How Does Tattoo Ink Stay In The Skin?
It takes a brave soul (in some cases, emboldened by a strong drink or two) to get a tattoo. And while people may spend time considering what design to have pierced onto their bodies, few may consider exactly what happens to the ink once it is injected under their skin. In fact, scientists are still investigating that question. To make a tattoo permanent, a tattoo artist punctures the skin with hundreds of needle pricks.
Each prick delivers a deposit of ink into the dermis , the layer of skin that lies below the epidermis, which is populated with blood vessels and nerves. Once the ink is inserted into the dermis, it doesn’t all stay put, research is finding.
Some ink particles migrate through the lymphatic system and the bloodstream and are delivered to the lymph nodes. Research on mice suggests some particles of ink may also end up in the liver. “When you inject particles into the skin, some travel to the lymph nodes within minutes,” Ines Schreiver, a chemist with the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin,told Live Science.
- [ 5 Weird Ways Tattoos Affect Your Health ] Where the ink goes To be clear, most of the tattoo pigment stays put after a person gets a tattoo;
- The ink that’s not cleared away by special repair cells, called macrophages, stays in the dermis within trapped macrophages or skin cells called fibroblasts;
It then shows through the skin, perhaps spelling out “Mom” or featuring that eagle design you spent weeks choosing. “Normally, the ink doesn’t migrate too far from where it’s injected,” Dr. Arisa Ortiz, a dermatologist and director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at the U.
San Diego Health, told Live Science. “For the most part, it is engulfed [by skin or immune cells ] and then kind of sticks around in the dermis. ” But researchers are now taking a closer look at the tattoo ink that does travel to other parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes.
Schreiver was part of a team of German and French scientists that performed the first chemical analyses on tattoo ink collected at human lymph nodes. The researchers analyzed the lymph nodes of four cadavers that had tattoos, as well as two cadavers that had no tattoos, which served as controls.
- The researchers pointed out in their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports (opens in new tab) , that “pigmented and enlarged lymph nodes have been noticed in tattooed individuals for decades;
” Those reports came mostly from pathologists who began noticing unusual coloring in lymph node biopsies taken from tattooed patients. For example, a 2015 report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology described how doctors at first thought a woman’s cervical cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
- After surgically removing the nodes, the doctors realized that what had appeared to be malignant cells were actually tattoo ink particles;
- “I was very curious about the chemical side effect of tattoos,” Schreiver said;
“I think people are aware that you can get skin infections from a tattoo, but I don’t think most are aware that there may also be risks from the ink. ” To investigate these side effects, Schreiver and her colleagues used several different tests, to analyze what forms of tattoo ink were collecting in the lymph nodes and any damage that might have resulted.
Among their findings was that nanoparticles — particles measuring less than 100 nanometers across — were most likely to have migrated to the lymph nodes. Carbon black, which is one of the most common ingredients in tattoo inks, appears to break down readily into nanoparticles and end up in the lymph nodes, the study found.
The team also looked at titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is a common ingredient in a white pigment usually combined with other colors to create certain shades. This type of ink does not appear to break down into particles as small as those found with carbon black, but some larger particles of TiO2 were still detected in the cadavers’ lymph nodes, the study said.
Disturbingly, Schreiver and her colleagues found that some potentially toxic heavy metals originating in tattoo ink also made their way to the lymph nodes. The scientists detected particles of cobalt, nickel and chromium, which are sometimes added to organic tattoo pigment as preservatives, at the lymph nodes.
“These are not things you want to have permanently deposited in your body,” Schreiver said. Is it harmful? Other research has shown that tattoo pigment may land elsewhere in the body. For a May 2017 study published in the journal Dermatology, researchers tattooed the backs of mice with black and red ink.
About a year later, the team found ink pigment in the mice’s lymph nodes, as was found in human studies, but also within liver cells. “It was a quite interesting and very surprising finding,” said Mitra Sepehri, lead author of the research in mice and an M.
/Ph. candidate at the Wound Healing Centre of Bispebjerg University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. “To reach the liver cells, the pigment has to go through the blood to reach the liver. So, we have shown that tattoo pigment can spread through the mouse’s blood system as well as through the lymphatic system.
