Get Informed: The Negative Health Effects of Tattoos

Your skin and your body aren’t the same thing, and when you get a tattoo, you’re messing with both of them. Tattoos are decorative pictures permanently inked onto your skin using ink that typically contains more than 60 different chemicals, many of which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These chemicals can cause allergic reactions, discoloration of your skin, scarring, and even infection.

So What Are We Talking About?

When it comes to tattoo health risks, many people jump straight to ink allergies and forget about everything else. But that’s an extremely narrow view. While an allergic reaction can certainly be a hazard—any break in your skin presents risk for infection—the bigger picture is actually pretty scary. Due to high bacterial counts, getting tattoos has been linked to several different diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis B and C, staph infections, tetanus, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), scabies, strep throat and even certain types of cancer.


Tattooing has been practiced for thousands of years, and in recent decades, tattoo parlors have become more widespread. Despite these advances, however, many people still believe that getting a tattoo is completely safe. However, as it turns out, your average tattoo comes with numerous health risks associated with it. Before you rush to get an epic new design etched onto your body (or someone else’s), consider some important facts about what infections you could potentially contract from a tattoo. Consider also some important preventative measures to take before getting one done in order to reduce these risks even further.

Allergic Reactions

It’s also important to consider that tattoos are injected into your skin, which makes them far more likely to cause allergic reactions. Any kind of body art, whether it’s a tattoo or another type, could trigger an allergic reaction. When an allergy is caused by a tattoo and not any other foreign material in your body (such as food or medicine), it’s called tattoo allergy. Unlike other types of allergies, which can be treated with antihistamines and topical steroids, tattoo allergies cannot be cured and must only be managed. Once you have developed an allergy to something, you will likely always be allergic to it; there is no known cure for such allergies.


Not all inks are created equal. Some ingredients, such as heavy metals and formaldehyde, can cause short-term symptoms like allergic reactions or other chronic issues. For example, it’s common to see people develop skin discoloration near tattooed areas because inks may include copper, cobalt and mercury pigments that release these chemicals over time. Plus, several carcinogenic dyes have been banned in many countries; some still remain legal here in America. No surprise there—many companies will do anything to cut costs and increase profits, regardless of potential harm to their customers. If you care about your health and don’t want an untested product injected into your body, talk to a dermatologist before getting a tattoo.

Permanent Scarring

With tattoos, you can’t simply get rid of a design you don’t like anymore. Once it’s gone, it stays gone—permanently. For example, one artist got inked when he was young and now that he has a wife and two kids at home, he doesn’t want to leave them with a faded or inappropriate design when he dies. Because tattoos are so difficult to remove, permanent scars are often what remain years later. Plus, if you don’t take proper care of your tattoo it can become infected—and leaving an infected area untreated for years isn’t safe for anyone. There have been several documented cases where cancerous cells were transferred from old tattoos to healthy skin due to infection.

Retired Ink

Although most people agree that tattoos are a form of self-expression, there is still much controversy about them. Plenty of people think you can’t get a tattoo in order to honor or memorialize someone who passed away, but there are also some who disagree with that notion. One thing everyone can agree on is that it’s important to do plenty of research before getting a tattoo. After all, tattoos last forever and it’s important to know what you’re getting into.

Traumatic Sessions

While tattoos may look appealing, they can also come with health risks. Studies show that around 40 percent of tattoo inks contain cancer-causing materials like nickel or chromium. And tattoos aren’t regulated by any organization to make sure they’re as safe as possible, which is why so many people suffer from allergic reactions or infections. Plus, like most body modifications, there are concerns about how tattoos will age over time—when you’re older and wrinklier, your ink could blur and become distorted. All in all, if you have health problems or you take medications (or plan to take medications), it might be a good idea to reconsider your decision to get inked up!

Expensive Upkeep

Most people don’t think about it, but tattoos are costly to keep up over time. Think about how many bandages you’ll need to cover your new ink after your first shower (not to mention possible scabbing). And what if you want to change up a detail or two? You might need to shell out some cash for a touch-up or removal. It’s also important to consider that tattoos can look different depending on your mood, age, and skin tone—no tattoo is permanent (and each design can present a unique set of possibilities). Basically, like any other form of body art (like piercings), it has maintenance costs—which you have to factor into whether getting inked is worth it from an aesthetic standpoint.