The risks and precautions involved in getting tattooed

Tattoos are becoming more common than ever before, but the process is not to be taken lightly. If you are looking at commissioning some body art for yourself, it is up to you to do the research first and inform yourself regarding the risks involved and the precautions you will need to take.

Tattoo Basics

A tattoo is comprised of pigments inserted through pricks made to your skin’s top layer. This is performed via the use of a tattoo machine by the tattooist, with one or more needles pricking the skin very rapidly and repeatedly. Ink droplets are inserted with every puncture. This process produces slight bleeding alongside slight to potentially significant pain, dependent on various factors such as placement and your own threshold/tolerance for pain. This process is performed without anesthetics.


Any operation that breaches the skin poses certain risks to the individual.

  • Allergic reactions: Certain dyes (especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes) may cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash. This may occur even years after you get the tattoo.
  • Infections: Skin infection at the site of the tattoo is possible after tattooing. This might cause redness, swelling, pain and a pus-like drainage.
  • Other skin problems: Sometimes bumps called “granulomas” form around tattoo ink. Tattooing can also lead to “keloids”, which are raised areas caused by scar tissue overgrowth.
  • Communicable diseases: If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases — including tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • MRI complications: Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup might cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image — such as when a person who has permanent eyeliner has an MRI of the eye.

If you experience any of the conditions listed above, you may require medication or other treatments such as possible removal of the tattoo.

For information on what to look for when you choose your tattoo artist, check out our Guidelines.