Troublesome skin reactions after getting tattoos are “relatively common”, a small study from the United States suggests. Writing in the journal Contact Dermatitis, researchers asked 300 people if they had any unwanted side effects after getting inked. Ten per cent reported symptoms such as itching, pain and scarring. Some lasted longer than four months. Scientists are calling for monitoring to see how widespread the problem is.
Researchers asked passers-by in New York’s Central Park to complete surveys about their tattoos. They were asked if they had ever experienced an adverse reaction – any symptom that differed from what they considered a normal part of tattooing or healing. Examples included redness, skin infections, allergies, sensitivity to the sun and prolonged scabbing. And in 18 cases the symptoms lasted for more than four months.
Researcher Prof Marie Leger from New York University, said: “I’m not against tattooing. “The majority of people had no problems but it is important to be aware these issues can occur. “There are lots of different things that can go wrong – from unregulated contents in ink, to hygiene levels at the tattoo parlour. “And in many cases no one is at fault. It is the body’s immune reaction to the process.”
Now researchers are calling for more studies to understand how frequent these reactions are and exactly why they occur. Surveys in Europe suggest the number of people affected could be even higher. But most countries, including England, do not have national reporting systems. In some parts of the UK businesses have to apply for licences from their local authorities before they can offer tattoos. But there are no nationally enforced standards or mandatory courses for artists.