How bad do you want that tattoo?

At one time, tattoos in the United States were primarily adorned by rebels of society – prison inmates or people making a bad decision on a drunken spree.  Nowadays it’s commonplace for the girl next door to grandmothers to be seen sporting a tattoo and we barely bat an eye.

Tattoos have become mainstream and tattoo parlors are one of the fastest growing retail businesses in America today.  Around 36% of adults ages 18-25 in the United States have at least one tattoo and 40% of adults ages 26-40 have also joined the movement to embellish their body with a tattoo.

But before you make the decision to jump on the bandwagon of branding a tattoo, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns there can be risks associated with it.

Dr. Linda Katz, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors forewarns of reports of the increasing number of people developing infections from contaminated tattoo inks resulting in bad reactions to the inks.

Anyone considering getting a tattoo needs to do their homework before making a rushed decision.  It is meant to be permanent (they can be removed by laser) so you need to consider the location, the size and how will that tattoo stand up long term.  Do you really want your current boyfriend’s name with his image tattooed on the side of your neck? 

Here are other concerns to consider that could affect your health if you’re not careful:

·         Check out the tattoo parlor’s reputation before getting a tattoo.  Talk to other people who have used the facility and had a successful experience.  Avoid any tattoo parlor that appears to have unhygienic practices, uses non-sterile needles or contaminated ink.

·         Be aware that infections can come from ink contaminated with microorganisms such as bacteria and mold.  One source of contamination is non-sterile water used to dilute the pigments of the ink.  Contamination can also come from the manufacturing process or at the tattoo parlor itself.

·         Even if the container of ink is sealed and the label claims it is sterile, there is no guarantee of it being safe.  Contaminated ink won’t have any particular smell or look to it to be able to tell if it is or not.

·         Signs of an infection from getting a tattoo include a rash at the site or if you develop a fever.  If you develop a high fever, chills, shaking, and sweats, go to your doctor.  It most likely will require antibiotic treatment that could last for months.

·         Minor skin reactions can occur from tattooing in the form of contact dermatitis or if you were to have a serious allergic reaction to the tattooing method or inks.

·         Scarring is another possibility which can include a raised scar known as a keloid.

·         There is always the possibility of the spread of an infectious disease such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) if dirty methods or equipment is used.

The decision to get a tattoo should not be taken lightly.  They are considered to be permanent so if you decide later on you really don’t want that tattoo anymore, removal is not easy. 

Removing a tattoo is done with a laser tattoo removal technique in which the pigment colors are broken up with a high-intensity light beam.  Black tattoo pigment is the easiest to remove as it absorbs all laser wavelengths while other colors can only be treated by selected laser based upon the pigment color.  Depending on the size and color of the tattoo it may require multiple costly laser treatments to get it thoroughly removed. 

Keep in mind tattoo removal may not always result in a complete removal.  Scarring is anotherpossibility from trying to remove a tattoo and your normal skin color and texture of what it looked like before you had the tattoo may not be completely restored.  

Get advice and the recommendation from your family doctor for a dermatologist or skin specialist who specializes in tattoo removal.