woman with rose tattooThe commonplace nature of tattoos makes it seem like they are a risk-free addition to the body. However, there are inherent risks in getting a tattoo, which is an unregulated industry. The FDA defines tattoos as:

Permanent Tattoo: A needle inserts colored ink into your skin. Permanent tattoos last a lifetime.
Permanent Make-Up: A needle inserts colored ink into your skin to look like eyeliner, lip liner, eyebrows, or other makeup.
Henna: Plant dye called henna or mehndi is used to stain your skin.
Black Henna: Developed from henna, it may contain hair dye or other dye to darken the stain and make it last longer.
● ‘Sticker’ Temporary Tattoo: A tattoo design is on a coated paper. It is put on your skin with water. Temporary tattoos may last up to 3-4 weeks. Sticker tattoos last hours to days.

5 Risks of Tattoos, Microblading, and Permanent Makeup

Before you move forward with a future tattoo or permanent makeup (including microblading), make sure you understand the potential risks and how to choose the right tattoo parlor or permanent makeup salon to minimize potentially harmful side effects.

1. Tattoo parlors are not regulated.

Most people are unaware that tattoo parlors are not regulated other than state-by-state requirements to open the shop. Once open, unless an infection epidemic is traced to a particular shop or salon, it is an unregulated industry. This means there is no guarantee a shop is using stringent protocols around sanitation, hygiene, sterilization, and customer safety. 

Be careful when selecting a potential tattoo parlor or permanent makeup salon/spa. They should be happy to explain all of their internal regulatory protocols for keeping clients safe. In addition, all employees should be impeccably clean and professional, and nothing should be reused without thorough sterilizing it in an autoclave.

Before choosing a tattoo parlor or permanent makeup salon:
● First, make sure you’re sober – getting a tattoo after drinking or using drugs puts you at risk of choosing a less desirable or reputable establishment.
● Seek personal referrals from family, friends, or neighbors you trust.
● Look up their reviews online.
● Visit the shop and get a sense of how it looks and feels, as well as the integrity of the employees.
● Ask about their training, apprenticeship, and continuing education.
● Have they performed recent work? If so, ask to see examples.
● Do they have experience doing the type of tattoo/application you desire – and on people with similar ethnicity, skin tone/type, and color?

Visit multiple options before choosing the one that you feel is the most trustworthy and serious about their work.

2. Serious infection

Needles or blades not properly sterilized can spread severe, chronic, and even life-threatening infections, including hepatitis and HIV/Aids. To err on the safe side, we recommend scheduling an appointment for hepatitis and HIV testing 60 days after your tattoo or permanent makeup procedure. It can take up to 45 days for infections like these to appear on a test, and getting the all-clear provides peace of mind. 

3. General infection

By and large, infections are the most common complication with tattoos and permanent makeup applications. This is because they use needles or small blades to make incisions through the upper-skin layers. Unless the tattoo or aesthetician’s hands, tools, and environment are thoroughly sanitized and sterilized, foreign bacteria, viruses, or other particulate matter can enter your body, causing infection.

Leave and go elsewhere if you have any cause for concern or a sense of alarm regarding the shop’s lack of cleanliness or casual protocols. Always follow their post-procedure instructions to the letter and for the full recommended duration to minimize the risk of contracting a post-tattoo infection.

Signs of a localized or general infection include:

● Red or inflamed skin that lasts longer than the literature stated (redness and inflammation should begin to recede within 1 to 3 days. Permanent makeup may take as long as 5 to 7 days to clear up. Any inflammation, pain, or increased redness/swelling/drainage should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider.
● Pus or discharge that lasts longer than stated or worsens within days/weeks after the procedure.
● Fever.
● Fatigue.
● Chills or body aches.
● Swelling or inflammation in other parts of the body.

4. Allergic reaction

Just as there are no FDA regulations held over tattoo parlors and permanent makeup salons, they have not allocated any formal approval for the various inks or pigments used to create permanent tattoos and makeup. If you’re allergic to the ink, your infection may require the removal of the tattoo, which is expensive and extremely painful.

Note: Allergies to the ink can happen even months or years after getting a tattoo, as part of your body’s immune system response. 

Signs of a post-tattoo infection are:
● Swelling and redness that doesn’t go away within the first 3 to 7 days
● A rash
● Itchiness that continues after scabs have already healed
● Blisters or hives
● Deep lumps
● Raised scaly patches
● Watery leakage from the area

If you experience any of these signs on or around your tattoo at anytime now or down the road, schedule an appointment with your physician.

5. The permanent regret

You should view your tattoo or permanent makeup as a 100% irreversible decision. Tattoo removal has come a long way, but there is no guarantee your tattoo(s) can be removed. Ever. Even in best-case scenarios, tattoo or permanent makeup removal leaves a shadow of the original ink marks and scarring. 

Check-In About a Negative Tattoo or Permanent Makeup Reaction

Please don’t assume the reaction you’re experiencing is normal or will go away on its own. If you have an atypical response or inflammation/discomfort doesn’t fade and go away within the first few days to a week, contact your Overlake healthcare provider so we can provide treatment and relief.