9 Ways Tattoos Can Cause Complications Later In Life
For the most part, having a tattoo is an enjoyable experience. It's art you get to wear every single day — something that holds meaning, expresses your style, and becomes a permanent part of your body. But in some cases, tattoos can cause complications later in life. And knowing what to look for is part of the whole tattoo ownership process.
Basically, a tattoo should be viewed as a mini commitment; something that needs just a little bit of extra care. "You should plan to care for this tattoo for as long as you want it to look nice," dermatologist Dr. Jeremy Fenton, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC, tells Bustle. "The most important thing you should plan to do is protect it from the sun. Sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher should always be over it when exposed," which will help prevent UV rays from dulling or blurring the tattoo over time.
Of course, sun protection is important for the rest of skin as well, but even more so for delicate tattoos. Beyond that, "treat it like the rest of your skin with gentle soaps and moisturizer for long-term care," Dr. Fenton says. Doing so will help keep your skin healthy, while protecting your tattoo for years to come.
As for other complications, you never know what might crop up later in life, including ways your tattoo might change, how it might impact your health, or even what might happen if you choose to have it removed. Read on for a few things to keep in mind, according to experts.
"Tattoos can trigger autoimmune, inflammatory conditions in the skin," Dr. Fenton says. "There have been reports of a rare condition called sarcoidosis developing even years after the tattoo."
So keep an eye out for changes in your tattoo, such as bumpiness on the skin. "It is unclear exactly why this develops, but it is likely triggered by having the constant exposure to a foreign body (the ink) in the skin for a long period of time," Dr. Fenton says. "Sarcoidosis can create firm papules and pigment changes in the skin." While this doesn't happen for everyone, if you do notice this change, be sure to talk with your doctor.
2. Allergic Reactions
Tattoos can also trigger allergic reactions in some folks, all thanks to the way the ink impacts the skin.
"Normally, this happens in the first few months of the tattoo, but it has been reported to even develop years later," Dr. Fenton says. "This can lead to itchy and inflammation in the area of pigment, and may require a surgeon to remove the tattoo."
A less severe complication, but one that might affect how your tattoo looks years down the line, is natural fading of the ink.
"[Tattoos] won’t look as crisp as when you first got them," Dr. Fenton says. "This happens from exposure to elements such as the UV rays from the sun." Applying sunscreen can help preserve them.
But they can also warp as you age, due to the way skin moves and changes. "As your skin changes and loses elasticity, depending on the body part, a tattoo can get stretched out and look very different years down the road," Dr. Fenton says. "This can lead to dissatisfaction with the tattoo and may require touch-ups."
4. Difficult Skin Cancer Checks
"Tattoos can impact your health by making it more difficult to perform some medical exams, such as a skin check by a dermatologist," Dr. Fenton says. "The pigment in the tattoo could camouflage a possible skin cancer."
In other words, the color and design of the ink could make it difficult to spot new or changing moles, and other signs of skin cancer.
5. MRI Complications
If you ever need an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), having a tattoo can make the procedure slightly more difficult.
"Some tattoo pigments have materials that can react in an MRI machine, and cause swelling or burning, or even make it more difficult for the doctors to interpret the MRI," Dr. Fenton.
They should be able to work around it, but it's a difficulty worth keeping in mind, so you can let your doctor know.
While not everyone will regret their tattoo, some folks find their tastes change or they no longer like their ink — for whatever reason. And with that can come a feeling of regret.
"You can’t walk away from body art the way you walk away from a painting or photograph," tattoo expert Lisa Barretta, author of Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos, tells Bustle. "Tattoos are a commitment that become a permanent part of you."
Feelings of regret will be unique for everyone, but it often stems from a change in perspective. As Barretta says, "Maybe you were in the wrong frame of mind when you got your tattoo and captured a lot of negativity within your inked image."
While there are ways to get rid of a tattoo you dislike, it can also help to change your frame of mind. "They are visual reminders of your journey through life that mark special moments, certain mindsets, and inner visions," Barretta says. "We all shift." So even if your tattoo is no longer a favorite, it can still exist as a reminder of who you once were.
7. Tattoo Removal
If you can't move past the regret, however, you may at some point decide to get your tattoo removed, which can be a tricky process.
"Tattoo 'removal' isn’t really full removal," Dr. Fenton says. "Although we have many powerful lasers to fade and remove tattoos, the skin will never be the same. Going through the tattoo removal process often leaves behind some ink and can possibly cause scarring."
8. Eczema And Psoriasis
While it won't cause eczema or psoriasis, getting a tattoo on an area that's affected by one of these skin conditions can lead to further complications.
"These conditions could potentially get worse if tattoos are applied over them," dermatologist Paul Dean, of Grossmont Dermatology Clinic, tells Bustle.
Your dermatologist can let you know the best course of action, but proper skin care can definitely help to keep your tattoo healthy. "Taking care of your skin with an easy everyday regimen is important," Dr. Dean says. "[Find] products that will not irritate and will hydrate and protect exposed areas."
And if the area is bothering you, let a doctor know.
9. Dry Skin
"Skin with tattoos may be more dry in areas," Dr. Dean says. So don't be surprised if your tattooed areas require a bit more TLC than the rest of your skin.
If you notice the area is dry, "be sure to find a non-irritant, fragrance-free moisturizer for all over hydration," Dr. Dean says. And of course, if anything seems out of the ordinary, definitely point it out to your dermatologist.
Tattoos don't have to cause complications. You may never experience dry skin, allergic reactions, or even regret. But keeping these possibilities in mind is still a good idea, not only as a way of protecting your tattoo, but to help you look after your health.