How safe is getting a tattoo and the possible risks

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Traditionally, in the past, tattoos were done by hand; they were pricked by the needle on the skin. Today, they are done with an electric tool. The mechanism of the tool that is used today works a lot like a sewing machine. The needle goes in and out of the skin, taking the ink into each hole. As the needle goes into the skin, some bleeding is accompanied by sharp pain.  

The pain may be mild for a few, like tingling or it may also be severe, resembling an effect of being stung by a bee many times and it depends on how the person is receiving the pain. The tattoo artist’s skill also matters when it comes to the amount of pain a person goes through.  

The preferred part of the body where a person gets inked also determines the amount of pain. Getting a simple tattoo can take roughly 15 or 20 minutes. A large, complex tattoo can take several hours or many sittings together over several days.   

What are the risks of getting a tattoo?   

Some of the possible complications encountered after getting a tattoo includes:   

  • Skin infection    
  • Allergic reactions to the ink, which may lead to side effects like redness, swelling and itching, even some years after the tattoo   
  • Skin abnormalities, such as bumps and scars over the tattoo    
  • Infectious diseases like Tetanus, HIV or Hepatitis are possible if the place and needles are not sterilized  
  • Certainly, many people are said to regret that they got the tattoo. The tattoo may be a name or image, but they might not want it anymore when days have passed.   
  • The design may stretch or change appearance as a person gets older or gains or loses weight.  

Risks involved in getting a tattoo  

Contaminated tools, unclean tattoo studios, unsafe methods and a lack of infection control knowledge may lead to the spread of some infections. Infections occur during the procedure and can also occur if the tattoo is not taken care of properly later.   

Some of the specific risks of getting a tattoo include:  

  • Viruses such as Hepatitis B, C or HIV that are transmitted via blood  
  • Skin infections like Staphylococcus aureus    
  • Allergic reactions developed by tattoo ink   
  • Granulomas formation, which is nodules around the tattoo   
  • Keloid formation – an abnormal scar tissue   
  • Aggravation or worsening of existing skin conditions such as Dermatitis, Eczema, if present  

General aftercare advice to prevent skin infections

Here is some general aftercare advice to prevent skin infections.

It is pivotal to make sure that the tattoo heals well without infection. Factors like personal hygiene, the nature of work and hobbies may affect the healing process of the tattoo. Let the tattoo heal for up to two weeks.  

If there is a need to wrap the inked area with a bandage, ensure it’s clean and breathable as advised by the professional tattoo artist. The use of plastic wraps prevents the skin from breathing, resulting in a moist, airless environment that encourages bacterial growth.  

Some aftercare advice is as follows:

  • Always wash hands well before touching or cleaning the tattooed area   
  • Do keep area clean and dry   
  • Do wash the tattoo with clean water and a bar of mild liquid soap   
  • Rinse and pat dry with a clean paper towel   
  • Do use a cream suggested by the tattoo artist and apply it when the skin becomes dry   
  • Get enough sleep and stick to a strict nutritious diet because only a healthy lifestyle will heal the tattoo sooner   
  • Do not rub or scratch the tattoo as it may lead to infection and delay the healing
  • Do not get in contact with water or swim until the tattoo is healed   
  • Do not expose the tattoo to direct sunlight while it has not healed completely  
  • Apply sunscreen to prevent it from fading   
  • Do not wear skin-hugging or unclean clothes  
  • After some days, there will be peeling and possibly a little scabbing around the tattoo, and this condition is normal – need not panic!  
  • Never get a tattoo if you are feeling sick. Being unwell may also slow the healing process and increase the risk of skin infections
  • In case you are on medication or have any pre-existing medical problems such as skin disorders, allergies, a condition that affects your immune system or if you are pregnant – seek a doctor’s advice on getting a tattoo. Check for any special precautions you need to take before getting a tattoo.    

In Conclusion

Having discussed the possible dos and don’ts and several possible skin infections, we would say think before you ink. A tattoo is a permanent affair, and removing a tattoo is a painstaking process, certainly involving several sittings of laser treatments and considerable expense. Remember that complete removal of the tattoo without scarring may be impossible in some cases.  


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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