When you’re getting a tattoo, the most common health concern is usually infection or healing time, but new research is showing that getting inked could have a chemical impact on your body that goes beyond skin deep.
When going under the needle, we think of how our tattoo will turn out or worry that the artist uses sterilized equipment, but how often do we think about what happens when the ink actually enters the body through the skin?
A new study, published in Scientific Reports, suggests that the toxic particles in tattoo ink travel in your body and can have a serious effect on your lymph nodes and health long after the initial tattoo heals.
Researchers studied the bodies of four tattooed individuals and found that nanoparticles (teeny, tiny, microscopic particles found in tattoo ink) can make it all the way to a person’s lymph nodes, and actually tint the nodes with the color of the ink. Though these toxic materials hung around in the lymph nodes for years, the doctors are still unclear about what this could mean for your health but advise people to know the risks before their next trip to the parlor.
“It is important to know that there is not much regulation on tattoo inks in the world that would allow one to state that tattoo inks are generally safe,” study author Ines Schreiver tells Health. “The ingredients have never been approved for the injection into the skin and there is a significant lack of data to explain the so far known side effects like allergies and granuloma formation.”
With aluminum, chromium, iron, nickel, and copper found in both the tattoos and lymph nodes in the study subjects, knowing exactly what’s going into your skin (and knowing your possible allergic reaction) is key to maintaining health.
“There might be more risk associated with tattoos then the ever-increasing trend of tattooing might imply,” Schreiver continues. “People should be aware of the unknown risks that might come along with tattooing, rather than presuming that the colors are safe.”
While the researchers admit we need much more data before we determine the true health effect of tattoos, the most important thing to know is the risks that go with your ink. Being aware of possible health issues, and allergic reactions could make the difference in both your short- and long-term health.