Your Tattoo May Be Poisoning You, According To Research

Despite how beautiful tattoos can be, they're actually deadly.

tattooed woman laying in water Artem Markin | Shutterstock

Tattoos are a great way to express yourself and stand out. Science even says that tattooed men can make great husbands. But there still are negatives to getting them, like always getting a lecture from grandma about how bad they are.

Tattoos can also negatively affect your health, but how many people have tattoos anyway? According to a study, about 1 in 3 Americans have a tattoo nowadays. 

According to research, your tattoo may be poisoning you.

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A study published in NYU Langone Medical Center looked at 300 New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 69, with a majority of them having no more than five tattoos, who experienced a rash, itching, or swelling that lasted anywhere from four months to several years after getting a tattoo.

The study found that even if your tattoo artist makes sure the tools used are clean, your health could still be at risk.

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"The skin is a highly immune-sensitive organ, and the long-term consequences of repeatedly testing the body's immune system with injected dyes and colored inks are poorly understood," explains Marie C. Leger, MD, PhD, study lead, and assistant professor at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology. "Some of the reactions appear to be an immune response, yet we do not know who is most likely to have an immune reaction to a tattoo."


Another thing that was revealed from the study was that similar types of short-term complications, including delayed healing, pain, swelling, and getting an infection within weeks of getting tattooed, occur in as many as 10 percent of people. In addition, the data showed that despite having these kinds of complications, only a third of those received medical advice or help. Instead of going to the emergency room, Leger notes, other studies have shown that many go back to the tattoo parlor for advice instead. 

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Where did the more long-lasting complications occur? Most of those occurred in skin regions injected with either red or black ink, the two most common tattoo ink colors. Almost half, 44 percent, of chronic reactions were to red ink, even though only slightly more than a third, 36 percent, had tattoos with red ink. One-third of chronic cases involved black ink, while over 90 percent of tattoos encompass black coloring.

So, if your body doesn't get along with the ink or is worn down by it, be prepared for things to backfire. "Given the growing popularity of tattoos," says Leger, "physicians, public health officials, and consumers need to be aware of the risks involved."


You should really weigh the risk in your head before making your next tattoo appointment.

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Nicole Weaver is a senior writer for Showbiz Cheat Sheet whose work has been featured in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and more.