Are Tattoos Bad For Your Liver? Can Ink Compromise Your Health?

Written by: Pete

Your liver is the organ in the body that filters out all the bad stuff that enters your bloodstream. Since our immune systems are wired to react to and try to destroy foreign particles in our bodies, it’s normal to wonder whether tattooing is safe for your liver. There are always health risks to be aware of when getting a tattoo.


How Could Tattoos Affect Your Liver?

Your liver is your body’s ultimate filtration system; all the bad stuff moves through that organ and sometimes, it can hold on to a lot of those toxins and become damaged over time. While the tattoo process has generally become a safer and more regulated practice, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some risks with regard to tattooing.

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States does not have regulatory authority for tattooing, and the practice is generally monitored by the local jurisdiction.

They state: “FDA considers the inks used in intradermal tattoos, including permanent makeup, to be cosmetics. When we identify a safety problem associated with a cosmetic, including a tattoo ink, we investigate and take action, as appropriate, to prevent consumer illness or injury. The pigments used in the inks are color additives, which are subject to premarket approval under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. However, 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. The actual practice of tattooing is regulated by local jurisdictions.”

Heavy Metals

As such, tattoo inks could be the greatest cause of potential risk to your liver’s health. This is because, without standards, cheap inks can contain contaminants, heavy metals, and hazardous ingredients. Some of these dangerous ingredients include but are not limited to:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Cobalt
  • Zinc
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Lead
  • Barium
  • Iron
  • Aluminum
  • Copper

We wrote all about the potential existence of heavy metals in ink in our article, Do All Tattoo Inks Contain Heavy Metals Like Lead And Mercury?

In a medical study, researchers concluded that tattoo pigment was traced back to Kupffer cells in the liver after passing through the lymph nodes, which were used to attempt to detoxify the bloodstream. It’s important that you ask your tattoo artist what type of ink they use and to carefully research the ingredient list. We list a few of our favorite chemical-free brands, here.

Contaminated Equipment

Another potential cause for liver concerns is related to poor sanitation methods which could mean that your artist is exposing you to equipment that is contaminated. This is why we always recommend researching your shop carefully and staying away from people tattooing in their homes or in unsanitary conditions.

Hepatitis and Tattoos

Hepatitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It is passed through blood-to-blood contact and the procedure of tattooing does put you at risk for potential exposure. Hepatitis is usually the cause of poor sterilization or shared equipment like needles and contaminated ink. Again, this risk is increased if you do not go to a reputable shop for your tattoo.

How to Prevent Liver Damage Risks

Liver damage due to tattooing is actually very minimal. It’s just important to keep a few things in mind to reduce your risk.

  • Do your due diligence and research your shop. Read testimonials, ask them about their licensing and certification, and ask to see their sanitation inspection reports.
  • Ask your tattoo artist how they sterilize their equipment and what tattoo ink they use.
  • Once you know what ink your artist uses, email the company and ask for an ingredients list and reports on their products. You can always buy your own ink and bring it to the shop if you feel more confident about that option.
  • Follow a meticulous and careful aftercare process after getting your tattoo.
  • If you have any odd discomfort or concern, you shouldn’t hesitate to speak to a medical professional.

Our Final Thoughts

Like most of the scary risks associated with tattooing, liver damage is very, very rare. It all comes down to carefully researching your shop and what products they’re using. Always choose chemical-free, metal-free, or vegan tattoo ink options to ensure you’re putting the highest-quality pigment into your skin.

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The information contained on Tattify is intended for informational and educational purposes only. None of the statements made on this website are intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease, infection or illness. Please consult a healthcare practitioner before using tattoo/skincare products that may interfere with medications or known conditions. This article is provided with the understanding that it does not constitute medical or professional advice or services. If you are looking for help with your condition, please seek out a qualified medical practitioner.

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