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What You Should Know Before Getting a Tattoo

What You Should Know Before Getting a Tattoo

At the beginning of The Hangover 2, Stu wakes up with a tattoo on his face that’s identical to Mike Tyson’s. The film was almost held from theaters when Tyson’s tattoo artist sued Warner Brothers citing design ownership. But they inked a deal and the movie (tattoos and all) hit theaters in April 2011.   

If you’re thinking about inking, don’t let Tyson’s iconic tattoo inspire you. Tattoo ink is made of a variety of chemicals, almost none of which are FDA-approved for skin injection. In fact, some inks contain pigments used in printer toner and car paint!

We’ve warned you before about getting tattooed—it can put you at risk for chronic infections like hepatitis C. The inks can also trigger a permanent allergic reaction, cause tumors at the site of the tattoo, and invade lymph nodes.

A study published in Scientific Reports that looked into the lymph nodes of four people who had had tattoos, reports that nanoparticles of tattoo-related chemicals had collected there. That’s concerning, because from the lymph nodes toxic particles of such a small size can infiltrate all sorts of places in your body and inhibit your immune system. We don’t yet know about long-term damage, but the writing’s on the—oh, you know. So if you’re considering a tattoo, take a moment to contemplate what might down the road when your body reacts to the toxic ink infiltrating your organs and tissue.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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