Decided to get a tattoo? Great! We want to help you have the safest experience possible. In this article we’ll cover the biggest risks associated with tattooing, and how you can better avoid them.
Tattoos are created by a needle that pierces the top layer of skin while leaving behind a small amount of ink. This happens thousands of times during a tattoo session. Each tiny puncture is a wound, and together these tiny wounds can be considered a single large wound spanning the entire tattoo.
Whenever your body is wounded you run the risk of adverse affects, and tattoos are not an exception!
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) covers these risks thoroughly in their article:
What are the Risks
Infection – Dirty needles can pass infections, like hepatitis and HIV, from one person to another.
Allergies – Allergies to various ink pigments in both permanent and temporary tattoos have been reported and can cause problems.
Scarring – Unwanted scar tissue may form when getting or removing a tattoo.
Granulomas – These small knots or bumps may form around material that the body perceives as foreign, such as particles of tattoo pigment.
MRI complications – People may have swelling or burning in the tattoo when they have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This happens rarely and does not last long.
Fortunately most of these risks can almost be completely avoided with some diligence and research.
The most important factor in our eyes, is the artist. An artist who does not skimp on safety for their clients is the most valuable asset when defending against infection with blood-borne diseases like HIV, and Hepatitis. A good artist will reduce your risk of blood-borne diseases to almost zero.
Unfortunately artists have to follow different regulations across the United States because of the lack of standard nationwide regulations. This means it’s harder for you, the customer, to determine if a tattoo artist practices their art safely enough. The tattoo artist will have to follow the local laws and regulations, which may be more or less strict than other locations, and some artists will only follow the bare minimum requirement.
Liesa Goins on WebMD explains how safety regulations for tattoos are determined by local entities:
Tattoos: No Safety Regulations
Are tattoos safe? The FDA regulates the inks in tattoos, but the actual practice of tattooing is regulated by local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties. That means there is no standardized certification for those doing the tattooing or an overall governing body supervising the health and safety of tattoo parlors.
This makes it a little tricky to determine if an artist is using enough precaution when tattooing. Local regulation may only require some precautions be taken, while their could be much more the artist could be doing to keep you safe, but they have decided not to because they’re not required to.
An artist who truly cares about their clients well-being will go above and beyond local regulation, and do everything in their power to keep you safe.
Lou Rubino made a very good video of what an artist should be doing to keep you safe, regardless of what local regulation says:
What you should expect from your artist
Remember: In the United States there is no standard nationwide regulation, so things may be slightly different depending on your location. As for people outside of The United States, this is still a good example of safe tattooing, but you should look up your local regulations and make sure they are followed by your artist.
Watch the video on youtube and read the comments…
With a professional like Lou Rubino the risk of being infected with a blood-borne disease should be nearly zero! Remember the artist and their working environment is the single most important barrier for blood-borne disease to overcome. If you decide to get a back alley tattoo from some guy you met in a bar who says he can give you the sickest tattoo with his rusty equipment, the risk of blood-borne disease increases dramatically. So make sure you visit a professional!
Once your tattoo is completed, the artist’s job, for the most part, is done.
This is where aftercare comes in, remember, a tattoo is a wound and should be treated as such until it is healed. The artist should have given you some aftercare instructions and may have suggested some creams to put on the tattoo. These instructions should be followed and you can call the artist if you have any questions about the healing progress of your tattoo.
Being diligent with aftercare is what is going to protect your tattoo from infections, scarring, and abnormal healing. If you don’t take good care of your tattoo during the healing phase, you could be damaging your artwork, and could be putting your health at risk.
If you think your tattoo is infected or something else is going wrong, visit a Doctor! Do not count on your artist to be able to give you medically correct advice when things are going wrong, you could be putting your life in danger! The only medical advice you should follow from the artist is the initial aftercare instructions. If things go south it’s time for a Doctor visit.
Just in case you don’t get aftercare instructions from your artist. Mayoclinic has a great checklist for tattoo aftercare:
Take good care of your tattoo
How you care for your new tattoo depends on the type and extent of work done. Typically, however, you’ll need to:
Remove the bandage after 24 hours. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the tattooed skin while it’s healing.
Keep the tattooed skin clean. Use plain soap and water and a gentle touch. While showering, avoid direct streams of water on the newly tattooed skin. Pat — don’t rub — the area dry.
Use moisturizer. Apply a mild moisturizer to the tattooed skin several times a day.
Avoid sun exposure. Keep the tattooed area out of the sun for at least a few weeks.
Avoid swimming. Stay out of pools, hot tubs, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water while your piercing is healing.
Choose clothing carefully. Don’t wear anything that might stick to the tattoo.
Allow up to 2 weeks for healing. Don’t pick at any scabs, which increases the risk of infection and can damage the design and cause scarring.
If you think your tattoo might be infected or you’re concerned that your tattoo isn’t healing properly, contact your doctor. If you’re interested in tattoo removal, ask your dermatologist about laser surgery or other options for tattoo removal.
Following this checklist should set you up for a smooth healing process. Remember if something goes wrong visit a doc.
Even though they are rare we haven’t covered allergies yet, so we will glance over that now.
An allergy is hard to protect against, it’s either going to happen or it isn’t. The only exception is when you have had a reaction before, and you know what triggered it, and can actively avoid the trigger. If you think you’re having an allergic reaction speak up to your artist, so they can stop the tattoo. Visit a Doctor for advice if you have a reaction. If you are someone who is prone to allergic reactions, take the proper steps with the help of your Doctor to counteract a reaction if it does happen when receiving a tattoo.
MRI machines and tattoos
People often worry about MRIs if they have a tattoo. It shouldn’t be a problem and you shouldn’t avoid an MRI because you have a tattoo. Most Doctors will ask you if you have a tattoo before putting you into a MRI machine so they can take the proper precautions. If they don’t ask you (they should be asking you it is procedure), speak up and tell them.
In this article we have covered the major risks associated with tattooing and how to avoid them. We hope this helps you get a a great tattoo safely! We encourage you to do further research before getting a tattoo, this article is for information purposes, and any medical concerns you have should be consulted with a Doctor.