Why Tattoos Are A Health Risk (And How To Rectify The Damage)

Posted February 4, 2013

I’m well aware that this post is probably going to make me pretty unpopular – especially among my tattoo-loving group of friends, but if I’m able to get just a few people to re-think getting inked, I’m doing my job.

Once upon a time I was desperate to get a tattoo. All of my friends started getting them when we were in high school and I thought it was tantrum-worthy unfair that my parents wouldn’t let me join them. I felt so inadequate with my bare lower back. Turns out my folks were right. I still think that the right kind of tattoo can look great, but these days I put my health above the temporary glee of such aesthetics.

This post isn’t about the horror stories associated with dodgy tattoos. I’m not concerned with writing about damage done by unqualified artists, infections, or allergic reactions. I’m more interested in filling you on just what you’re putting into your body when you get a tattoo, and what this does for your health.

Our skin is our largest organ, and anything that you apply to your skin is absorbed straight into your blood stream. So, everything found in a tattoo ends up in your system.


Way back in the day, traditional tribal tattoo marks were made using dyes from the natural environment. This is certainly not the case any more. While it’s near impossible to say what’s in all tattoo inks (they are all different, and disclosure of ingredients is not actually enforced), it’s safe to say that most colours of standard tattoo ink are derived from heavy metals.

Mercury = red ink
Lead = yellow, green, white ink
Cadmium = red, orange, yellow ink
Nickel = black ink
Zinc= yellow, white ink
Chromium = green ink
Cobalt = blue ink
Aluminium = green, violet ink
Titanium = white ink
Copper = blue, green ink
Iron = brown, red, black ink
Barium = white ink

Other compounds used as pigments include antimony, arsenic, beryllium, calcium, lithium, selenium, and sulphur.

Tattoo ink manufacturers typically blend the heavy metal pigments and/or use lightening agents (such as lead or titanium) to reduce production costs.

Why are heavy metals such a problem? They bind in our bodies and are incredibly difficult to remove. They cause damage on a cellular level and contribute to cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.

Then there’s the carrier solution, which most likely contains harmful substances such as denatured alcohols, methanol, rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, detergents, or formaldehyde and other highly toxic aldehydes.


1. Stop getting tattoos.
2. If you’re a tattoo lover, ask to be decorated in high-quality vegan, organic inks and quiz the tattoo artist about the ingredients in the ink. Be adamant that you do not want ink containing heavy metals. Do your research first!
3. Start detoxifying those heavy metals.

I’m working on a more thorough blog post about heavy metal detoxification soon (this is something both my mum and I have had to do), but for now, here are some tips:

+ Add chlorella to your green smoothies.
+ Eat clay every morning.
+ Eat and juice coriander (aka cilantro).
+ Eat chia seeds.
+ Eat aloe vera.
+ Sweat on a daily basis – far infrared saunas are great for this.


So, there you go. I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Does this info make you think twice about getting a tattoo? Or is your love of ink just too strong? Tell me in the comments below – just please be nice. I’m simply the messenger, so put down that rifle.


Positive affirmation for the day: Every awesome decision I make today determines how awesome my tomorrow will be.

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Last year I went to Asia with a friend. Being 18 and pumped on the adrenalin of being so far from home, I walked naively into a tattoo shop to “look at some designs” and walked out 2 hours later with a dodgy lotus on my foot…. Mmmmm in hindsight I probably a) could’ve come up with a better design, although lots of people compliment me on it or b) put more thought into why I wanted one and satisfied my urge to express my newfound freedom elsewhere. Unfortunately an hour after I got my tattoo, the streets of bangkok flooded and all the gunk and dirt of the filthy streets ended up being soaked into my new wound. Inevitably, it got infected to the point where I could not walk and had to fly to India the next day. Such a pointless, inconvenient saga that could have been well avoided but oh well.. The scabs drained alot of the ink and so now I am left with a OK looking lotus but the strangest thing is, even 8 months down the track, I have the most insane “itch attacks” where my tattooed skin just feels like 1000 hairy caterpillars have decided to have a dance party on foot. Nothing can satiate it. I can’t helpt but wonder what exactly they injected into my skin to make my body reject it so much, it was in bangkok after all so it could have been rat blood for all i know… MORAL OF THE STORY – tattoos suck!

It’s not the ink that did that, it’s the dirty floodwaters! They’d make any wound go gross!

What I think is ridiculous is the line that says “Our skin is our largest organ, and anything that you apply to your skin is absorbed straight into your blood stream.”

Does that include moisturiser? Baby oil? Face paint? Food colouring splotches when baking? Come on. Sentences like that are rubbish. I say this as someone with no intention of getting a tattoo.

chica » Hi Chica, thanks for your comment and for bringing this up. Yes this absolutely does include moisturiser, baby oil, face paint and food colouring splotches when baking. This is how nicotine patches are designed to work – our skin absorbs absolutely everything that we apply to it. If you still think this sentence is rubbish, I urge you to do your own research. That is the best way to dissolve any resistance you may have to new information.

