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Body Art

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About Body Art


Body art has become increasingly popular and comes in many forms including:

  • tattooing
  • micropigmentation (cosmetic or makeup tattooing)
  • body piercing
  • branding
  • scarification


Body art procedures have health risks for both the client and the practitioner. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the following are the primary complications that can result from receiving a tattoo:

  • Infection. Unsterile tattooing equipment and needles can transmit infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and skin infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) bacteria*.
  • Removal problems. Despite advances in laser technology, removing a tattoo is a painstaking process, usually involving several treatments and considerable expense. Complete removal without scarring may be impossible.
  • Allergic reactions. Although the FDA has received reports of numerous adverse reactions associated with certain shades of ink in permanent makeup, reports of allergic reactions to tattoo pigments are rare. However, when they happen they may be particularly troublesome because the pigments can be hard to remove. Occasionally, people may develop an allergic reaction to tattoos they have had for years.
  • Granulomas. These are nodules that may form around material that the body perceives as foreign, such as particles of tattoo pigment.
  • Keloid formation. If you are prone to developing keloids (scars that grow beyond normal boundaries), you are at risk of keloid formation from a tattoo.
  • MRI complications. There have been reports of people with tattoos or permanent makeup who experienced swelling or burning in the affected areas when they underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This seems to occur only rarely and apparently without lasting effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, having other body art procedures such as piercing can result in similar complications:

  • Allergic reactions. Some piercing jewelry, particularly pieces made of nickel, can cause allergic reactions.
  • Oral complications. Jewelry worn in tongue piercings can chip and crack your teeth and damage
    ear piercing

    Ear piercings.

    your gums. Tongue swelling after a new piercing can interfere with chewing and swallowing, and sometimes even breathing.

  • Skin infections. A skin infection, causing redness, swelling, pain and puss-like discharge, is possible after a piercing.
  • Other skin problems. Piercing can lead to scars and keloids.
  • Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to do the piercing is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus and HIV.
  • Tearing or trauma. Jewelry can accidentally get caught and torn out, potentially requiring stitches or other repair.

Before you decide, go to the following websites for more information:

FDA: Think Before You Ink
The Mayo Clinic
Web MD

Practitioners and artists may also be at risk:

The practitioners or artists who apply tattoos and piercings are at risk of coming in contact with their clients’ blood. This means they may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV. To minimize the risk of disease transmission, certain practices can be implemented such as single-use, blister packaged needles and the application of universal precautions. The Massachusetts State Sanitary Code 105 CMR 480.00 stipulates minimum requirements for proper handling, storage and disposal of infectious, medical or biologic waste. For more information about dangers to practitioners, go to the CDC website.