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The Shocking Way Getting a Tattoo Can Protect Your Skin

A personal experience will generally garner a more realistic and empathetic treatment approach.


At least once a week someone comes into my office at the recommendation of their hair stylist. A suspicious lesion, a rash or hair loss—all sources of legit referrals. Tattoo artists may do the same, according to a recent study from New York University's department of dermatology.
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Researchers conducted a survey of 90 tattoo artists based in New York to learn about their role in providing skin care advice. The study showed that "educating tattoo artists about adverse tattoo reactions and other skin conditions may improve their ability to counsel clients and increase their likelihood of practicing optimal skin health behaviors." It also pointed out the fact that tattoo artists, like doctors, tend to have an intimate, trusting relationship with their clients. Considering some ink? Here's what you can learn from this new study:

Shop around for an artist with training (and their own tattoos)

Over half of those surveyed, (56.1%) had received training about skin conditions related to tattoos. It seems logical that tattooists with prior training reported higher rates of optimal skin care behaviors and higher confidence with tattoo-related skin conditions. Choosing wisely helps to ensure a positive overall experience. A very interesting fact? More than 60 percent of respondents reported experiencing an adverse reaction to one of their own tattoos. A personal experience will generally garner a more realistic and empathetic treatment approach.

History and aftercare are key

Make sure to be clear about any dermatologic history you may have. Sixty-two percent of the respondents asked their clients about preexisting skin problems—great! But that means some did not. Psoriasis, history of keloids, and eczema, for example, are conditions that can definitely be aggravated with trauma to the skin. And yes, a needle puncturing your skin is considered trauma. Please make sure to ask for wound care instructions when things wrap up—73 percent of tattooists made sure this happened!
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Ask about signs of infection

According to the study, tattoo artists in New York City must complete a 3-hour infection control course and pass a written examination in order to get an official Tattoo Artist License. The authors note that there is no required training on skin conditions not caused by infection. Regulations in other states may not be the same, so it is important to know that redness, tenderness, fever, chills, streaking, or a pus-like discharge mean a trip to the M.D., ASAP.

Be cautious if you have lots of moles

Those with multiple moles are at an increased risk for the deadly skin cancer melanoma. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed looked out for atypical moles during the tattooing process. While this is really the job of a dermatologist, any additional surveillance should be encouraged. I suggest taking a picture of the skin prior, making it easier to gauge a new or changing lesion. It is important to immediately see a health care provider if there is any questionable area.

Scope out options for removal

You may love that art now, but believe me, things change. Just for giggles ask your artists how difficult it would be to erase signs of their work (before it is permanent). Certain ink colors and complex designs may be harder to remove. Although laser tattoo removal has gotten better, it still is not perfect, so figuring out an exit strategy (although pessimistic) may not be a bad idea.

The study concludes that "Because of the role tattoo artists play as advisors on health-related issues, they may be powerful public health allies for dermatologists." They serve as a front line of professionals that deal with clients who may not see a dermatologist regularly. The more people are educated on skin health, the better the outcome will be for all.

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Women's Magazine: The Shocking Way Getting a Tattoo Can Protect Your Skin
The Shocking Way Getting a Tattoo Can Protect Your Skin
A personal experience will generally garner a more realistic and empathetic treatment approach.
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