Tattoos can be wonderful expressions of personality, but they can also pose a potential risk to your health. If the tattoo is applied incorrectly using improper technique or contaminated materials, the risk of skin rashes is extremely high. Tattoos are open wounds caused by pushing ink into the skin with needles, so if you want to avoid risking infection, it’s worth knowing a little bit about contaminated ink or equipment.
Allergic Reaction or Contaminated Ink
Some people are simply sensitive to tattoo ink. Because there are no standards for tattoo ink, it can be hard to simply look at an ingredients label to figure out what you might be sensitive to. According to the Mayo Clinic, the color of dyes most commonly associated with allergic reactions are red, green, yellow and blue dyes.
How Tattoo Ink Becomes Contaminated
Contaminated Tattoo Ink From the Factory
Contrary to popular belief, contamination is still a risk even if the tattoo artist uses sterile procedures. In the last few years, there have been some isolated cases of skin infections occurring due to contaminated ink. Most recently, a series of related tattoo infections in New York were eventually linked to an Arizona manufacturer of various gray washes. Many manufacturers use reverse-osmosis to condition the water that’s used to blend and dilute black ink into gray. The problem is that reverse-osmosis doesn’t always sterilize water, which can leave behind a number of microorganisms.
In the New York cases, the culprit was Mycobacterium chelonae, a fairly common gram-positive bacteria. Mycobacterium chelonae can be found in a plethora of liquids from tap water to sewage. While the bacteria isn’t normally a problem, it can produce opportunistic infections. Since tattoos are open wounds, it’s the perfect site for infection.
People experiencing infection from this bacteria will notice purplish red bumps over the areas where contaminated ink was applied. This eventually produces an irritable rash over the affected areas, and is difficult to differentiate from an allergic reaction. Likewise, infections from contaminate tattoo ink are often difficult to treat.
Cross Contamination in Tattoo Ink
Similarly, some skin infections occur when tattoo artists mix sterile ink with non-sterile water. Since numerous bacteria survive in drinking water, it’s imperative that tap water is never blended with tattoo inks. This is one of the most common ways tattoo ink becomes contaminated. Likewise, excess ink should always be disposed of properly. The use of excess ink is yet another way cross contamination can occur in tattoo ink.
Contamination from Non-Sterile Equipment
The tattooist should never use a needle on you that has been used on someone else. For example, many tattoo artists break their needles after they use them. Similarly, does the tattooist wear gloves, and do you get a general sense of cleanliness and competence from the shop? It is always important to get your tattoo done by someone that you trust.
Infection Through Improper Care
Some skin infections also occur due to improper care of the tattoo after it has been received. It is important to keep the tattoo covered immediately after they are done, and then to make sure that they are open to the air so that they can dry effectively. Tattoos should be treated as open wounds, and they should be washed and moisturized according to your artist’s recommendations.
Infections Damage Your Skin and The Image
When you have an infected tattoo, not only is your skin affected, but the image underneath will end up blurred and discolored. People experiencing this often must have the tattoo removed via laser tattoo removal. Some artists will try to perform a cover up by performing a new tattoo over the old one, but this is risky and doen’t always produced the desired results.
Know The Risks
While some of these situations cannot be reasonably avoided, you should still exercise extreme caution when you are doing anything that involves puncturing your skin. If you want to protect yourself from problems with your tattoos, take a moment to consider where you are going to get your tattoo. Are you comfortable with the studio that you have chosen? Visit it a few times to make sure cleanliness is a consistent policy the other artists help maintain.
A small amount of research can save you a world of pain later on! When you want a tattoo, you must remember that you should be safe about it. Tattoos are typically very safe, but there is a certain level of risk involved. Make sure that you choose a safe way to get your own permanent markings.