Tattoos: More popular and more accepted, they still carry risks – The Washington Post

Nearly a third of U.S. adults — 32 percent — have a tattoo, and nearly a fourth (22 percent) have more than one, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. The findings are based on data collected in July from 8,480 adults, comprising a nationally representative sample.
Tattoos were found to be more common among women than men (38 percent vs. 27 percent) and among younger adults (41 percent of those younger than 30 compared with 13 percent of people 65 and older). Most people (69 percent) said they had gotten a tattoo to help remember or honor someone or something.
Tattoos, also referred to as body art, are created by injecting colored ink into the second layer of skin, known as the dermis — a process usually done without anesthetics and that can range from lightly to seriously painful.
Health risks include the possibility of skin infection, allergic reaction to the dyes and the development of keloids, which are bumps on the skin resulting from an overgrowth of scar tissue.
The Food and Drug Administration does not approve inks for skin injection, but tattoo inks are subject to oversight by the agency. In the past 20 years, tattoo inks have been recalled 18 times because of contamination.
The FDA also offers an online tip sheet regarding health and tattoos, “Think Before You Ink: Tattoo Safety.” Among the FDA’s tips: “If you notice that the area seems not to be healing or if you notice a rash — redness or bumps — near your tattoo, contact the tattooist and your health care professional especially if you develop a fever.” The FDA also does not oversee practices in tattoo facilities, which are subject to state or local health department regulations.
Although intended to last a lifetime, tattoos sometimes can be removed or lightened, using lasers or surgery. The process, which can be painful, may cause scarring and tenderness and may not completely remove the tattoo.
The Pew report also found that, today, 80 percent of Americans — including those with and without tattoos — believe that society is more accepting of people with tattoos than it was two decades ago.
This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.