Health Risks of Tattoos

The Health Risks of Tattoos

There are a number of different opinions when it comes to tattoos, but of course if you have decided to get a tattoo you don’t want to hear that they’re dangerous, but rather how you can avoid the dangers that are sometimes associated with tattoos. The first step is to understand why tattoos can be a risk to our health, and to understand that you need to understand the process used to create a tattoo.

Tattoos are created using a tattoo machine; a machine that pushes a needle back and forth rapidly to that it pieces the skin multiple times, quickly to create lines, while simultaneously pushing ink into these small piercings in order to leave permanent colour in the skin. This does of course cause some slight bleeding, and can be a painful process.

The Risks

Now – there are some rather obvious concerns relating to your health that you might have been worried about, but rather than worrying about what the risks are you should of course consider how you can avoid those.

Heavy Metals in Tattoo Ink

Actually – this isn’t true these days. Yes, it might have been reasonably common in the past, but these days the ink companies aren’t allowed to produce tattoo inks with heavy metals or harmful ingredients. All you have to do is select a licensed artist so you can be sure that they are using a licensed and authorised ink. This also means that you don’t have to worry about MRIs, because the inks are no longer magnetic.


There are two potential infections when it comes to a tattoo. An infection from the tattoo process, and an infection from the healing process. The more severe are the blood-borne infections that come during the tattooing process can be avoided by selecting a tattoo artist that maintains a hygienic and sterile environment for tattooing. A professional tattoo artist maintaining a high standard of hygiene would of course wear gloves during the tattooing process, and would be happy for you to take a look around the premises. Most will even explain to you a little about the equipment they’re using; whether it’s a sterile, single use needle or whether they prefer to sterilise their reusable needles. If you have any concerns you can ask them for more information, or you can find a different studio that you’re more confident about.

It is of course possible for the tattoo to become infected while healing. You can avoid this by carefully following the aftercare instructions – which means keeping the tattoo clean, moisturised and covered when in an environment that could potentially cause an infection. Should the tattoo become infected you can consult with your artist or a doctor – a qualified tattoo artist will have experience with infections and may be able to recommend an antibiotic, but depending on the severity of your infection you may need to consult a doctor.

Signs of an infection;

When it comes to the healing process of your tattoo you are of course going to be feeling a little bit anxious about the risk of infection, and any usual changes to the tattoo while healing can trigger a great deal of concern, however there are a number of ways that you can be a little more confident and certain as to whether you actually need to be worried or not.

  • Unusual amount of pain – usually a reasonably good indication that something isn’t quite right. This can be difficult to identify, as the area where the tattoo is healing will be a little sore and tender to the touch anyway, however if it becomes infected it may be more painful than you expected, or the pain may continue for longer than expected.
  • Inflammation – infections can cause a number of issues, one of which is very common around the source of the infection, which in the case of tattoos is similar to an open wound. There may be signs of redness and swelling around the tattoo, and it might feel much warmer to the touch than the rest of your skin. Allowing the inflammation to progress further may result in yellowish scabbing and puss in or around the tattoo.
  • Sickness – if an infection is allowed to progress for a considerable amount of time and your immune system is unable to tackle the infection then it may become an issue that causes fatigue, sickness, headaches and dizziness, depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection, the severity of the infection and the health of the individual


Not everyone is the same, and of course there may be something in tattoo ink that only some people react to, you might not know yet whether or not you are allergic, and it might only be certain inks. If you have any allergies that you’re aware of, or you have experienced sensitive skin previously, mention it to your tattoo artist. They may do an allergy test and rub a few different inks on your skin to see if you react to them. If you do react to an ink after a tattoo consult your doctor, the skin will most likely begin rejecting the ink it has a reaction to.
The general rule – always take the time and put in the effort to find and select a tattoo artist that can be trusted to offer a clean and safe experience and ensure you follow the aftercare instructions.


Of course one of the most important things to ensuring that your tattoo heals correctly is to ensure that you follow the right aftercare methods, and while your artist will talk you through their particular recommendations for aftercare there are some general rules to keep in mind.

  • Keep the tattoo clean – it is very important that the tattoo be kept clean as a fresh tattoo is essentially a fresh wound. Tattoo artists might differ on how frequently the tattoo is to be cleaned, however the main thing is to do so gently, hand washing with a mild soap, not something that contains fragrances or strong chemicals, and warm water.
  • Do not submerge the tattoo – water can be full of bacteria very easily, and while it doesn’t do you any harm ordinarily it can cause problems with a fresh wound, which means tattoos too. Avoid submerging the tattoo area in water, regardless of whether that’s a bath or the ocean, not only do you increase the risk of infection, but you can even cause the ink to fade.
  • Apply your ointment or cream – every tattoo artist has a different preference when it comes to the ointment or cream they suggest you use, and some are happy to supply you with their favourite. So long as you ensure you apply the cream or ointment frequently but in fairly small amounts you will help to ensure the skin stays hydrated and is able to heal that little bit faster. Many of the aftercare creams provided for tattoos also help to create a protective barrier that will help reduce the chances of infection, and can have a cooling, numbing effect to stop a fresh tattoo from feeling as sore.

Kate Critchlow is a young and enthusiastic writer with a particular interest in fitness and health, as well as being a lover of tattoos. As a result Kate writes about a variety of subjects, from understanding the tattoo process to keeping fit and healthy. You can visit her blog at

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