Getting inked up is more popular and socially acceptable nowadays than it has ever been, but it still takes nerves of steel to sit on the receiving end of a tattoo gun. Not only is the thought of getting a painful tattoo enough to deter people, but many people are scared of the idea of having permanent ink injected underneath their skin and its potential long-term side-effects.
Getting a tattoo requires hundreds of needle prick that deposits ink into the layer of skin known as the dermis, which lies just below the epidermis. The dermis is heavily populated with blood vessels and nerves. In a perfect world, the ink would stop there and you'd have an awesome tattoo to show off, but unfortunately, that isn't the case.
Most of the ink remains in the dermis trapped by the body's repair cells known as macrophages or skin cells called fibroblasts and shows through the top layers of skin.
Once the ink is deposited inside of the dermis some of it doesn't stop there. Ink particles that continue to other parts of the body make their way into the lymphatic system and the bloodstream and reach the lymph nodes within minutes. Research conducted on mice suggest that some of these particles make it as far as the liver.
Researchers are now taking a closer look at the ink particles that make their way to other parts of the human body. A team of German and French scientists that performed the first chemical analyses on tattoo ink collected in the lymph nodes. To conduct the research, four cadavers with tattoos and two without were examined.
The study published in the journal Scientific Reports pointed out that evidence of pigmented and enlarged lymph nodes have been noticed in individuals with tattoos for decades. These differences were mostly noticed by pathologists conducting lymph node biopsies from tattooed patients.
More investigation found that nanoparticles (particles that measure less than 100 nanometers across) commonly found in tattoo ink were also like to be deposited in the lymph nodes. Particles such as carbon black, titanium dioxide, and potentially toxic metals like cobalt, nickel, and chromium.
So far, evidence provided from these studies suggest that tattoo ink pigment particles that make their way into the lymph nodes may cause enlargement of the lymph nodes and some blood clotting.
While that isn't the greatest news for tattoo lovers and anyone contemplating getting one, the good news is that there is currently no link to tattoo ink and harmful effects on the human body.