Are Tattoos Safe for Skin? Consider These FDA Guidelines Before You Get Inked
You’re meeting up with a group of friends for a catch-up session over brunch. Chances are someone at the table will be tattooed. Tattoos are trending, and their popularity doesn’t look to be decreasing anytime soon. That said, the number of people reporting adverse reactions to tattoos isn’t really decreasing either. You may be satisfied with how your ink looks, but how about what it’s potentially doing to your skin? Before getting that fresh tat, you’ll want to give these guidelines, courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a read.
Tip #1: Learn About Safe Practices
Not all tattoo shops are created equal. If equipment isn’t sterile or unhygienic practices are used, an infection can result. It’s key to learn what safe, hygienic practices look like and to seek them out. When you’re doing something permanent to your body, it’s well worth the extra effort.
Tip #2: Be in the Know About Ink
Think about it, what do you really know about tattoo ink? You might be surprised to hear that the FDA has yet to approve any pigments for injection into the skin for cosmetic purposes. Published research reports that some inks contain pigments used in printer toner or in car paint. Yikes! In some cases, the problem may not be with the ink itself, but how it’s handled. Non-sterile water is sometimes used to dilute pigments, which can lead to ink that’s contaminated with bacteria or mold. When that’s injected into your skin (eek), no surprise, infections can occur.
Tip #3: Look Out for Negative Reactions
According to the FDA, a moderate reaction to a tattoo could present with a rash—redness or bumps—in the area of your tattoo, and/or a fever. More aggressive infections may cause high fever, shaking, chills, and sweats.
A rash could also signify an allergic reaction. Since tattoos are permanent, keep in mind that the reaction may persist. If you have any concerns about a reaction, the FDA instructs you to contact your health care professional immediately.
Tip #4: Tattoos Can Cause Scar Tissue
Piercings and tattoos are often lumped together in conversations about body art, and here’s another thing they have in common: scar tissue. Just like that piercing you let close up from high school (we’re talking to you, belly button), scar tissue can form when you get tattoos. Besides scar tissue, the FDA points out that you can also develop “granulomas,” which are small bumps that can form around material that the body perceives as foreign, like tattoo ink.
Tip #5: Don’t Do It Yourself
Some things are safe to DIY, like your latest home décor project or even your next hair color. Tattoos on the other hand, not so much. The FDA says that inks and kits sold as “do-it-yourself” to consumers have been associated with infections and allergic reactions. The FDA also expresses concern that consumers may not know how to control and avoid all sources of contamination. Leave it to a professional!
Tip #6: Not Everything is Known
The truth is, we have yet to know their long-term effects. Research is ongoing at the FDA and elsewhere, but there are still unanswered questions about the effects of pigments, other ingredients, and possible contaminants in tattoo ink. The FDA still receives reports of bad tattoo inks not only right after tattooing, but years later.
Tip #7: Be Vocal
If you have a problem with your tattoo, don’t keep it to yourself. The FDA confirms that your first move should always be to reach out to a health care professional to address any possible infections or reactions.
Once you have seeked professional help, you should notify the tattoo artist. That way, they can avoid using the same ink again. You can also request the brand, color, lot and batch number of the ink or diluent to help identify the source of the problem and how to address it.
Finally, contact the FDA. Provide them with detail about the ink, your reaction, and the outcome.
Tip #9: Don’t Rely on Removal
Never go into getting a tattoo thinking that if you aren’t happy, it can simply be removed. In reality, removing a tattoo isn’t so simple. The FDA reveals that tattoo removal can be a painstaking process and complete removal without scarring may just not be in the cards. That’s right, after multiple painful sessions, you can still be left with permanent scarring. The FDA also states that the short- or long-term consequences of breaking down pigments with laser treatment is still unknown. Just something to keep in mind!
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