Once you decide to get inked, you'll likely be more focused on what you want your tattoo to look like, and where you want it to be placed, than what happens when you get a tattoo. It's such a positive, fun, and fulfilling process, that thoughts of infections, allergic reactions — and even the psychological impact a tattoo can have — are easy to push to the back of the brain.
But it is worth it to pause, take a second, and consider all of the above, before getting a tattoo. "Tattoos have become an almost integral part of the millennial culture, but many people don't do all their homework before sitting under that needle," Caitlin Hoff, a Health & Safety Investigator at ConsumerSafety.org, tells Bustle. "Studies are currently still looking into more long-term health effects of tattoos and the inks themselves." And research may reveal some interesting info, in the coming years. But since so many people get tattoos, and have a great experiences doing so, you shouldn't worry too much.
As long as you plan ahead, choose a clean tattoo shop, and take care of your skin after the fact, you should be OK. Here are a few interesting ways experts say a tattoo can affect you, as well as how the process might make you feel, according to experts.
Allergic Reactions To Red Inks
Some people experience allergic reactions to the ink in their tattoo, which can happen with more traditional black inks. But if you're going for something a bit more colorful, you may be more likely to run into a problem.
"Reports have found that most allergic reactions are connected to the use of colored inks," Hoff says, with red being the one most common culprit. "These allergic reactions can reoccur even after the tattoo is healed." So if you notice some itchiness or swelling, be sure to point it out to your doctor.
Burning Or Swelling When Getting An MRI Test
Believe it or not, some people experience burning sensations and swelling on their tattoos when getting an MRI test, Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert with Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Furthermore, tattoos and permanent makeup have been found to obstruct the quality of the imaging process." If you need to get this test, your doctor will find a way around it. But it's definitely something to consider.
Infections In General
Something to be think about when choosing your tattoo shop are their cleaning practices — especially since it's so easy to get an infection.
"Whenever a needle is introduced into the skin there is risk of introducing with it bacteria or more rarely, micobacteria," Dr. Greenfield says. "This infection can be treated." But it's still a good idea to choose a clean tattoo shop, and follow all healing protocols, to lower your risk.
Infections From Pets
One thing many people don't do after their tattoo is stay away from their pet, while their skin is still healing. "It only takes one single tiny little hair to sneak under the wrapping, or [your cat licking your tattoo] and you can develop an infection," tattoo expert Johan Larsson tells Bustle.
While you don't need to shun them, you should be aware of keeping your tattoo clean and covered. And keep an eye out for infection. "As a tattoo client, if you start to feel significant heat, redness, or tenderness, you may have developed an infection, or if you start to feel unwell or gain a fever or see pus come up in the area of the tattoo, these can be typical signs of an infection," Larsson says. "If a tattoo is treated with care and based on real knowledge, then the risk of getting an infected tattoo is at an absolute minimal."
Blood Borne Diseases
In more extreme cases, it's possible to get a blood borne diseases like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis B and hepatitis C. According to Mayo Clinic, this can happen if the equipment used for your tattoo is infected with contaminated blood. But, as Hoff says, "Finding a reputable, licensed, clean establishment can reduce your risk of these dangerous side effects."
Missed Signs Of Skin Cancer
While this isn't as likely with smaller tattoos, large ones — like full arm sleeves — can make it difficult for dermatologists to "detect skin color changes, especially in moles ... which means it is more difficult to detect skin cancer," Dr. Greenfield says. "Ask your board-certified dermatologist if you are at high risk for skin cancer," and if you are, discuss whether or not a large tattoo would be a good idea for you.
Endorphins Are Released
Tattoos can also be healing, in a way, since the process of getting tattooed can actually release endorphins in your brain, due to the sensation caused by the needle. "[Endorphins] are your body’s natural pain relievers," Lisa Barretta, author of Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos, tells Bustle. "These chemicals come directly from the brain, flooding your body. Endorphins are 'feel-good' chemicals and help us realize on some level that we are more resilient to pain than we think."
It can become a deeply therapeutic process, for that very reason. "After you get a tattoo, pay attention to how you feel emotionally," Barretta says. "Tattoos can trigger buried feelings that rise to the surface for release. It either happens right away, or the effects of the shifting energy kick in weeks later."
By knowing all the possible side effects of tattoos — whether they're physical, emotional, or otherwise — you can go into your appointment feeling more prepared. And, when its comes to putting something permanent on your body, that's never a bad thing.