She’s right. The skin absorbs everything, which is why we have to be careful with tanning, creams, lotions, dyes, tattoos, etc. The skin also expels toxins and all the openings in our skin need to be kept clean so toxins can leave and nothing toxic can come in….

Yes, it does absorb all those things!

Actually, yes, anything you apply to your skin – otherwise known as the integumentary system- does indeed become absorbed by the body. Some things don’t go as deep as others (moisturizer, for example, not so deep – medication patches, straight to the blood stream)) , some things are fairly benign and others are not. It is in your best interest to be knowledgeable about what goes in your body as well as what goes on it.

Hi Jess,
I have a tattoo… A black one and quiet small. I have a lots of illness’s and am only 32. Rheaumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, low kidney function, high blood pressure, pet allergies and Generalised anxiety disorder. I am trying very hard to help myself, so any information on thinking out of the box when it comes to health is great for me, so thanks for all your effort. My GP has been great but she has almost washed her hands of me I think. It feels now to me, like going to a plant nursery and saying my plants leaves are brown and dying and them handing you a tin of green paint as the solution. I want to fix myself not mask the problems. Do you have any more information about heavy metal testing. I don’t have any metal fillings, so not sure that would be a large problem for me??

laura » Hi Laura, I don’t have any metal fillings either but I do have heavy metals in my body. It’s a natural consequence of living in the modern world full of car fumes, mercury in our fish supply, heavy metals in our water … and tattoos. If you have a body type (like mine) that binds heavy metals, they can cause problems. A hair mineral analysis is a good way to test your heavy metal levels. Get in touch with a good naturopath and ask them to give you a test. x

Thanks Jess, I will have a look

Hi Jess. This is vital information for my daughter who is considering a tattoo… Thank you! I’m wondering what your thoughts are on body piercing in relation to accupressure points and nickel absorption???

Many thanks, Amanda.

I have found liquid zeolite to be very good for detoxing heavy metals.

Hi Jess,

Thank you for this article. I am curious; how do you know if your body type binds heavy metals?

Maggie Sergio » Hi Maggie, I did this test to find out: http://www.jessainscough.com/2013/01/wellness-warrior-tv-the-test-that-told-me-why-my-body-created-cancer/ However, if you go and see a naturopath they should be able to tell you how you can see how your heavy metal levels are. x

Hi Laura.. I am also 32 and recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am a 3rd year nutrition student and food coach and managing my RA through diet. I am actually following the GAPS protocol and highly recommend it. Drop me a line if you want to know more.

Jess! thanks for this post. I have been considering a tattoo and started my own research, but this is a great summary. I always learn new things from your blog! Thanks..

hi laura, i wish you well and a smooth and speedy journey to recovery and well being.

one of the best methods of direct detox i’m familiar with is wet cupping with a reliable practitioner.



Can someone please quote a recognised medical source that backs up the blanket statement “anything that you apply to your skin is absorbed straight into your blood stream.” I don’t think you can. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment, this kind of misinformation can be very dangerous. Taking the statement at face value ignores one of the fundamental functions of the skin as an organ, a barrier to infection. If everything we put onto our skin was to be absorbed into the bloodstream, we’d die if we went swimming in the sea, we would not need to drink fresh water, we’d just need to stand naked in the rain and HIV would be directly transmittable if we simply touched infected blood (ie whether the skin is broken or not).
While there is some valuable advice in your post regarding the presence of heavy metals in many tattoo inks and the potential health risks related to them, you do your credibility a vast amount of harm by presenting hearsay as fact.

I don’t have any tattoos – not something that interests me, but I have never stopped to think about this. I am going to share this message!

Awesome Post, Jess!!
Coming from a guy who has one himself, I say to anyone considering to wholeheartedly reconsider. Girls your skin looks way way prettier clean and natural. Mother nature made us clean for a reason. I have heard rumours for years that people with overly tattood bodies and sleaves etc will end up with kidney problems. Thanks for informing the public.

Aren’t you lovely! I’m definitely feeling better about my undecorated skin – although there’s always been the temptation! It’s scary to think that most of my friends all have tattoos to varying degrees since it became fashionable…

Hi Jess,
Thanks for this information, as I’d always wondered what the implications were of putting “ink” onto the skin. After having mercury fillings for years and then having them removed, I’m not in a rush to put heavy metals into my system.
I had been contemplating recently getting a small tattoo on my wrist. I think I’ll just leave it for now, as the things I was into at 18 are now different 28 years later. I’ll keep my body a bare canvas and leave art to my home and memories in photographs :-)
If I still feel the urge I might try some beautiful and natural traditional henna on my hand!

Thanks for such a interesting post Jess. I have 4 tatoo’s, all of which I got before I was 18 (I used to be a bit of a rebel ha), and although I don’t regret them now, I wish I had thought about the consequences long term. Reading this now, it will definitely make me think twice about getting another tatoo,especially I’m interested in detoxifying my heavy metals – especially getting my old fillings removed. – thats my first starting point. Excitied to see your blog on it. Thanks again.