- ” The ink pigment was detected inside special cells in the liver that remove toxic substances, called Kupffer cells;
- These cells appeared to be in the process of “eating” the pigment particles, Sepehri said;
Of course, mice aren’t humans, and, as Sepehri pointed out, the study did not confirm that tattooed humans can end up with pigment in their livers. Plus, she added, since mouse skin is thinner than human skin, tattoo ink may be more likely to be deposited more deeply in mice and more likely to enter the bloodstream.
“Even if we find out maybe in five or 10 years that tattoo ink can be deposited in the liver in human beings, we still don’t know if it’s harmful,” Sepehri said. “It may pose no risk” It’s also not known if it’s harmful for tattoo pigment particles to accumulate in the lymph nodes.
So far, evidence suggests such deposits may cause enlargement of the lymph nodes and some blood clotting. But long-term studies in humans are needed to definitively link tattoo ink in lymph nodes to any harmful effect. The ingredients within tattoo ink itself also remain largely unknown and under-regulated.
A study from Denmark in 2011 found that 10 percent of unopened tattoo ink bottles tested were contaminated with bacteria. And a 2012 Danish Environmental Protection Agency study revealed that 1 in 5 tattoo inks contained carcinogenic chemicals.
Schreiver said she and her team hope to start raising the curtain on tattoo ink ingredients. They next plan to investigate inks associated with tattoo-related skin reactions and infections by analyzing skin biopsies of human patients. For example, it’s commonly known that red tattoo ink is often associated with nasty skin reactions.
- But not all red inks are the same;
- “As a chemist, describing a pigment as ‘red’ means nothing to me,” Schreiver said;
- “We need to analyze the chemistry;
- ” Tattoo ink manufacturing in the United States is overseen by the U;
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but as a cosmetic. As the FDA states , “because of other competing public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety problems specifically associated with these pigments, FDA traditionally has not exercised regulatory authority for color additives on the pigments used in tattoo inks.
” Ortiz said this needs to change. She works with the U. San Diego Clean Slate Tattoo Removal Program, which provides free care to former gang members who wish to erase their gang-associated tattoos to make it easier to enter the job market or the military.
She said she sees many tattoo-related problems that can flare up again during tattoo removal. “People have tattooed their bodies for thousands of years. Clearly, they’re not going to stop,” Ortiz said. “So, we need more testing on both the tattooing process and the ink to know potential reactions in the skin so we can optimize the safety of tattoos.
- ” Originally published on Live Science;
- Amanda Onion writes about health science advances and other topics at Live Science;
- Onion has covered science news for ABCNews;
- com, Time;
- com and Discovery News, among other publications;
A graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia School of Journalism, she’s a mother, a runner, a skier and proud tree-hugger based in Brooklyn, New York..
- 1 How does tattoo ink leave the body?
- 2 Is tattoo ink cancerous?
- 3 Can tattoos be fully removed?
- 4 How do you know if your body is rejecting a tattoo?
- 5 Why do they use Vaseline when tattooing?
- 6 What layer of skin does tattoo ink go into?
- 7 Do tattoos cause early death?
How long does tattoo ink stay in your skin?
– The tattoo needle punctures your skin around 100 times per second, with the aim of depositing the ink in a region of 1. 5 to 2 millimeters below the surface of the skin. The reason for this depth of penetration is to bypass the outer layer of the skin, or the epidermis.
This part of the skin constantly renews itself. Every day, thousands of epidermal cells are shed from your skin and replaced with new cells. Ink injected into the superficial skin layer would simply come off within 3 weeks.
In order to give the ink a permanent home in your body, the tattoo needle must travel through the epidermis into the deeper layer, or the dermis. Nerves and blood vessels are located here, which is why getting a tattoo hurts and your skin tends to bleed.
The bleeding is part of the skin’s natural defense against injury. The result is an influx of immune cells to the site of injury. Macrophages are specialized immune cells, whose job it is to engulf foreign particles and clear them from the tissue.
