(Health Secrets) It is estimated that about ¼ of people under the age of 30 have at least one tattoo. Tattoos are part act of rebellion, part rite of passage but can they do any serious harm? Studies say yes. Before you go out and get inked, learn the hidden health risks of tattoos and how to avoid them.
Hidden Health Risks of Tattoos
- Allergic Reaction
The most common health risk associated with tattoos is allergic reaction. A common carrier solution called propylene glycol has been known to cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Within a few minutes to a few hours of getting a tattoo, you may notice itching, burning, rash, and blisters. When it comes to ink, both black and green pigments have been known to cause allergic reaction because they are metal-based. Red pigments made from mercury sulfide have also been strongly associated with severe allergic reaction.
- Skin Infection
Topical skin infections are another common health concern associated with tattoos. Staph infections, impetigo, cellulitis, mycobacterium, and viral warts may be noticed within days of receiving ink and may be difficult to treat due to growing antibiotic resistance.
While the FDA has never been able to directly link the development of melanoma to tattoos, many tattoo inks contain known carcinogens that might increase your risk. Also, if you get a large tattoo that goes over a mole, you might not notice the minute changes associated with this most deadly form of skin cancer. Being unaware of the changes taking place on your skin can leave you more vulnerable to developing metastatic disease.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be transferred during tattooing if the artist does not use fresh needles and ink. Because of this critical risk factor, blood banks and hospitals will not allow you to donate blood within 12 months of getting a tattoo.
If the tattoo artist does not use clean needles and fresh ink, you run the risk of contracting hepatitis C. Those with tattoos have a two-three fold increased risk of developing this viral disease. Symptoms usually appear anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months after infection. Since some people with hepatitis develop no symptoms, you could be a carrier, infecting others without realizing it.
Removing a Tattoo May be More Dangerous Than Getting One
When you get a tattoo, your body creates a protective barrier around the ink as it comes in contact with your skin. The pigment stays in a dense clump of skin that keeps any toxins in the ink from spreading to your lymph nodes and organs. However, if you change your mind about the tattoo and decide to have it removed, you greatly increase your risk of developing cancer.
According to the National Center for Toxicological Research, some tattoo pigments contain carcinogens. When they are removed using a laser, these pigments are blasted from their protective layer, which increases the spread of toxic molecules throughout your body 70-fold!
How to Reduce Your Risk of Adverse Tattoo Reaction
Just because there are some health risks associated with tattoos doesn’t mean you have to completely give up the idea of having one. There are a few things you can do to protect yourself. First and foremost, never get a tattoo spontaneously, especially if you’ve been drinking or using recreational drugs.
You may go to bed thinking you got this really awesome dragon tattoo only to wake up to find some lizard-moth hybrid on your arm. Not cool and now you’re stuck with it. Not only do spontaneous tattoos make for quick regrets, you won’t have enough time to inspect the tattoo parlor or the artist to be sure you’re safe from infection and disease.
Before you get your tattoo, get really clear about what you want. It’s best to start with a small tattoo and work your way up so you know how you’ll react to the ink. Once you have your design in mind, visit some local tattoo parlors and talk to the artists. Is the shop clean? Do the artists use gloves and sterilize their instruments? Is the tattoo artist certified? The more you know about the person who is about to put a permanent design on your body, the better.
If you’ve never gotten a tattoo before, ask if the artist would be willing to put a drop or two of ink on your skin in an inconspicuous place to test for a reaction. If you have light or sensitive skin, ask about hypoallergenic ink.
After you get your tattoo, treat it like a wound because that’s exactly what it is. Use antibiotic ointment as directed by the tattoo parlor and stay away from pools and hot tubs. You can also take some natural antibiotics such as oregano oil capsules or olive leaf extract for a couple of days to ward off infection.
Tattoos can be a fun way to express your creative side. If you’re thinking about getting one, take the necessary precautions and know what you want ahead of time. This will reduce your health risks and ensure that you have a design you can be proud to show off for life!