Hey Jess, love this – I’m sending it to my husband who is considering getting a tattoo! Thanks so much xx

Great post! Not everyone will be a fan of what is said but the awareness is good to be made. We hear of the short term implications of tatts but not long term affects of what all that ink could be potentionally be doing to our bodies. Many years ago I almost got a tatt on a whim but decided not to. I think it was partly peer pressure, thinking it was cool, wanting to feel grown up and being rebelious. I opted for a belly ring instead but that didnt last long as I got a nasty infection and got it taken off with pliers. I still can see a spot on my belly but its not as obvious as tatt. My hubby said he is glad I didnt get a tatt. He doesnt have any either.

Interesting I don’t have any but have been considering getting one or on and off for years.
@Louise try slapping your tattoo when It itches. Apparently works better for stopping itches also try for insect bites too.

Great information Jess.. my son is the recepient of a few tatoos while in the United States Marine Corp. He now is married to a nice little aussie girl and living in Australia. He is only 28 and recently had to have his appendix removed. Wondering if the tats had something to do with it now.

I just received my degree in complementary and alternative medicine and will make sure to keep this bit of information in my toolbox.

Thanks again.

I think it was more likely to be caused by appendicitis than tattoos.

Enjoyed this post. I have a small tattoo and understood what was involved when I got it but went ahead anyways. They’re definitely not for everyone. It’s important for people to understand the risks! Thanks, Jess :) xo

wow. so informative. I knew nothing about this !
I’m one of the geeks who was never tempted to get a tattoo.
but it’s good to know – so I can tell others.


Thanks for this. With all my interests in natural therapies, I can honestly say I had never even considered the consequences of getting inked. I have a rule, no tattoos before you’re 30. So, I got inked at 33 for the first time. Typically, my children’s names and my husband’s initial on my ring finger – I LOVED it. But I am so hooked on it, that I desperately want more. Limited finances have meant that I haven’t persisted in getting more done, but now I will think very carefully about future choices. At the very least, if I do get more, I’ll be much more conscious about a detox at the same time…..Certainly food for thought! Thankyou!

Thanks for bringing this awearness to us all Jess! I think it’s more reason now for me to buy clay and add it to my morning routine ;-) I only have a very, very small tattoo on my neck, but this post has really made me rethink getting any more.

Thanks again,

Amazing! Thank you Jess.

Great topic to bring up. I got three tattoos in my early 20′s and now in my 30′s I am spending a small fortune having them removed by laser. I have always wondered what not only the ink but also the laser removal have done and are doing to my body. Unless your tattoos are of cultural significance and using traditional methods and inks – just don’t do it, it’s not worth it!

Hi Jess,
Thanks for this post! I’ve posted it on my Facebook page, in the hope that those reading it (my daughter and her girlfriend, and my nieces!) will reconsider, and take corrective action.
I decided long ago that I would never get a tattoo, I think there are heaps of alternative avenues for expressing whatever you want, and your beautiful skin and your precious body and mind don’t have to suffer the consequences. Personally, I opt for having my brain and body be the healthiest possible for as long as possible. I have a gorgeous young grandson who adores me, and I want to be around in good health and clear mind as he grows into a young man. I’d hate to miss any of that because of a momentary (even if it’s a longish moment) lack of real thinking.
x H

Thanks Jess. Eye-opening!

I have often wondered about the safety of tattoos but had never come across any information on it. I thought there must be metals of some sort in the tattoo ink as I am always asked it I have any tattoos before I go in for MRIs. I am so impressed that you have covered this topic Jess!

What a great topic and I have a story to share. About 5 years ago my daughter and I went to Vegas so I could get my first tattoo. We had a great time and I was so proud to get a “tramp stamp” for someone my age. However, a year after getting the tattoo I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had gotten the tattoo at a very popular and reputable Vegas hotel and it was fairly expensive. If I had researched the tattooing process I would have been aware of the fact that even though they use disposable needles they don’t always dispose of the ink pots. Once they have dipped a new needle from more than one person into that same ink pot, it is contaminated. I am dealing with the stigma of this virus however, I do believe life is not about the destination, but the journey. I’m not symptomatic yet but it’s my plan to watch my grandchildren grow up and graduate from high school. Not sure where this experience is taking me but I am no longer fearful of having a deadly virus to fight. Starting the Gerson Therapy has given me new hope and a positive attitude towards healing my body.


Awesome post Jess – Thanks x

Hi Jess, what a great post. When I first read the title I did feel my feathers get a bit ruffled, but only because yesterday in a random conversation my brother in law brought up that perhaps all my tattoos had contributed to my health issues. At first I was annoyed at him, but then on further reflection plus reading your blog post, he may have a point!

I am what would be considered quite heavily tattooed with a full sleeve, half my back done and both thighs plus an assortment of smaller tattoos floating around on me. I have also had a whole host of health issues since my mid 20s and now at 34 healing PCOS, adrenal fatigue and severe parasite problems I do wonder if the amount of ink in my skin has contributed to or increased the severity of my problems. These days I juice regularly, eat a mostly vegan diet and am a yogi which is helping to heal my health but I probably need to deal with the extra toxic load tattoos have given me.

