealed or wrapped up and still be contaminated. So, you can’t just rely on a product label claiming it’s sterile when the ink could have gotten contaminated at any point in the making of it.

 3. What reactions are common (and not so common) after getting a tattoo?

Some people have a fever after getting a tattoo, and some people may get some type of rash that looks like red patches or bumps. If you have anything more serious than that, you may have to get an antibiotic treatment for the infection, or it may require hospitalization or surgery.  A more serious infection will entail shaking, chills, sweats and a high fever. Your doctor will determine if your infection is serious enough to require more extensive medical attention.

4. How should I handle getting a reaction or infection from my tattoo?

As stated in the answer to question three, it is recommended you contact your doctor (or another health care provider) to determine the severity of your reaction.

Also, make sure you let the tattoo artist know about your reaction to the ink. That way, the tattoo artist can remove the contaminated ink and prevent using it again. Also, you may be able to get detailed information about the ink that may shed light on how to treat the reaction to it.

5.  Is it safe to use those do-it-yourself tattoo inks and kits?

Unless you are a licensed tattoo artist, you might not have the right training to apply your own tattoo, which may leave you open to a high risk of contamination and infections. Also, there have been a lot of reports of allergic reactions to the inks and kits commonly found online.

6. Are there any long-term effects of having a tattoo?

The FDA and many other organizations are doing continuing research on the effects of tattoo art. However, many unanswered questions about tattoos are still not being addressed with the ongoing research. For example, most research going on today does not consider the long-term effects of the ingredients (including the contaminants) found in tattoo ink.

Another issue when considering the effect of tattoo pigments concerns what happens when the tattoo is removed via laser treatment. To date, research has shown that there is some scaring that occurs after tattoo removal, but other effects are yet to be verified.

7. What’s the bottom line?

Always consider the previously stated information before getting a tattoo. It does not matter about how advanced technology is because it still hurts and causes scarring to get a tattoo removed should you change your mind about keeping it.

Temporary Tattoos

Summer vacation is on the way.  Time to pack your swim suit, hit the beach, and perhaps indulge in a little harmless fun.  How about getting a temporary tattoo to mark the occasion? What’s the harm? Just because a tattoo is temporary, however, doesn’t mean it’s risk free. Some consumers report reactions that may be severe and long outlast the temporary tattoos themselves. The risk varies, depending on what’s in the ink.

Natural Tattoo Removal

Laser tattoo removal is very painful, more painful than getting a tattoo. People who go this route often say it feels like hot oil is being sprayed on the area. Tattoo removal does not have to be painful and many tattoo removers on the market can help get rid of tattoos in a pain-free way. Additionally, tattoo removal creams are far more cost efficient than laser tattoo removal which can cost thousands of dollars.

When looking for a tattoo removal cream, there are some key features to consider. First and foremost, it is important to know if it is safe to use. Tattoo removers should use ingredients that are safe and effective and lacking in side effects or adverse reactions. Another aspect of high quality tattoo removal creams is the use of Chromabright. Chromabright is an ingredient that has been proven to make tattoos fade away, it is also a very versatile ingredient in that it can be used risk-free on all skin types.

Removing Tattoos

That tattoo on your arm of a former flame—the one that seemed like a great idea years ago—is kind of embarrassing today. And your spouse is not too crazy about it either.

You may not know that FDA considers the inks used in tattoos to be cosmetics, and the agency takes action to protect consumers when safety issues arise related to the inks.

At the other end of the tattoo process, FDA also regulates laser devices used to remove tattoos.

FDA has cleared for marketing several types of lasers as light-based, prescription devices for tattoo lightening or removal. A Massachusetts company recently received FDA clearance to market its laser workstation for the removal of tattoos and benign skin lesions.

According to a poll conducted in January 2012 by pollster Harris Interactive, 1 in 8 (14%) of the 21% of American adults who have tattoos regret getting one. And the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) reports that in 2011, its doctors performed nearly 100,000 tattoo removal procedures, up from the 86,000 performed in 2010.

Unfortunately, removing a tattoo is not as simple as changing your mind.

Artists create tattoos by using an electrically powered machine that moves a needle up and down to inject ink into the skin, penetrating the epidermis, or outer layer, and depositing a drop of ink into the dermis, the second layer. The cells of the dermis are more stable compared with those of the epidermis, so the ink will mostly stay in place for a person’s lifetime. Tattoos are meant to be permanent.

An effective and safe way to remove tattoos is through laser surgery, performed by a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal, says FDA’s Mehmet Kosoglu, Ph.D., who reviews applications for marketing clearances of laser-devices.

With laser removal, pulses of high-intensity laser energy pass through the epidermis and are selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. The laser breaks the pigment into smaller particles, which may be metabolized or excreted by the body, or transported to and stored in lymph nodes or other tissues, Kosoglu explains.

The type of laser used to remove a tattoo depends on the tattoo’s pigment colors, he adds. Because every color of ink absorbs different wavelengths of light, multi-colored tattoos may require the use of multiple lasers. Lighter colors such as green, red, and yellow are the hardest colors to remove, while blue and black are the easiest.