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

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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

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

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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