But this process is only partially successful when it comes to tattoo ink. Some macrophages loaded with ink particles remain in the dermis, while other pigment particles are taken up by the main dermal residents, which are called fibroblasts. Clumps of pigment particles have also been found to stick between the dense collagen fibers of the dermis.
- Although every new tattoo will display some pigment loss, the majority of the ink will stay in the skin;
- A study in mice reported that 42 days after tattooing, 68 percent of the dye was still located at the injection site;
But where is the rest of the ink?.
Does tattoo ink get in your bloodstream?
How Long Does Tattoo Ink Stay In Your Blood? – The tattoo ink is never and will never be injected directly into the bloodstream. However, the ink is injected into the dermis when tattooing, which is the second layer of skin. This layer of skin contains tiny blood vessels that could carry some of the ink particles through the body.
How does tattoo ink leave the body?
When you get a tattoo , you can pretty much expect that it’ll be with you forever. But, if for whatever reason you change your mind, there are removal options. Unfortunately, even after removal, the ink doesn’t just disappear — we actually excrete it through our lymphatic system.
The tattoo removal process is performed through a series of laser treatments (which can take up to four to 10 sessions), wherein the tattoo pigment absorbs light, which causes the ink to break down and be absorbed by our immune system, says Melissa Doft, a New York City-based plastic surgeon.
(We also learned this interesting tidbit in a recent Buzzfeed report. ) Although many people may think lasers simply fade the tattoo ink (similarly to how ink on paper simply fades if left in the sun), it’s actually a little more complicated. After the laser-removal process, which Doft notes, typically works best on darker, older tattoos, the ink is recognized as waste within the lymphatic system and discarded via either sweat, urine, or fecal matter.
“The focus of the laser treatment is to disintegrate the ink particles of the tattoo,” says celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank. “A high-intensity light beam is targeted at the pigmentation, causing it to break apart, become absorbed into the body, and be excreted through the body’s natural immune system.
” The effectiveness of the removal is partially determined by the location of the tattoo, says Frank. “Places in the body with the most circulation most easily wash away the pigmentation, while places with low circulation (like the fingers and toes) are typically harder to treat,” he says.
The treated area can become sensitive post-procedure, which can result in stinging, allergic reactions, and small bumps. Frank says these reactions are a result of the dissection of ink nanoparticles that occurs during treatment, and scientists are currently researching the effects of the procedure.
Bottom line: Even after laser removal, your tattoo isn’t completely gone. That is, until you, ahem, excrete it. But, don’t worry, it’s not something you’ll notice the next time you use the restroom — no matter how big the tattoo was. As Buzzfeed points out, “you will not be able to tell that there’s tattoo ink in your poop — so please don’t go looking for it.
Do tattoos shorten your life?
the MPR take: – Having a tattoo may mean an earlier death, says a new report in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology. Investigators compared the deaths of people with and without tattoos and found that people with tattoos appeared to die earlier than people without (mean age of death: tattooed: 39yrs; nontattooed: 53yrs).
Why do tattoos last a lifetime?
Guess how tattoos stay there forever, even as your skin cells die and are replaced? French researchers say they have found the answer, and it’s a little bit surprising. They found that immune system cells called macrophages eat the ink, and then pass it to their replacements when they die.
So the tattoo ink doesn’t stain skin cells, as many people had believed. Instead, microscopic blobs of ink are passed along from one generation of macrophages to another, according to the report in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
“We further demonstrated that tattoo pigment particles can undergo successive cycles of capture–release–recapture without any tattoo vanishing,” Anna Baranska of the French research institute INSERM in Marseille and colleagues wrote. A devotee wears a Buddhist amulet over his tradtional tattoos during an annual sacred tattoo festival, at the Wat Bang Phra temple on March 3, 2018 in Nakhon Chaisi district, Thailand’s Nakhon Pathom Province. Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP – Getty Images They were doing experiments aimed at understanding the action of immune cells in the skin of mice. They created genetically engineered mice whose macrophages could be killed easily, and were monitoring how and when they were replaced by new macrophages.
