Do tattoos pose a risk for your health?

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The art of tattooing is nothing new: it has been practiced the world over for thousands of years. People get tattoos for diverse reasons: religious, symbolic, aesthetic, to mark a stage in life or a rite of passage. While in ancient times they used Chinese ink or carbon, nowadays modern tattoos contain an ink with industrial pigmentation. So is marking your skin in this way bad for your health?

According to, 30% of people in the UK between ages 25 and 39 have a tattoo. A fashion that is no longer just for rockers, jailbirds and bikers! Because the vast choice offered nowadays attracts the public: from minimalist finger tattoos to tribal symbols on the lower back, tattoos appear set to have long years ahead of them! But are they as harmless as all that?

Ink particles infiltrate the blood

According to the results of a Franco-German study, tattoo ink seeps into the body in the form of nano-particles, which can get into the vital organs. Although the health risk is difficult to evaluate, we know that the presence of nano-particles in the body can cause several side effects.


One pigment is more harmful than the others: the one that creates the colour white

According to a study led by Scientific Reports, certain nano-particles contained in tattoo ink don’t simply stay on the surface of the skin, but they infiltrate the blood. In fact, the researchers found titanium dioxide, a compound often used to create the white colour in tattoos, in the lymph nodes of the tattooed participants. Using x-rays, the scientists found evidence that the pigments and other toxic elements in tattoo ink spread around the body. The particles passed through the blood, the lymphatic fluid and the immune cells, which absorbed them like sponges.

What are the side effects?

The scientists estimated that titanium dioxide could cause side effects such as slow healing, skin swelling or itching. But it wasn’t enough to simply avoid the colour white to stay out of danger, as white ink is often used as a base for creating other colours. Other harmful substances are also present in the ink, such as nickel, chrome, cobalt or manganese. So if you haven’t already gotten « inked », maybe think twice about it! And remember that there are plenty of natural, non-permanent alternatives, such as henna.

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