Disclaimer: To state the obvious (because those are the times we live in) — I am not a doctor, which means I probably legally need to tell you this is my opinion based on information gathered and hundreds of tattoo sessions. Okay, now we can continue.
Are tattoos safe?
Going to start by saying it’s a procedure that causes inflammation and damages the skin. On a positive note, your skin heals (length of time determined by lifestyle choices). There is always a risk for infection with injection, which is another reason to choose a competent artist. The main risk for infection, in my opinion, comes after the procedure when the fresh tat is out in the wild. Personal health and habits determine how well you and your immune system can mitigate those risks. (Currently writing a comprehensive health/healing article).
With many tattoos (especially large) some minor infections do occur—areas of redness, dry/flaky skin, and occasionally some scabbing. Some tattoos heal without any of that. Again, your personal health/habits and the area where the tattoo was done determines this. If there is major scabbing, redness, puss, bubbles on the skin that would qualify as a major infection and you should seek out a medical professional. Resist your inner hypochondriac, but use common sense.
There is stress, but a different kind stress. It wakes up your endocrine system and produces cortisol – it’s stressful for you body to be jabbed thousands of times by needles and injected with a foreign substance, but some say certain aspects of the “stress” are good for you.
Another area of health recently picking up steam is the topic of hormesis. In short, during a certain physical stressors can produce a beneficial immune response that outweighs the initial inflammatory response over time. And theoretically, over multiple sessions, would strengthen your immune system. Are there numerous studies from which to compare? No, of course not. Tattooing isn’t center stage of the health crisis currently, but there is some information out there. I’m sure more to come. Here is an interesting article on the topic.
Do not confuse or relate this to current vaccine usage and mechanisms. It’s a different story/discussion for a different time. :)
I personally believe getting a tattoo is a spiritual experience. Sometimes you need to feel pain to release it. It's a challenge to overcome. It's a challenge to realize and accept your body, at the deepest levels, truly is separate from your mind. I love it. I love the feeling, I love the healing, and I love the art of it all. I love people free enough to express themselves and allowing me to help them do so.
The true deciding factor of long term health after a tattoo is the brand of the foreign substance (ink) being used.
Cheap inks, that are not independently tested, can contain toxic metallic pigments such as barium, copper, nickel & mercury, and other carcinogens like PET plastics and acrylics. Which is what most articles focus on to scare you away from the industry.
I use Eternal Ink. An independently tested, natural, sterile, vegan tattoo ink. No animal by products, no heavy metals, no toxic ingredients. In my eyes, this allows the body to more readily accept the foreign substance because of the natural ingredients, and mitigates the risk of additional flare ups and allergies that would appear over time if other, low-quality brands had been used.
This is the brand I trust most (Intenze & Kuro Sumi are great also). Will tattoo inks advance even more as time progresses? Yes, I'm sure they will.
Click here for a summary of what makes tattoo ink safe, and which brands you can trust.
My closing statement on the matter. Tattooing is a (semi) permanent procedure, introduces a foreign substance to the body, every person’s immune response is different, and there are no definitive long term studies on the health of the tattooed vs a control. My current opinion is that modern tattoo inks are much safer than most cosmetic and cleaning products we use today, but the artist and the aftercare are major factors as well. Do your research, plan it out, enjoy the art—or don’t!
Have a great day!
Here are some other helpful inks to give you opinions on both sides of the isle.
Best general explanation of the process I could find.
SDS & CTL sheets on the Eternal Ink’s products.
The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) was introduced on December 1, 2015 as an international replacement for the MSDS sheet. Because the SDS provides additional categories to present our product, and because Eternal Ink is distributed worldwide, we prefer the expanded format of the SDS. The SDS is organized into 16 categories to describe a product’s physical and chemical characteristics. Our SDS provides an unfiltered view of our tattoo ink and addresses important issues which may include: ingredients, reactivity, health hazard data, and precautions for safe handling and use.
CTL Gmbh is a Chemical-Technological Laboratory based in Bielefeld, Germany. Internationally recognized as the industry leader in the analysis of tattoo inks, CTL Gmbh provides the thorough testing and evaluation of our entire Eternal Ink product line. At the CTL Gmbh laboratory each Eternal Ink product is submitted to a rigorous 5-part battery of tests and chemical analysis. The intricately detailed results are measured in parts-per-million (ppm) and charted by chemical attributes.
Great summary of safe brands and their ingredients.
Hormesis & Tattooing?
Additional explanations on hormesis
This is why your artist matters. Cheap tattoos can have consequences.
Again – this article (below) is based entirely on using the toxic ink brands/types containing heavy metals that I do NOT recommend be used. Be diligent when choosing an artist, you have the right to ask the type of ink (and any other equipment) they are using. Are these scenarios possible? Of course. Which is why you should go to a competent artist.
This last article (below) is a true LOL. A great example of a fear porn piece that is aiming to control your decision while presenting it as thoughtful concern. It lists no ink brands and is focuses all conversation on cheap, toxic brands that will most certainly cause harm (e.g. ‘1 in 5 tattoo inks contain carcinogenic chemicals’).
Its like food. A carcinogen filled fast food burger and an organic apple are both considered food (sad reality of the times we live in)—but guess which one causes the damage? The cherry on the top is the bottom of the article “A Youthful Decision With Adult Implications”.