Health Effects of Tattoos and Piercings


Are Tattoos and Piercings Safe?

To do tattoos, artists insert ink into the dermis, one of the skin`s layers through a needle. This alters the skin’s pigment and creates a visible image. Piercing is another form of body art that requires body modification. It requires using a needle to puncture a hole into the body so the pierced individual can insert a piece of jewelry into the hole. Tattoos and piercings have health risks. What are they? That`s exactly what this article will address, among other essentials you should know. First, let`s discuss various types of body modifications that come with tattooing and piercing.

Permanent makeup is one of the forms of tattooing; it entails using permanent ink to mimic the look of lip liner, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, or other kinds of makeup. People pierce body parts such as the earlobes, tongue, lips, cheek, nostrils, eyebrows, navel, nipples, and the genitals. There are some other body modification procedures such as:

  • using jewelry to stretch the earlobes
  • using dermal punch procedures to create a hole in the cartilage
  • implanting beads into the skin

Health Risks of Tattoos

To create a tattoo, artists use a handheld machine with an attached needle to puncture the skin. With each hole, the machine injects ink into the dermis, just below the epidermis. As beautiful as tattoos can be, they can damage the skin and cause complications such as:

  • bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus, and HIV contracted via
  • contaminated and unsanitary needles
  • tattoo ink interfering with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests
  • skin infections such as cutaneous tuberculosis or staph infection
  • burning or swelling at the tattoo site
  • allergic reaction to tattoo dyes, like a rash at the tattoo site
  • granulomas or nodules of inflamed tissue at the tattoo site
  • keloids or overgrowths of scar tissue

Health Risks of Body Piercings

piercingPeople who modify their bodies with piercings are at risk of a bacterial infection. Some people may even develop an abscess after getting a piercing. A pus-filled mass can develop around the piercing and expose the sufferer to the risk for sepsis or blood poisoning. Sepsis is a life-threatening illness that appears in response to infection and can result in organ failure and death. Some of the symptoms of blood poisoning are heart rate, chills, rapid,  high fever, and rapid breathing. Infections are more common with mouth and nose piercings because those areas contain more bacteria. Some of the risks of body piercing are:

  • bleeding caused by a damaged blood vessel
  • swelling around the piercing site
  • formation of a keloid around the piercing

Location-Specific Risks of Body Piercings

Tongue Piercings

A tongue piercing can cause damage to your teeth and cause difficulty speaking. If your tongue swells after you get the piercing, that may be an indicator of a higher challenge. The earlier you attend to it, the better.

Genital Piercings

A genital piercing can cause pain during urination and sex. There are higher risks of complication if you have other medical conditions, such as:

  • diabetes
  • a weak immune system
  • skin disorders, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • allergies, especially if you’ve ever had an anaphylactic reaction

Tips for Safe Tattooing

  • Get a tattoo from a licensed, reputable facility. There are tattoo regulations and requirements in each state. Be sure to check with your local department of health for the latest safety laws.
  • Be sure that the tattoo shop is up to standard. Check that the equipment is properly cleaned and sterilized after each use.
  • Ensure your artist uses a fresh pair of gloves and washes their hands before starting the procedure.
  • You should ensure that your artist removes needles from a new, sealed package. Needles and razors should never be reused.
  • Your artist should swab the area of skin with a disinfectant before tattooing.
  • You should cover fresh tattoos with sterile gauze or a bandage.

Tips for Safe Piercing

  • Piercing guns are only for earlobes. To avoid crushing delicate tissues, your piercer should use a hollow needle on other body parts.
  • Your piercer should wash their hands and wear a fresh pair of disposable surgical gloves.
  • Your piercer should use single-use needles for body piercings. They should dispose of such needles immediately after each use.
  • You should sterilize any jewelry before inserting it through the body.

How to Care for Tattoos


  • It could take about two weeks for the top layer of your skin to heal after getting a tattoo. To reduce the risk of infection, you should only touch the tattoo on rare occasions until it heals.
  • Keep new tattoos bandaged for only the first one or two hour(s) only.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment to your skin after removing the bandage.
  • Gently clean the tattoo with plain soap and water, then pat dry.
  • Use a mild, unscented moisturizer on newly tattooed skin throughout the day.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure for the first few weeks after tattooing.

How to Care for a Body Piercing

  • You should clean new piercings with a saltwater solution.
  • You may soak clean gauze in the saltwater solution, then apply the gauze to the new piercing.
  • You`re advised to clean your piercings twice a day.
  • If you overcleaning body piercing, it can irritate the skin and slow the healing process.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap before touching or cleaning piercings.

Some Tattoo and Piercing Facts

  • The process of removing tattoos is expensive and requires repeated visits to a doctor. There`s also a possibility of scarring when you remove tattoos.
  • A dermatologist could perform laser surgery for a safe tattoo removal technique.
  • To reverse a piercing, remove the jewelry and let the hole in the skin heal.
  • You may require a surgical operation to correct stretched skin, punctured cartilage, and other body modifications.
  • Many believe that tattooing originates from healing similar to acupuncture, then evolved into the art form it is today.
  • Tattooing was popular among sailors when it got introduced into the Western world. It later gained popularity in the 1970s, and has since then, been widely accepted.
  • A tattoo gun can puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute, penetrating it about one millimeter deep into the dermis.
  • 58% of women have at least one tattoo, while only 41% of men have one.
  • Women are twice as likely to get their tattoos removed than men.
  • Healing time for piercing can range from about 6 weeks for ear or nose piercings to a year for belly button or male genital piercings.
  • Signs of an infected tattoo or infected piercing are a fever, an abscess, and red, swollen skin.
  • Piercing has been a trend for centuries back. Even Julius Caesar and Shakespeare had ear piercings.
  • In Wales, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to pierce the tongue, genitals, or nipple.
  • 83% of Americans have had their ears pierced.
  • Records have it that Scotland is the country with the highest number of piercings.
  • About 12% of males in the United States have one form of piercing, mostly in their ear, then their nipple.
  • 10% of UK girls above 16 years old who have piercings have them in places other than the ear.
  • The most popular body part for piercings among the youth in the UK is the ear, while the navel comes after.