Thanks for writing about what people NEED to hear rather than what we WANT to hear. I look forward to hearing what else you uncover on the subject :-)

Thanks for the information Jess. My husband and I just said “we gotta start juicing Coriander again” this has reminded me to do it. We felt so good after drinking it and just got out of the habit. I got a tattoo last year of my two children’s names. I do love it and one thing that took me so long to get it was the toxins but I haven’t regretted it at all.

Love this post! I have given referrals for lots of people wanting to get their tats removed for various reasons so this is really important info.

I was too much of a wuss to get a tat but got everything pierced instead..also not smart!

Thanks Jess. I’ll share this too. xxoo

Thanks for the great post, Jess. I love how concisely you communicate, I’m able to share with friends and family and they don’t seem too overwhelmed by the information when it comes from you! :)

I’m really looking forward to your future more in-depth post on metal detox. Thanks to your blog, I have begun oil pulling and have been doing so for the last month. It produces an incredibly intense metallic taste in my mouth that lasts all day long (after 4 weeks, it has only slightly weakened). Despite not have any fillings, I do have a few tattoos and wouldn’t be surprised if the metal in my blood is through the roof! Am planning to book in a hair analysis and will follow your other recommendations above.

Thanks for being a great source of knowledge! :)

I have 1 tattoo and have been fortunate to not have any side effects. I looked for one of the best places in the US but still does not take away from the fact that they infected toxic metals in my system. I have been itching to get 2 more but ever a year and a half ago when I turned to a more holistic way of living I have been on the fence whether or not to go and get another. On the plus I juice everyday and chorella is a big part of my daily life along with chia and cilantro.

Hi Jess,
I’m not really a lover of tattoos even though I have a small one on the back of my neck which I have been considering getting it lasered off recently because it was a very poor choice of mine at the time. We all make mistakes and live and learn from them…one would hope we live and learn from them haha. My daughter on the other hand is completely addicted to them and is getting more much to my dismay and concerns as to what she is doing to herself. Not only is it the fact of the heavy metals leaching into her tiny frame but also the social status that it puts on her now and in the future. The stares and glares she gets which I might add she loves ( I don’t) and the very limited area of work that she will be able to get into once her head is screwed on properly if ever haha. I do not know how or why she would even want to do this to herself. In my opinion it is all for attention seeking purposes only and for some sort of status level among her peers. It seems to be very self indulgent with no respect or regard for the body and what harm this brings to the body. I’m afraid that when someone is totally addicted to this sort of behaviour no amount of information will deter them from doing or getting what they want. When it comes to what someone perceives as ‘the body beautiful’ and what they want to do with their body is unfortunately their choice to make regardless of the consequences that lay ahead for them. Whether it be ink, fillers, silicone breast implants, etc etc etc the list goes on. We, the ones who know and do care have our hands!! Thank you for sharing the information I really appreciate it :-)

Wow… scary stuff! :( I have one small tattoo from eons ago but my daughter just got her third tattoo. I was considering having my little heart redone into something nicer, but I’ll wait until I can source out a ‘natural’ tattoo artist… does anyone know of any? Thanks for the great info.

Hi Jess, are there any benefits to removing the tattoo, or is ALL the damage already done once its on your body? Thanks, Sam xx

Samantha Ward-Martin » Hi Samantha, this is what I found when I was looking for info about that:

If you plan on having your tattoo removed, you should be aware that some of the pigments used (especially Yellow #7) are phototoxic and may break down into toxic chemicals in the body when removed with UV light or laser, common techniques used in tattoo removal. The toxic end-products eventually wind up in the kidneys and liver, adding to your total body burden.

Here’s the source: http://www.naturalnews.com/022073_tattoos_health_skin.html#ixzz2JtohZVty


Thank’s Jessica

It’s good to learn all the fact’s that way we can choose to do or not to do. Mine is to do :-) but as your blog stated taking these necessary step’s:
+ Add chlorella to your green smoothies.
+ Eat clay every morning.
+ Eat and juice coriander (aka cilantro).
+ Eat chia seeds.
+ Eat aloe vera.
+ Sweat on a daily basis – far infrared saunas are great for this.
I do feel though that as our red & white blood cell’s are forever fighting our daily lifestyle regime, I will definietly do all of the above & smile joyfully at my forever creative body art. :-)

Great post and very true!
Do you know anything about piercing side effects?I have had one on my tongue for quite a few years but the actual metal bit seems fine and I never had bleeding or infection. Do you know anything amount metals release or others long term drawbacks for piercing? Thanks a lot Jess! x

Thank you for such an interesting topic. I am an accredited Natural Healer, in my own professional (albeit unconventional) practice for 15yrs+, Earth-centered sustainability warrior, 16yrs Vegan and devoted family man. I am also an ‘old school’ inked up bloke who started getting tattooed at age 13 (now almost 41) and am still designing my next tattoo 28 years down the track! I have had a few dodgy ones back in the old days, mainly to help friends get some experience while getting inked for free, but eventually wisened up and realised the importance of selecting a highly professional and dedicated artist and top quality tattoo products, especially inks!!! The tattoo industry does not exclude health and sustainability conscious people such as myself in its ranks, manufacturers included, and there are a variety of guaranteed Vegan friendly, heavy-metal free and 100% health-safe pigment available. Whilst I appreciate your post and understand where you are coming from, I believe that, as with any product choice, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to be informed when making a decision…it’s not about tattoos being a good or bad choice, it’s about people making good or bad choices!!!

