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Where Do The Inks Go? Potential Side Effects of Tattoo Ink That You Can’t Ignore

Where Do The Inks Go? Potential Side Effects of Tattoo Ink That You Can’t Ignore

Think before you ink! Are you wondering if there are any health risks? Yes, there are some and this post is to highlight them so that you can make an informed decision before you get your first or next tattoo. Tattoos have been around for about 5,000 years but nobody knows what the long term health effects are because they have never been extensively studied and are unknown.

What we do know is that, apart from short term side effects, nobody knows what happens to the ink and what effects it has on the major organs and body tissue. Studies done on corpses with tattoos show that the ink had long disappeared from the skin but it is a mystery as to whether it was safely excreted or whether it caused toxicity and other health problems. Research in The Lancet found that there was no link with cancer but that is only one study and they also warn that tattoo ink may contain possible carcinogens.

1. Inks are not just color pigments

What goes into a tattoo ink? Apart from color pigments, there may be heavy metals (mercury, lead and arsenic) which may be linked to cancer and birth defects. Then, there are other ingredients such as pen ink, soot, blood and anything else dreamed up by the tattoo artist. That is why Californian tattoo parlors are required by law to warn customers of these dangers. There are no international regulations in force for tattoo inks either.

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The Danish government has published a report on the minerals and preservatives in many of the tattoo inks. They found that most inks contained a large amount of copper, chrome and zinc while the amounts of tin, lead, arsenic, mercury, and uranium tended to be in smaller amounts. The main preservatives used were benzoic acid, metylisothiazoline and octylthiazolone.

2. There must be some regulation about the inks

Actually, there is none. The FDA considers tattooing rather like cosmetic applications so it has not bothered to regulate what should be allowed in the ink. The FDA only investigates complaints and occasionally issues warnings about the doubtful ingredients in these pigments. It is astonishing to think that 120 million people in the western world have at least one tattoo and the whole industry is almost totally unregulated!

3. Think about what happens during the process

The needle used by the artist is rather like a sewing machine needle. It contains the coloring and this is repeatedly injected under the skin so it can and does enter the bloodstream. This can lead to infections if the needle or the ingredients are not sterilized. Hepatitis and the super bug MRSA have been linked to tattoos so that is always why you should check out the equipment before being treated. Are the needles in sealed units and is the ink in unopened containers?

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4. Check out the artist first

You can do some preliminary checks. There is no regulation or official training for tattoo artists and yet they are allowed to inject you with some ingredients containing preservatives and even potentially toxic metals. But there are top quality tattoo artists who work in a professional manner so it is always worthwhile doing your homework first.

You might want to check out the portfolio of the artist and see the quality of the work. Look out for signs of bleeding in the photos and if the skin has been damaged in any way. This happens when they have to pack a lot of color into a tiny space and if they are inexperienced, the skin will look beat up and show areas of light color. It takes skill and expertise to get that part of the tattoo right.

Look at the designs and samples shown. There should be a good mix of color, traditional and realism in the photos. You can look at the premises and see whether they are clean and well managed. Prices are also a good indicator of quality and you can pay up to $100 an hour on average although better artists can easily ask three times that much.

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5. Plan the whole operation carefully

If you do decide to go ahead, bear in mind that you should start off with a small design on a part of your skin which is less sensitive to pain. Bony areas are notoriously painful, so start off with an area which has plenty of flesh. Also avoid sensitive areas like the groin as no anaesthetic is given. There may be pain, minor skin infection or an allergic reaction. Many people recommend eating something beforehand as that lessens the pain.

Try to avoid alcohol as that tends to thin your blood and that will likely cause more bleeding. Check your spelling of the design you have chosen, especially if it is in Chinese. You may have thought it meant “beautiful” but the spelling you have chosen means a “giant squid”!

6. Follow after care instructions carefully

You will probably be given a healing ointment to apply so that the tattoo remains moisturized. Make sure you wash the tattoo with very mild soap and gently dry it with a clean towel. Avoid tight clothes so that there is a minimum of friction around the tattoo area. You can keep a light bandage on it. Avoid direct sunlight and forget about the swimming pool as chlorine can irritate the skin.

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Now that you know all the essential information about what is actually getting into your skin and bloodstream, you can make an informed decision about whether a tattoo is right for you!

Featured photo credit: Adam Levine/ katrina3094 via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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