They used tattoos in the mice tails to track this. Researchers have known that immune system cells are involved in helping the body take up tattoos. The ink doesn’t simply stain skin cells, because these cells die over the years and are replaced.
But it was assumed that the ink was staining skin cells called fibroblasts, which make up the connective tissue, and that the ink was continually replaced by macrophages. Instead, the French team found that macrophages took up the ink, released it when they died, and that fresh macrophages then gobbled it. It’s not surprising that macrophages might be involved in this process. The name comes from the Greek for “big eater. ” It’s their job to eat outside invaders. “Owing to their strategic positioning at body barriers, macrophages capture a wide range of exogenous (outside) particulates,” Baranska and colleagues wrote. Their findings may open a better way to remove tattoos, they said.
“We demonstrated that the pigment particles that remain at the site of injection and cause the long-term tattoo color were exclusively found within dermal macrophages,” they wrote. They found no colored fibroblasts.
Lasers can be used to take off unwanted tattoos by activating other immune cells that carry the ink away. But it can be a less-than-perfect process, depending on the type of ink used. Former England captain David Beckham shows his tattoo after he was asked to by students at Peking University during his visit on March 24, 2013 in Beijing. Reuters file Dermal macrophages don’t move around the body like some other immune cells do, so the trick may be to activate other immune system cells that can grab the ink and take it off to the lymph nodes, to be carried off in lymph fluid. Some kind of trick to kill off the ink-noshing macrophages for a while, so that other immune cells can take away the ink, may be the secret, they said..
Is tattoo ink cancerous?
When it comes to cancer, black ink can be especially dangerous because it contains a very high level of benzo(a)pyrene. Benzo(a)pyrene is currently listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Do tattoos cause health issues?
Know the risks – Tattoos breach the skin, which means that skin infections and other complications are possible, including:
- Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes — can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
- Skin infections. A skin infection is possible after tattooing.
- Other skin problems. Sometimes an area of inflammation called a granuloma can form around tattoo ink. Tattooing also can lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
- Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases — including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), 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.
Medication or other treatment might be needed if you experience an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink or you develop an infection or other skin problem near a tattoo.
Can a tattoo needle hit a vein?
– This type of tattoo isn’t entirely risk-free. But then, getting a tattoo always involves some level of risk, with an infection being the main cause for concern. The risk for an infection gets a little higher when it comes to tattoos on veins, according to Dr.
Stacey Chimento, a board certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida. “Tattoos involve applying pressure on your skin with a needle, which can rupture the vein, making it bleed into the surrounding tissue and cause an infection,” she says.
If you have varicose veins, Chimento goes on to explain, this could make things worse and result in veins that protrude even further. “Varicose veins struggle to heal due to their pre-existing damage. If pierced during the tattoo session, they could randomly bleed internally or externally, affecting surrounding organs,” she says.
- Another thing to keep in mind when considering a tattoo to cover varicose veins? How that tattoo could potentially impact any future treatment of the veins;
- “To treat the diseased veins, they need to be somewhat visible;
And if left untreated, the blood can leak into the leg tissue and cause hyperpigmentation. Although rare, infections and undiagnosed veins can cause a need for urgent care if left untreated,” Chimento says.
Can tattoos be fully removed?
Can Lasers Remove Tattoos Completely? – Yes, lasers can remove tattoos completely. In fact, lasers are the safest, most effective tool to remove unwanted tattoos with. However, you may need to receive several sessions before the tattoo is removed completely.
How many layers of skin does tattoo ink go into?
Just How Far Does The Needle Go? – Now that you know a little more about the machine and the needle, it’s time to discuss the third essential piece of the puzzle—your skin. The tattoo needle goes through 1/16th of an inch of skin. That might not sound like a lot of skin, but it is really going through five sublayers of the epidermis, the dermal layer, and also the top layer of the dermis.
Among these layers is a collection of sweat glands, hair follicles, connective tissue, fat, and blood vessels. During a tattoo session, the needle passes through the epidermis and epidermal-dermal junction, opening a passage in the 2mm-thick dermis.