Be well.

Gigi Mirto

Thank you for your post. :)

Fanatastic post and Im glad you didnt get that tattoo.
The tattoo trend has skyrocketed over the last 10 years. There are some fantastic works of art out there and beautiful personal messages. But how I see it is have a dress or shirt you absolutely love, means alot to you and many people comment on it- then wear it for the REST OF YOUR LIFE
.There are also alot of tattoos people regret and to know it is doing you harm. I remove unwanted tattoo with a Q switched ND Yag laser yes the ink breaks up and is removed by your lymphatic system so its really important to look afterself during the process. Once the ink is gone its gone unfortunately many people keep getting re inked.
Kelly Lojen
Edit Tattoo removal
North Brisbane- SunshineCoast

WOW ! what an eye opener ! i got a tattoo way back when i thought i was so super cool for getting one ! Of course i still think that they are great and there are some wonderful designs, i was contemplating getting another one .. after reading this article it is a definate NO NO ! Thanks Jess for your wise words :)

This applies to permanent makeup also. I worry for those that have micropigmentation done and are fighting cancer. There needs to be a safe ink made without all the toxic chemicals.

Hi Jess,

Thanks so much for such an informative post, as usual!! This is great information – and confirms what I’ve always instinctively known about tattoos (and the reason I haven’t given in to temptation!). As a fellow heavy-metal-laden lady who’s worked hard for years to detox them, I have to add to the chorus that there are many, many people who seriously struggle to detoxify properly, and things like this shouldn’t be taken lightly. If there’s a way of avoiding adding to your toxic burden, then avoid it!! Especially during the child-bearing years.

Will print this out and keep it on file for my clients in clinic!! Cheers for highlighting yet another source of these insidious, ubiquitous poisons. Time we started making noise about this one too.

Naturopath Erin :-)

How do we eat clay? Can you explain the process please

Beth » Hi Beth, here is the blog post that the link leads to: http://www.jessainscough.com/2012/08/ive-started-eating-clay-you-should-too/ All info is there xx

Oh babe, nothing you say could make you unpopular in my book!

My whole body and all of soul hears and understands every.single.word you just wrote….

But still…

My rebellious, tattoo-loving personality whispers ‘Ta’s, we’re not quite done yet’…

Rest assured, when my next tatt arrives, I’ll be plan B-ing by taking your detox advice. It’s kinda counter-productive, I know. But, but, but! haha Love you x

Ha ha thanks babe! Love you too!!! x

I wanted to get a tatoo on my wrists. I felt like this will express myself.

But I wasn’t sure if it won’t reflect in some life situation. So I decided I will make the tatoo in 6 months. If after 6 months I would still have this desire, I will get a tatoo.

I didn’t make a tatoo. I realized that I need to become a great personality and let it be my expression, and not let the tatoo express my personality.

Love your posts and whole website generally! It’s funny I’ve always been naturally against tattoos (As thought they were tacky) but have over the years opened up to the idea of other’s getting them (as my boyfriend has some and loves them and I’ve become a yoga teacher and noticed all my yoga teacher peers covered in them) and as I realise that for some tattoos are symbolic markings of great importance to them like a totem.. as you say like the tribal practices from before (When it wasn’t really a fashion but a spiritual ritual). However, though dabbling with the idea of getting one, I still haven’t wanted to get one and for sure now know that I won’t. This just confirms why my body/mind has been so reticent about jumping on the tattoo bandwagon, something about it just didn’t feel right…. Will definitely get my boyfriend on those heavy metal cleansing juices and other goodies! Was wondering is it possible to get tattoos using natural inks like the tribal people did back then? Not that I want one… but maybe I can gently convince my boyfriend to pursue that when he thinks of going for his next tattoo. Thanks again! Also don’t you find it strange that so many yogis the world around, ostensibly very spiritual people who are concerned with their health/body/mind etc… are covered in tattoos? Would love your thoughts on this…

What about natural henna tattoos? are they in any way bad for your health?

