Can tattoos really make you sick?

Is there anything to worry about?

Were you ever afraid of getting a tattoo because of the risk of contracting viruses, or infections?

Or maybe you have a sensitive skin and get allergies easily?

Watch our videos to find out a little bit more about the risks associated with tattooing.

Human skin is the biggest organ and the body’s first line of defense against toxic substances, it will absorb anything that’s put on it (like lotion), or in it (like tattoo ink).

Tattoo needles go through epidermis placing ink deeper in the dermis where cells are more stable.

Every time the needle punctures the skin, it causes a micro-wound and as a natural reaction body begins the inflammatory process in which immune system sends cells to the site of the wound to start repairing the skin.
It is thanks to this body’s reaction/ process tattoos are made permanent

But can you really get sick by getting a tattoo?

how does tattooing work

(pictures taken from SmarterEveryday)

Let’s start with ALLERGIES

Perhaps due to this mechanism of the skin’s immune system encapsulating pigment particles in fibrous tissue, tattoo inks have been described as “remarkably nonreactive histologically”

However, some allergic reactions have been medically documented on people who are sensitive or allergic to certain metals.

They may react to pigments in the skin with swelling and/or itching, rash, and/or oozing of clear fluid called serum.

Such reactions are quite rare but are most often seen with red and yellow pigments.

Allergies to latex are apparently more common than to inks. Your artists will use non-latex gloves on your request.

hiv tattoos


Always scarry HIV… I have some good news for you!

You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities.

Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.

HIV is not spread easily and it dies within couple of minutes when exposed to air

Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV:

These body fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into your bloodstream (by a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) studies have suggested that since the needles used in tattooing are not hollow, in the case of a needle stick injury a number of fluids transmitted may be small enough that HIV would be difficult to transmit.

hepatitis b virus tattoos


The hepatitis B virus is much harder to kill, making it much easier to transmit from one person to another.
It can survive outside the body for at least 7 days.
During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
Hepatitis B can be also transmitted through cross-contamination of ink, dirty equipment, a dirty work area, etc.

Thankfully vaccination for Hepatitis B exists has an excellent record of safety and effectiveness and it’s widely available. Just ask your GP.

hepatitis c virus


Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection, which is primarily transmitted through the percutaneous exposure to contaminated blood. (via needle-puncture of the skin)

Studies that specified the venue of tattooing and/or piercing showed no definitive evidence for an increased risk of HCV infection when tattoos and piercings were received in professional parlors.

However, the risk of HCV infection is significant, especially among high-risk groups when tattoos are applied in prison settings or by friends.

Also, numbers of infections associated with tattooing are significantly smaller since 2005 as more regulations and better single use products were introduced.

tetanus vaccine tattooing


Tetanus risk is reduced by having an up-to-date tetanus booster prior to being tattooed they are widely available and mostly free of charge.

There are other possible diseases that can be passed through a contaminated needle though these are more difficult to transmit and with proper cleaning and precautions against cross contamination, any disease being spread to the customer is almost impossible.

Professional tattoo shops should have in place a complete medical grade sterilization process that involves the use of an autoclave.
An autoclave uses heat and pressure to sterilize surgical equipment of all kinds.

The needles are single use only now, and should be discarded in a medical waste container.The ink should not be shared, and the work surface should be sterilized in between customers.

With these basic practices, plus the blood work safety knowledge of today’s professional tattoo artists,
you can be assured that getting your tattoo will be a clean and safe in tattooing


Following proper aftercare procedure explained by the tattoo artist is crucial in avoiding infections.
Tattoo artists can do all in their powers to get you a beautiful tattoo done in the safest possible environment, but once you leave the studio it is all in your hands.
Carefully follow their instructions and ask questions if you have any.
If you are able to quickly recognize a problem, you will be more likely to avoid a disfigured or discolored tattoo.
Even when you get a tattoo infection, if handled and addressed immediately, you will be able to clear the infection and save the tattoo.



There are the same risks of getting an infectious disease from getting a tattoo as there are when you go to a health care provider such as the doctor to get a vaccination or go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning.

In fact, statistics in America show lower hepatitis risk in professional tattoo shops than in dentists’ offices.

So as you can see… you are very safe… or at least, you can be if you take some precautions, pick the right studio and follow the instructions provided.

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