Tattoos and Skin Health

Submitted by Patrick Hatfield on Mon, 06/01/2020 - 3:18 pm

Tattoos are nothing new in the world, but the techniques are much more sophisticated than they were back in the day.  These markings were found on cavemen and mummies.  Over 60 million Americans have at least one tattoo, so that equates to one out of five individuals.

How do Tattoos Work

Tattoos inject dye into the skin using small needles that puncture skin at a frequency of 50-3000 times per minute.  Needles penetrate past the epidermis into the dermis layer.  The dermis has collagen, nerves, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, blood vessels and all the things that keep our skin connected to the rest of the body.  Once the needle creates a wound in the skin, it activates the body’s inflammation process.  Cells from the immune system move to the wound site and begin the healing process.  Remember that a freshly tattooed area is really a wound.  It will be red, itchy, and can be susceptible to infection.  Healing time ranges, depending on the individual, but remember make sure to keep it clean and away from bacteria as much as possible.

Over Time

As we shed skin cells, which we do daily, we start to lose some of the ink in the epidermis, this is why the color may look less vibrant over time.  The best way to protect your tattooed skin is to protect it from UV damage.  Use hydrating serums and moisturizers to ensure you see the vivid colors below the damaged epidermis.


As with anything, there are risks associated with tattoos.  The main risk being an infection.  These risks will be discussed below:

Allergic to Ink – There are people who are allergic to the ink, which may take time to show itself.  The tattoo may become bumpy and itchy.  This is most commonly found in red inks.  The itch and rash can even turn into growths that have to be removed.  Scientists believe the mercury salts in red dye can be the culprit.  There have also been issues reported regarding cobalt, cadmium, and dichromate components found in dye.

Hides Skin Conditions – When you have tattooed skin, you are unable to see the true pigment and moles and changes that can occur when skin cancer is in the beginning stages. If you want a tattoo in an area that has moles or birthmarks, have them checked out prior to tattooing over them and losing the chance to eliminate a cancer risk.

Sweat – When skin is tattooed, it releases 50% less sweat.  Now, for small tattoos, this is not a problem.  However, if you are getting a large area tattooed, be aware that your body may not be able to thermoregulate if you don’t leave some areas for the skin to sweat properly.

Complications – Try and stay away from iron-based inks that can interfere with medical procedures like an MRI.  There are instances where an MRI on a tattooed area caused skin burns.  These burns can be very painful and a doctor should be notified if you believe you have any metallic ink in your tattoos prior to a procedure.