Justine » I’ve read mixed reports about henna tattoos. Some sources say that they are natural, being from plant-derived dyes. But this Natural News article states that they can also be problematic: http://www.naturalnews.com/022073_tattoos_health_skin.html x

Very cool post. I’m 28 and I’ve been considering getting tattooed for years now, but never had the funds to go ahead with it.. But its always been in the back of my mind, that whole ‘its just not natural’ thought. I’m highly health conscious being vegan/raw foodist, exercise 2-3hr every day, no alcohol/smoking/bad-fatty foods etc etc, and I’m also an environmentalist, aspiring marine biologist with interests in toxicology and all things awesome. I really want sleeves tho, illustrating colourful kelp forests boiling with life.
Its sounds like magic in my ears, but I might end up just designing a hoody with the same motive :P

Thanks for the info – looking forward to the heavy metal post now!! ^^

I wonder what you might say about intravenous chelation used to detoxify us of heavy metals at many Naturopathic doctor offices?

Brianna » Hi Brianna, these can be dangerous if you are chelating minerals that your body needs. Chelation should only be done by someone who is extremely experienced in it, and will only chelate the necessary metals. x

I think it something Horror to do
save our body and get health

Hi Jess,
Thanks for such a fab summary of the consequences of getting a tat. I was just wondering where you found the info about the ingredients of ink? I would love to read more!
In Wellness,

Kate » Hi Kate, thanks so much! If you click on the words that are hyperlinked in my blog post it will take you to the articles that I read while doing this research. x

I saw this post on a friends wall and after reading it i feel that many of you are getting swept up in the anti tattoo hype and not seeing the bigger picture.Would it shock you to know that 49 popular brands of makeup contain on average eight metals,icluding mercury,arsenic,beryllium,cadmium,nickel,selenium and thallium.That 100% of them contained nickel.96% contained lead.And 90% beryllium.The cosmetic industry does not have to label these ingredients and the amounts used are not regulated in Australia.
Some of you may not know that common sources of aluminum include deodorants,food additives and antacids.That Arsenic can be found in contaminated water,weed killer and questionable seafood.Cadmium is in cigarette smoke.And mercury can enter the body from some fabric containers and dental fillings.
Traces of lead are found in almost ALL food.Air borne lead falls onto crops or soil which is directly absorbed by the plant.Lead solder used in making cans or tins may also contaminate food.Natural water supplies have a very low amount,but can enter through lead solder used in plumbing and pipes.More likely to be found in soft or acidic water.To new or old pipes may contribute to lead distribution.Most of you will know of lead paint also.How about our clothes,bags,purses,toys,car seats etc.Well heavy metal lead is used in any bright golden or silver colored prints,dress’s with beads,stones or sequins.Common textile accessories may include glossy prints,which have become beautiful by the added lead.Yes it is intentionally added to get a bright,brilliant and lustrous design.The design may easily dissolve in to our persperation or saliva if we rub the product on our lips.
And how many of you have heard of High Fructose Corn Syrup? Mercury grade caustic soda and hydronchloric acid are primarily used by the HFCS industry to ‘stabalise’ food and enhance product shelf life.HFCS is not regulated by the FDA and contains toxic levels of mercury because of the Ehlor-alkali products used in its manufacturing.You will probably be shocked to know that the following food contain HFCS,Breakfast cereals,Baked goods including english muffins,white rolls/bread,whole wheat bread,frozen pizzas,cocktail peanuts,pizza sauce,spagetti sauce,ketchup,BBQ sauce,soft drinks,fruit drinks bottled and concentrate,lunch meats,sausages,boxed maccaroni and cheese,boxed meals,salad dressings,yogurt (even the ones organic and all natural ones),cough syrup,candy and chocolate bars and nutrition bars!!
Now taking ALL of that into consideration the daily exposure to heavy metals is shocking to say the least.Many of you have now started to wonder if your tattoo’s have had a negative effect on your health.Some of you have flat out stated that you will be discouraging loved ones who want a tattoo,but how many of you will ditch the metal filled lip sticks,deodorants and fashion accessories that are in direct contact with your skin for several hours a day? I wonder how many of you will research this topic and make an informed educated decision for yourselves?

Thank you!!
Finally someone has done a little research. You’re completely right, heavy metals are all around us. The food we eat, water we drink, air we breath and ground we walk on all contain heavy metals. This is the result of living in an Urban society. But the amounts are so small that the general implication on human health is overlooked. It frustrates me that someone can write a blog post on the health risk of tattoos, with no credentials or justifiable scientific research in the area. You’ve said that you’re just the “messenger”, but your post is biased. A messenger would present the facts from both sides. Did you know that there are Organic tattoo inks, which contain no heavy metals. Even the main article that you have referenced (under “Carrier Solution”) is not 100% correct or justifiable.
You have every right to express your views on the situation, but when you begin presenting incorrect facts/missing facts/biased facts, you begin brainwashing your readers (Like my mother) into worrying about the side effects of getting a tattoo, and judging those who already have them and want more.
I respect your holistic lifestyle, and desire to inform more people about the benefits of wellbeing, but you have to be careful what you write about.

