They are permanently under the skin – and often questionable. What makes tattoo inks dangerous for your health and what to look out for when getting a tattoo.
Tattoo color is rarely controlled. Once under the skin, it can cause infections and allergies. And in the worst case, it contains carcinogenic substances. Find out what the tattoo health risks are below:
A look at the overall tattoo risks
- Tattoos can often no longer be removed without a trace. As a rule, health insurance companies do not cover the costs of removal or consequential damage.
- Bad hygiene in the gym can lead to serious infections such as HIV or hepatitis.
- The color pigments not only stay under the skin, but can also be found in other places in the body.
- Only a few pollutants in tattoo inks are currently prohibited, and ingredients are often incorrectly labeled.
- Tattoo inks are also used for permanent make-up.
Thinking before getting a tattoo
A trip to a tattoo studio should not be the result of a temporary mood, but should be carefully considered beforehand. Because a tattoo adorns your own body for life and is associated with health risks.
The effects of the color pigments introduced into the skin on the organism are still largely unexplored. What is certain is that the pigments or their breakdown products can be found elsewhere in the body. Health assessments are only available for a fraction of all possible color pigments. Therefore, the list of prohibitions of the German Tattooing Agent Ordinance offers little security.
From January 2022, legal requirements for tattoo inks will apply throughout the EU . For example, no more substances may then be contained that are classified as carcinogenic or mutagenic. It would be even safer to only allow dyes and auxiliaries that have been proven to be harmless, i.e. to draw up a positive list of permitted ingredients.
Tattoo health risks of later removal
Anyone who is toying with the idea of having the body art removed at some point should know that despite laser technology and other modern processes, scars can remain and the colors under the skin do not always completely disappear. In addition, later removal can cause additional damage to health. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) warns: “Farewell is not without risk either.”
Before going to the tattoo studio, therefore, have the following key points in mind:
- No liability for complications:
Professional tattooists should inform customers verbally and in writing about possible risks, complications, allergies and the subsequent tattoo wound care before the first stitch. Medical advice about a tattoo and wound care in advance can be useful, especially in the case of existing illnesses. In return, future tattoo wearers have to pay the follow-up costs for any complications or for tattoo removal themselves in full or for the most part . The health insurance companies usually do not cover any costs for this.
- No tattoos for risk groups:
The tattoo procedure is unsuitable for pregnant women or patients who take antibiotics or immune-weakening medication due to the risk of infection. If you have heart disease, diabetes or blood clotting disorders, you should also not get a tattoo. This also applies if you are prone to allergies, eczema, or open wounds. For example, be careful if you are allergic to nickel, as tattoo inks can contain nickel impurities.
- Sterile hygiene in the studio:
“Tattooist” is not a state-recognized training occupation, ie in principle anyone can open a tattoo studio. Therefore, the tattoo artist should at least have completed hygiene training. Improper needle sticks can cause inflammation and injury .
Poor hygiene can cause HIV, hepatitis and other infections . Before a treatment, you should ask whether there is a separate room in the studio with wipeable surfaces and loungers with fresh disposable towels and whether the tattoo artist uses sterile needles and instruments .
- The tattoo artist should only use sterile, disposable ink tubes. The water used to dilute the paints should also come from sterile disposable packs . There is now a standard that defines hygiene requirements before and during tattooing as well as for aftercare. A good studio should work according to these guidelines.
- Stitches and colors are tough:
stitches with the tattoo needle in deeper layers of the skin can cause infections, allergies and permanent skin damage. Some tattoo inks contain allergenic substances such as nickel or problematic azo dyes. Allergic reactions to red tattoos were observed particularly often . Black inks, which mainly contain the carbon black dye, are often contaminated with carcinogenic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Sunlight on the tattoo can also lead to health problems.
- Take a close look at tattoo inks:
Get confirmation that the tattoo inks complies with the German Tattoo Inks Ordinance and Annex XVII of the REACH Ordinance, which was updated in December 2020! The colors should at least bear the name and address of the manufacturer, details of the individual ingredients, the batch number, a best-before date and information on the shelf life after opening. You should get this information from the studio to facilitate a diagnosis in the event of allergies. Unfortunately, the ingredients of many tattoo inks are incorrectly declared.