April 26, 2021
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, you’re in good company — about 30 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. While tattoos are a popular way to decorate your body and express yourself, there are some safety concerns and precautions that should be carefully considered before getting one.
Here are the top five safety tips for getting your next tattoo:
The biggest health risks related to getting a tattoo involve infections, including the possibility of HIV or hepatitis. A tattoo should only be done using clean tools and hygienic practices in a reputable facility. You should give careful thought to who you select for a tattoo, and that means more than just considering the artist’s abilities. Assess your tattoo parlor of choice for its cleanliness, certifications, and reputation.
There is no FDA-approved tattoo ink. Some inks may be diluted with non-sterile water, and others may contain pigments from printer toner or car paint. It’s possible to both develop infections and allergic reactions from tattoo ink even in an otherwise clean tattoo parlor. Be sure to monitor your skin carefully to see if you have any allergic reactions.
There are an increasing number of “do it yourself” tattoo kits available, and other home methods suggested online. Trying to do a tattoo yourself is much more likely to result in contamination. If you’re going to add a permanent fixture to your body, it’s more than worth the cost of paying a professional to do it for you.
Make sure to follow the care instructions from your artist. Scar tissue can form after getting a tattoo—people who tend to get keloids (scars that grow beyond normal boundaries) can have the same reaction to a tattoo. Care instructions will help promote healing, reduce scarring, and ensure you notice (and report) any reaction.
While rare, some people report long-term health effects from their tattoos. Getting an MRI can result in swelling or burning around a tattoo. Depending on the ingredients in the tattoo ink, certain hair dyes and other irritants may cause a form of eczema called contact dermatitis when they come into contact with your skin.
A final, bonus tip: think before you ink. Yes, a tattoo can be removed, but it’s a painstaking, costly process that involves lasers or dermabrasion. One in eight Americans who get a tattoo end up regretting it, so before you make an appointment at your local tattoo parlor, think long and hard about what you’re about to put onto your body—and how long you’ll want it there.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.