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Adverse Reactions to Tattooing
As the popularity of tattooing has grown, the number of reports of adverse reactions has grown. It's not that these things are happening at a higher rate of occurrence, it's that with a larger pool of people participating in the practice of permanent skin art, it's just made for more reporting and conversation about the subject.
On rare occasions, a person will have a bad reaction to the tattoo ink itself. Most often this is the body responding to one of the components in the ink. The Federal Drug Administration classifies tattoo inks as a cosmetic and the pigments that provide the different colors fall under substances that they regulate. However the FDA itself admits that they have not traditionally regulated tattoo inks in the past due to lack of specific instances and the necessity of putting energy into more widely perceived public health concerns. So far, they tend to respond to issues around tattooing only when they receive multiple reports of a similar reaction. The process of tattooing is regulated by local authorities (states, counties, cities).
Most often a reaction to pigments will result in a localized skin reaction, and lead to problems healing the tattoo. These can take the form of a dermatitis or eczema-like reaction. Sometimes there is swelling in the area, but not always. A newer adverse response that has been reported are people with the newer black light or glow-in-the-dark tattoo inks developing a bad reaction after having had their tattoos for several years.
Occasionally getting a tattoo can result in skin scarring. This can take two forms. One is called a "granuloma" where the body rejects the foreign substance in the body and build a type of scar tissue around the pigment particles. A more common type of scar tissue, which can happen more frequently with body piercing is called "keloid scarring." This is where the skin surfaces reacts to the trauma and produces a raised, expanded scar area. Keloids have a greater chance of occurring during tattoo removal than tattoo application.
One very modern type of adverse reaction is experienced by some tattooed people when they've had to undergo MRI scanning for medical procedures. In these instances, some tattoo pigments that contain more metallic components are affected by the magnetic fields. Side effects have been reported as transitory swelling or burning, but the rare reports of these reactions seem to indicate no permanent damage occurred. However, since it can be quite uncomfortable, please discuss any tattooing with your medical professional if you need to undergo this procedure.
If you'd like more information about tattoo removal, you might like
101 Questions About Skin That Got Under Your Skin... Until Now by Faith Hickman Brynie or
Laser Dermatology by David J. Goldberg
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