The dermis is ideal for a couple of reasons. It is far enough not to bleed out and isn’t exposed. Knowing this, the tip of the tattoo needle is minutely adjusted to ensure that it enters the skin to the correct depth. If you were to look at a tattoo needle in the machine, you will see that it sticks out no further than 2mm.
Can your skin push out tattoo ink?
How Ink REALLY Gets Into Skin – Tattoo Overview : Episode 8
So you got a new tattoo a few days ago, but you’re noticing that something’s going wrong: Ink has spread beyond the lines of your tattoo, and now it looks very blurry. If you don’t know much about tattoos, you might be wondering what’s happening. Chances are, you’re experiencing a tattoo blowout.
A tattoo blowout can occur when a tattoo artist injects ink too deeply into your skin beyond the top layer and into the fat below. In this fat layer, ink moves beyond the lines of your tattoo. This creates a distorted image.
Luckily, a tattoo blowout isn’t a serious problem that can harm your health. Unfortunately, it can greatly affect the appearance of your tattoo.
How do you know if your body is rejecting a tattoo?
Why do they use Vaseline when tattooing?
During the Tattooing Process – Tattoo artists use Vaseline when tattooing because the needle and ink are creating a wound. The wound needs something to help heal, and Vaseline can act as a protector for your skin. While it may not prevent scarring and other changes, it can help keep your skin healthy.
A tattoo artist may use a little bit of Vaseline, or they can use more of it all over the tattoo site. Using a small amount can help prepare your skin for getting a tattoo, so you don’t need a ton of Vaseline for it to help.
After the artist finishes your tattoo, they can wipe away the product. Then, you can apply a new layer of it as part of your aftercare.
Do tattoos ever completely fade?
Yes, tattoos do fade over time, and all tattoos eventually do! Here are some other things to note before we get into the details of tattoo fading; Every single tattoo you get will fade over time; some tattoos will start fading after only a couple of years, while others will start fading in your older age.
What layer of skin does tattoo ink go into?
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- The reason tattoo ink stays in skin forever has to do with the immune system.
- When you get a tattoo, the ink flows down the tattooing needle into the middle layer of your skin, called the dermis.
- That creates a wound, which your body tries to heal by sending macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to the area.
- The macrophages swallow the ink in an effort to take the foreign particle away from the wound.
- But the pigment in the ink is too large for the macrophages to remove, so the macrophages — with the ink inside — end up stuck in the dermis.
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Do tattoos cause early death?
Abstract – Objectives: At autopsy, tattoos are recorded as part of the external examination. An investigation was undertaken to determine whether negative messages that are tattooed on a decedent may indicate a predisposition to certain fatal outcomes.
Methods: Tattooed and nontattooed persons were classified by demography and forensics. Tattoos with negative or ominous messages were reviewed. Statistical comparisons were made. Results: The mean age of death for tattooed persons was 39 years, compared with 53 years for nontattooed persons (P =.
0001). There was a significant contribution of negative messages in tattoos associated with nonnatural death (P =. 0088) but not with natural death. However, the presence of any tattoo was more significant than the content of the tattoo. Conclusions: Persons with tattoos appear to die earlier than those without.
There may be an epiphenomenon between having tattoos and risk-taking behavior such as drug or alcohol use. A negative tattoo may suggest a predisposition to violent death but is eclipsed by the presence of any tattoo.
Keywords: Autopsy; Drug overdose; Forensic sciences; Suicide; Tattooing; Violence. Copyright© by the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Are tattoos really permanent?
As we all know, once you get a tattoo, it is pretty difficult, and sometimes even impossible to get rid of it. Tattoos are permanent body art, which will last you a lifetime. Unless you go for a laser tattoo removal procedure, the ink you get is there to stay with you forever.
Now, as amazing as this sounds on its own, one cannot help but wonder why are tattoos permanent. What makes the seemingly indestructible in the skin and how does something as ink color manage to last for dozes of years? These are the kinds of questions that just pop into your mind out of nowhere.
And, once the questions are there, you cannot stop thinking about something so obvious but easily overlooked. Therefore, if you want to know what are tattoo permanent, you’re at the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore the reasons why tattoos last forever and hopefully provide you with a satisfying answer.