The Side Effects And Risks Of Tattooing - What You Need To Consider

Written by: Pete

Getting a tattoo is essentially like a medical procedure, and like all medical procedures, there are risks involved during and after the tattooing process. Knowing these side effects or risks ahead of time allows you to anticipate any issues that may arise and sets you up on a path of preventing them in the first place. We’ve rounded up some risks you need to consider before you head into the artist’s chair.

Related: Can Tattoos Cause Nerve Damage?

Why Are There Side Effects to Tattooing?

A tattoo machine uses repetitive force to get a needle to puncture your skin and allow your tattoo artist to deposit tattoo ink in your dermis. This creates trauma to your skin and results in an open wound that needs to heal before your piece of art is ready to be shown off to everyone you know.

This surgical procedure is done without anesthetics and so, not only is pain to be expected, but depending on your own immune system, the aftercare process may also be uncomfortable. In addition, your own commitment to your aftercare routine may determine whether you experience many of these side effects or not.

By taking the precautions of selecting a professional tattoo shop, an experienced tattoo artist, and ensuring they are up-to-date on sanitization and certifications, you are less likely to encounter problems from being tattooed. Of course, how your body reacts to this trauma will also determine what kind of side effects you may experience from the tattoo.

What to Expect When You Get a Tattoo

Even if you take all precautions to select a qualified, experienced, and certified tattoo shop, you can never truly anticipate how your body will react to the tattoo. In fact, no matter how many tattoos you’ve had, each one could experience a vastly diverse reaction from your body and immune system. As such, it’s important to be aware of some of the risks or side effects you may encounter.


This side effect is unavoidable; every tattoo hurts at least a little bit. There are adjustments you can make to counteract the pain, such as changing the size, detail or design, and placement of your tattoo. Some regions are certainly more painful than others. Check out all our articles on tattoo pain, here.

Tattoo Flu

The tattoo flu is a real side effect of getting a tattoo! It can cause you to feel:

  • Nauseous
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus issues

Of course, there are times when the symptoms of the flu following a tattoo are normal and when they need additional medical advice. Check out our article on the subject, here.

Allergic Reactions

You can never truly anticipate whether you will react negatively to getting a tattoo, or whether the tattoo ink will cause you an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can result in:

Allergic reactions to tattoo ink can show up either in 24 hours after being tattooed or have a delayed appearance, such as very itchy skin even after your tattoo has had time to heal. You can always ask your artist to perform a patch test for your tattoo prior to dedicating yourself to a larger piece.

Scarring and Skin Reactions

Each tattoo on each region of your body heals differently, and even if you follow the most strict aftercare procedure, you may be at risk of odd scarring or skin reactions. You can usually anticipate if this will be an issue that you need to deal with if your skin generally has difficulty healing wounds, or if you’re prone to keloid scarring. Keep in mind that serious scabbing or scarring could permanently distort your tattoo.

Infection and Blood-Borne Diseases

This is the greatest risk of all when it comes to getting a tattoo. This is why it is essential that you financially invest in your tattoo and do research to find a highly qualified, certified, clean, and experienced tattoo artist for your work. We always say, cheap tattoos are not good, and good tattoos are not cheap. If you decide to get a tattoo from your friend’s basement, you put yourself at risk for:

  • Serious bacterial infection
  • Hepatitis B or C
  • HIV
  • Other blood-borne illnesses

Ensure the studio you select has their certifications clearly posted, have their sanitation health certificates available, that your artist is opening new needles for each session, that ink is not left open or exposed to contamination, and that gloves are always being used.

Other Health Concerns

Did you know that tattooing over a mole may make it difficult for doctors to determine potential skin abnormalities or cancers? And did you know that tattooing over sweat glands may put you at risk of health complications if these sweat glands are heavily altered from the process? If you’re ever concerned, you can speak to your tattoo artist for any recommendations they may have for your specific tattoo plan and situation.

Our Final Thoughts

The side effects and risks of tattooing are easily mitigated with a little bit of research, planning, and paying a bit more out of pocket to make sure you’re getting a gorgeous piece from a qualified professional. While risks for any medical procedure certainly exist, don’t let this stop you from getting the tattoo of your dreams. Talk about your concerns with your tattoo artist which will give you the advice you need to move forward.

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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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