If we told you that tattoos were completely risk-free, we would be lying to you. In fact, the reason we put together this website is so that you can take your health into your own hands and be as best and most accurately informed as possible before sitting for your session. Though nerve damage from tattoos is extremely rare, it’s definitely one of the strange tattoo risks you should be aware of.
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Related: Tattoo Side Effects
The Tattooing Process
Getting a tattoo is essentially a medical procedure and, as such, if it isn’t handled from an experienced professional, it could be risky. The process of tattooing involves single or multiple needles piercing your epidermis and depositing ink into your dermis. Your dermis sits on top of your muscles, fat, and nerves called the hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue.
A qualified and skilled tattoo artist knows not to go below the dermis when they’re depositing the ink into your skin. The thickness of your epidermis and dermis varies on different locations of your body, and a talented artist will know how to handle any skin, regardless of placement.
Sometimes, if the ink is deposited too low into the dermis or rather into the layer of fat which sits beneath it, you can experience something called tattoo blowout. Im extremely rare cases, this needle may go even deeper and that presents a much bigger risk than just an ugly tattoo.
The Chance of Getting Nerve Damage From A Tattoo is Extremely Small
Unless you are jumping around during your tattoo or your artist has absolutely no idea what they’re doing with your skin, then the chances of getting nerve damage from a needle slip up is exceptionally rare. Even the most beginner artists know to “ride the tube” when they’re tattooing in order to better control the depth of the needle.
If the needle were to somehow go past the hypodermis, piercing a nerve that lies within it, then you could suffer nerve damage from your tattoo. If you, like any responsible individual who wants to get tattooed, avoid inexperienced artists or tattoos out of your friend’s basement, there is a very minimal chance of this occurring.
There are some areas of your body that have a significantly thinner epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis, increasing the chances for your nerve to be hit by the needle. In most cases, you may just experience more of a twitching reaction to the tattoo in the following areas:
- Head and face
- Behind the knees
Keep in mind that the fact that you are feeling pain during a tattoo means that the needle and procedure are encountering nerve receptors (which allow you to receive and process pain), but they are not damaging, piercing, or penetrating the nerves. This pain will heal during the aftercare process. As such, feeling a tingling or stinging sensation after a tattoo is completely normal and is not a sign of nerve damage.
What You Should Be Wary of When Getting a Tattoo
Nerve damage is the least of your tattooing concerns! The following symptoms are far stranger and more common risks associated with getting a tattoo:
- Ink Allergies - You may have immediate or a long-term development of allergies due to the ink used.
- Concealing Skin Cancer - If you tattoo over moles or birthmarks, you cannot monitor your skin for possibilities of skin cancer.
- Bacterial Infections - This medical procedure puts a wound on your skin that is open and vulnerable to numerous infections, not to mention the possibility of unsanitary tattooing conditions putting you at a great risk of infection.
- Tattoo Blowout - Tattoo blowout is the sign of an inexperienced artist, and it can only be discovered a few days after your tattoo has healed - and truly can’t be fixed but needs to be covered!
- Keloid Scarring - Are you or your family members prone to keloid scars? If so, you may experience some serious deformation of your tattoo if it heals with a keloid!
Our Final Thoughts
Nerve damage is extremely rare and is nothing to truly worry about when you are getting your tattoo. Ensuring you are selecting a tattoo artist who is professional and experienced, especially with your placement choice, means you will not likely experience more than a little bit of pain due to the stimulation of your nerve endings in your skin.