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Should You Get a Tattoo? Pros & Cons to Consider

should you get a tattoo?
Sometimes I envy people who are free spirits. You know, the people who color their hair fun colors, dress funky, or get tattoos.

I don’t like to draw attention to myself, although my love for music has often put me on stage, and I’ve chosen jobs where I’m often engaged with the public.

Some might consider me a conformist, but since I’ve immersed myself in the world of natural health, I’m definitely more of a rebel. Maybe a covert rebel?

When it comes to expressing myself with unique clothing, hair styles or tattoos, I’m still a chicken. I am after all, a grandmother, many times over.

Tattoos are forever….almost.

Tattoo image_Tattoo_ Carlos Rojas
Tattoo by Carlos Rojas on Tattoo.com

While the opportunities to express yourself are limitless, hair color and clothing are temporary, tattoos are another story. They don’t grow out or wear off.

As a natural health geek, the question has been on my mind – are tattoos safe?

Are you thinking about getting a tattoo? Are you crazy about tattoos? 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo! (Source)

There are resources everywhere. Did you know there are even tattoo magazines dedicated to skin art? You can check them out at our sister company, Magazines.com and save on a subscription.

What should you do before you have it done? Here are some things to consider before you get inked!

In a reputable tattoo parlor you will need to complete a medical questionnaire and sign a waiver. They want to know if you’re anemic, if you’ve consumed alcohol in the past 24 hrs., or if you have HIV or hepatitis, among other things.

My research brought me to an interesting article Reasons to Get a Tattoo (and Reasons Not To) by Brett Kelly. He brought up some ideas for getting a tattoo that I hadn’t given much thought:

Why Should I Get a Tattoo?

1) To preserve memories of a loved one who passed away

People often get tattoos to cherish the memory of a loved one who has passed away. I definitely get that.

2) To pay tribute to those still living

What about relationship tattoos?

A tattoo in honor of your wife or child might be nice, and shouldn’t everyone have a tattoo that says I love Mom? Just kidding, but something to honor someone you love could be very special.

You could honor a friend, mentor or sibling I have 10 siblings. Hmm that could get rather expensive and where would I put them all?!

3) Special Interests or Passions

Do you have a favorite sports team? Are you crazy about a particular hobby like cooking? Maybe you’d like Julia Child or Anthony Bourdain tattooed on your arm! Whatever your passion, you could get a tattoo that tells others “this is my thing.”

4) They’re just plain cool.

This is easy – you love the colors and look of a tattoo and want to express yourself with skin art.

Plan Ahead for Your Tattoo

No doubt you already have your own reasons for getting a tattoo, but there are other things to consider before you proceed. The article 21 Things You Need to Know Before you Get Your First Tattoo, from BuzzFeed, had good tips to take into account, and made me realize even more, just how much I didn’t know about them.

A few of their tips before a tattoo:

1) Start small – you can always get a larger tattoo if you like the first one.
2) Don’t base your decision on the price of the tattoo – you get what you pay for.
3) Research the tattoo artist
4) Don’t rush into it – plan the design and body placement ahead of time. The skin on some parts of the body is much more sensitive than others.
5) Know your threshold for pain – there is some discomfort in getting a tattoo.
6) Take care of your tattoo while it heals to avoid scarring, irritation, etc.
7) Tip the artist.

There were other things too, like preparing your skin before you go (getting a tattoo with a sunburn isn’t a good idea), don’t be afraid to go back and have it touched up, go with a friend, etc.

 Know the Risks

There are other things to evaluate before you take the plunge:

Don’t get a tattoo when you’re sick. Your body should be focused on healing the tattoo, and if you’re sick, your tattoo may not heal as quickly…and maybe you won’t either!

Your skin is your largest organ. According to Mayo Clinic, a tattoo breaches the skin which opens the door for various complications listed below:

  • Allergic reactions – some people are allergic to the dyes and it can cause an itchy rash – even years after the tattoo.
  • Skin infections
  • Granulomas may form around the tattoo.
  • Bloodborne diseases – this may happen if the needles are contaminated with infected blood. Tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C were several bloodborne illnesses listed.
  • Removing a tattoo is painful, expensive and time consuming. That’s why you consider what you’re going to get before you do it.
  • According to WebMD – the actual practice of tattooing is regulated by local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties. That means there is no standardized certification for those doing the tattooing or an overall governing body supervising the health and safety of tattoo parlors. Only the inks are regulated by the FDA. (Source)
  • Current research cited in the same article from WebMD show that pigments from the dyes migrate to a person’s lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes are very important and work like filters to help destroy germs and fight infection.
  • Some inks contain metals like iron oxides that may interact with the magnetic field of an MRI and cause burning or swelling at the site of the tattoo. (Source)
  • Don’t get a tattoo over a mole. Should the mole change it could cause an issue in diagnosing a problem.

For what it’s worth, as someone who’s never had a tattoo, here’s my two cents on the topic:

  • Get a tattoo when you’re sober – you might think your significant other today is the one you’ve waited for all your life, but is the relationship really going to last? Getting a tattoo after a few too many beers, could make you regret having someone’s name permanently etched on your skin.
  • Check the cleanliness, hygiene and safety of the tattoo parlor carefully. Make sure the parlor and the artists are certified and that they’re using clean tools and inks.

Check out the references/resources at the bottom of this post for more information.

If you’re wondering about the process of getting a tattoo, you’ll find this video from Smarter Every Day helpful:

So now you have some pros and cons for getting a tattoo – will you do it?

Do you already have a tattoo? Will you share your story? Let us know in the comments section below, if you love your tattoo(s) or have your regrets.

In any event, I hope you find your own creative and unique way to express yourself!

References and Resources:

Tattoos – Are They Safe? – WebMD
Should I Get a Tattoo?
Tattos: Understand risks and precautions – Mayo Clinic
Thinking About Getting a Tattoo? 9 Things to Consider Before Getting Inked
Dermatologist Warns Consumers About Complications Linked to Newer Tattoo Inks