this was a great post. i have never been a fan of tats, but had never thought of this – it makes sense – its ink directly injected in to the skin! permanently. hello? In this day and age it is probably hard to pinpoint a tattoo as being directly related to dis-ease, so I am sure many people would be critical, but I am certainly not. It totally makes sense. so thanks for this – I have shared with my friends.
Also, I have done a mercury cleanse before …it involved a lot of things, including a ghee flush and getting off alllll fish, sugar, etc etc plus lots of sauna-ing, blood analysis etc. I didnt get the metal out of my mouth however, it is on the agenda. I found the ghee flush to be fantastic…but pretty rank… so would love to hear more about how to detox mercury from your system in other ways. thanks for always providing an informative read! xx

Hi Jess,
What a great post!! I am thrilled to see someone talking about the ultra hazardous effects of tattoos. Scary stuff. I’ve really been enjoying your blog- you are such an inspiration. I’ve just started my health coaching biz and am living in Perth (originally from Florida) and just wanted to stop by and say hi and thanks! xoxo

Happy New Year Jess. Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, joyful and blessed year :)

I’m so grateful for your kindness Jess. Thank you for all your time and sharing so much knowledge and information. I’ve been telling my BF to eat aloe Vera but he hasn’t done it; this will be the perfect reason why he needs to eat up! He’s had one side sleeve done years ago. Good thing we haven’t had the cash to do his other side of sleeve. May I ask does this go the same for lip tattoo?

Again, words cannot thank you enough for all you do.

Toffer » Thank you so much Toffer! And you’re very welcome :) Yes, that applies to cosmetic tattoos as well. xx

I meant as in cosmetics tatoo.

Thanks Jess :)

Oh wow I was actually pondering this today! I have no tatts, I was thinking about one, but about a year ago when I started doing the best for my health I thought, hang on….what the hell does the ink do to your body hence no tattoo! A few work mates were talking about tatts today and nope still not for me! I wont even use moisturiser or sunscreen on my body (hoorah for coconut oil!) let alone heavvy meatal laiden inks :) On another note some of them look great…just not for this lil health freak

Thank you so much for this information! I’ve been wanting to get another tattoo, and you have now talked me out of it! What about henna tattoos? Maybe I’ll get one of those :)

Hi Jess,

Thank you so much for your post! Unfortunately I have quite a few already, large and fresh ones. They are really beautiful, but I am not sure if I will get my next one in a couple of weeks. My boyfriend is a tattoo artist and the other day we were discussing this already. There are more natural brands on the market and we really want to look into these. Is it possible that you send me some links or books, where you got your information from, for this blog? I cannot really find reliable information on chemicals/heavy metals in tattoos and am desperate to get some good info on that. Well, I’m off for a super detoxifying smoothie now… xxx Mirjam

Mirjam » Hi Mirjam, you’re welcome! That’s awesome that you guys are going to do more research into this. If you click on the hyperlinked words in the blog post they will take you to some of the sources I used when researching for this article. xx

Response from my sister who is a high-end tattoo artist:
“Lead?! That was in inks in the 30′s but hasn’t been for a long time, and the carrier fluid is nothing but distilled water with a touch of glycerin and food grade alcohol. The pigments are mostly organic depending in the colour. Maybe some nastier brands of cheap Chinese ink have those sorts of ingredients but definitely not the better brands. The ingredients are listed on the bottle anyway, so if you ever want to check them out you can. But having said that, there’s no doubt some truth in the mild toxicity of a foreign subtance being pushed into the skin, and I’d still avoid getting tattoos at times of low immunity.”

Hi Jess,
Wow you’ve really started a conversation with this one! I have some tattoos, and my partner has a lot. I was actually just thinking about this the other day and wondering why I didn’t consider what was in the ink I let them inject across my back. I still feel that my tattoos are a part of me and meaningful but I’m in no hurry to get any more. Another great post. Steph xxx

Does this include cosmetic tattooing? When I’ve had this done as eyeliner and on my eyebrows it only lasts a year or two as they don’t go very deep. Do you think this is still dangerous?

Jess does the Gerson Therapy detox heavy metals?

Shacone » Hi Shacone, yes it does but it does it quite slowly and gently. If heavy metal toxicity is an issue, often something else is needed to give the body a boost. x

I am friends with someone that performs autopsies and she has said that in the last few years when she sees people with tattoos that the lymph nodes are ALWAYS full of ink…can’t be a good thing at all!!!

I reckon you FEMALES absorb more dangerous toxins in you daily make-up/washing/cooking routines than a MALE with tattoo’s will EVER absorb in his lifetime. Yet STILL female lifespans exceed male lifespans.. hmmmm Remember .. you weren’t meant to get out of life alive, simply make the best of what time you have, I don’t think tattoo’s are going to kill you anymore than sucking down exhaust fumes everyday will.. if you want one and it will give you enjoyment and help you express yourself.. do it.. other wise don’t.. but if fear of poisoning is a concern you need to do a “whacko jacko” move and sleep in an oxygen tent and wrap yourself in plasticwrap… life is going to get you, one way or the other.. no escaping the grim reaper.. tattoed or not.

