Make it a Permanent Reminder to a Temporary Feeling, Not a Permanent Health Problem

Make it a Permanent Reminder to a Temporary Feeling, Not a Permanent Health Problem

They are a “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling,” as Jimmy Buffett so eloquently sings. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, representing everything from religious rituals to branding of criminals. Today in the United States, tattoos are thought of as a form of self-expression or even a type of fashion accessory.

In fact, tattoos are more popular today than ever, particularly in the young adult population. A 2006 study published in the American Academy of Dermatology found that 36 percent of people aged 18 to 29 had at least one tattoo. By comparison, only 15 percent of those aged 40 to 50 had tattoos.

Whether you’re getting a small symbol hidden in an obscure place or a full-arm sleeve, getting a tattoo can involve weeks of creativity and multiple visits to the tattoo artist to discuss the design. While close consideration is often given to a design, considerations of health risks and the safety of the tattoo facility are also important aspects that many overlook.

Perhaps the most serious life-threatening risks involve transmission of blood borne disease such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus and HIV. Tattoos are also associated with several types of immunologic reactions, meaning they can respond poorly with your immune system. These responses can include allergic reactions from the dyes, in particular red dyes, which can cause an itchy rash at the tattoo site that may appear years after getting the tattoo. Yellow inks may also cause photo-aggravated reactions when exposed to sunlight. Scar tissue may overgrow at the tattoo site, particularly in African American populations, forming large bumps called keloids.

Patrons can easily avoid the more serious health risks by exercising diligence when choosing which tattoo facility to use. Here are a few tips to think about before going under the needle:

1.) Go to a reputable tattoo parlor that employs properly trained employees. The state regulates body art facilities, and each facility should have its state license properly displayed.

2.) Make sure the artist washes his or her hands and wears a fresh pair of gloves for each customer.

3.) Make sure the artist removes a needle and tubes from sealed packages before your procedure begins. Any pigments, trays and containers should be unused as well.

4.) Make sure the facility sterilizes equipment using an autoclave after each customer. Autoclaves use pressured steam to clean equipment. Instruments and supplies that can’t be sterilized in an autoclave – including drawer handles, tables and sinks – should be disinfected after each use.

Though state and local authorities regulate the practice of tattooing and the safety of the facility, the state does not regulate the tattoo ink itself. Tattoo inks actually fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration as cosmetics. The FDA, however, has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks, and currently, no FDA approved inks exist.

This is not to say tattoo ink is unsafe. Its impact on human health simply has not been studied enough. But consider this: many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printer ink or automobile paint. Because of reports to the FDA of negative reactions to tattoo inks right after tattooing or even years later, the FDA has recently begun studying tattoo ink safety. Though it hasn’t approved any yet, look for the use of FDA approved inks when considering tattoo facilities in the future.

So as you are considering the newest addition to your body canvas, make sure that your “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling” is simply a permanent reminder and not a permanent health problem. It’s important to put just as much thought into the quality and safety of the tattoo facility as it is the quality of the artwork that you choose to display.

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