FDA Says Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?

Are tattoos safe? Not always.

More people are getting tattoos, and some have developed infections from contaminated inks or had bad reactions to the inks themselves.

 

Tattoos are more popular than ever. According to a 2015 Harris Poll, about 3 in 10 (or 29%) people surveyed have at least one tattoo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also seeing reports of people developing infections from contaminated tattoo inks, as well as adverse reactions to the inks themselves.

Over the years, the FDA has received hundreds of adverse event reports involving tattoos: 363 from 2004-2016.

Before you get a tattoo, consider these key questions, answered by Dr. Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors.

1. Should I be concerned about unsafe practices, or the tattoo ink itself?

Both. While you can get serious infections from unhygienic practices and equipment that isn’t sterile, infections can also result from ink that was contaminated with bacteria or mold. Using non-sterile water to dilute the pigments (ingredients that add color) is a common culprit, although not the only one.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends asking these important questions before getting a tattoo.

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