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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

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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