Hi Jess, would you mind if I re-blogged this with a link to your blog. I’m a practising Homeopath and I am really aware of the danger of introducing inks under your skin (whether or not they contain heavy metals, as Kate suggests). I’ve watched with concern as my kids and all their friends got heaps of tattoos, even while I’ve admired the art work. I’d love to share this with them and all the readers of my blog…it sure gets people talking

Catherine » Hi Catherine, sure I would love for you to share it. Thanks so much! x

Glad that you’re helping to heighten awareness on this subject.

When i was studying the immune system at uni, we were told that there is a permanent immune response to the ink (no surprise given the ingredients), and that the ink stays in the same place because every time an immune cell (usually macrophages) tries to ingest it, it dies and can’t transport it anywhere… then another comes along and well… it’s a never ending cycle isn’t it. Might be a interesting thing to research and see if those perspectives find a place in the information you deliver.

Thanks for Being :)

G’day Jess
just read your amazing story and found you through researching oil pulling : )
I have several tattoo’s, which mark significant parts and learning in my life – all done with kuro sumi ink (made from burnt soy beans) and using a swash machine (pushes ink under the skin as apposed to stabbing ink into your skin) I would never consider colour or any other black ink.
Just wanted to let you know there are alternatives to the toxic solutions.
Narelle x x

narelle » Thank you so much Narelle! x

I happen to be a girl who leads a very healthy lifestyle, i eat clean living foods, i green juice daily and have all my super foods. I don’t use any products on my skin that are not certified organic and i have been this way for years.
I also have tattoo’s, one being a full sleeve. A sleeve i had done years ago long before i was so health concious and it is beautiful.
I also do not hold any heavy metals in my body and have had no adverse effects from it whatsoever.
I have no idea what will happen in the future but for now my health is great.

Well I am sure happy to have read your information on tatoos. I was planning to have one to crystalize forever ”stars” that I love so much, on my leg. It won’t happen. I will keep looking at stars at night, cheerishing stars in my mind, in my heart, in my life, when I close my eyes, whenever I want. After all I do not need to have stars implemented on my body to think of stars. Thank you so much Jess. I wish you would be in Canada where I could attend your activities for the public, your information sessions, etc….

I did a kinesiology course a few years ago and the teacher told us that tattoos and piercings can also affect your meridians and can have quite a negative affect on how your system functions, physically and otherwise. His recommendation was that you should only have a tattoo if it’s part of a spiritual ceremony, such as the way many traditional cultures do e.g. Maori. I thought this was quite interesting.

Great post! I’m 26 and years ago many friends started to have tattoos I then started to consider that I wanted some tattoos on my skin too. I was thinking to make a big tattoo on my back (covering almost all my back) and some other on my chest and arms.

Then I realized it was about fashion and sometimes, maybe most of the times, about your image and so…

I used to be in heavy metal, hardcore, punk, gothic, circles but I never dressed like them, like if dressing would determine what my likes are.

So I realized, it was very stupid (sorry for tattoo lovers).

Besides that, I made some research about health issues. I have two years since I started to care about health following a natural approach and I had to removed my mercury fillings in teeth because I was having allergies on my skin. After that I wondered about tattoos (you know because they are made of metals) and I would not recommend anybody to have a tattoo.

Thanks for posting this!

I am heavily inked. I love my tatts, but I’m currently in a phase of my life where I want to put my health first. It started simply with eating well, but now I want to take it to another level. Luckily, the majority of my large work was done with ink not containing heavy-metals, although this was just a random coincidence. I’m keen to get more advice on this <3

Hi Jess,
What a great post, thank you so much.
I have a few tattoos I got before I became aware of all the toxins everywhere.
And I wanted to do more research before getting more tattoo’s.
So thank you for your post because I won’t be getting anymore tattoos.
I’d rather buy a nice painting and put it on my wall!
And I’m looking forward to reading the post about the heavy metal detoxification.


Have you done any research on permanent make-up. I’m assuming the same sort of principle applies – check out the ingredients. But I am just wondering if anyone has done any research. The idea of some permanent lines to augment my eyebrows has some appeal as it seems eyebrows develop a mind of their own with the on-set of menopause!

Okay. Not to be a negative Nancy, but as an organic chemist who deals with a lot of heavy metals, here’s my 2 cents.

Yes, heavy metals are great for pigment and, as such, are found in a lot of different types of paint–including the kind we permanently scribe onto our bodies. Now, here’s the good news: the amount you’re getting from your tattoo…probably not a lot. Red color lover? Worried about mercury poisoning? Unless you told them to turn you into a red Oompa Loompa, the fish you eat is probably more dangerous to you. (Note: While almost every fish you eat will contain detectable levels of mercury, not all fish are created equal. Because mercury contamination is additive by nature–your body has no really good way of getting it out of your system, the carnivorous fish tend to contain higher levels. So, stay away from your barracuda, tuna, shark, etc., or at least monitor your intake.)

As for the other metals and toxins listed here, not all of them are bad for you–though quite a few are relatively scary (Note: The green chromium is most likely a chromium (III) salt, not a chromium (VI), so no Erin Brokovich scariness there). Also, again, the quantities absorbed in your system are probably not going to be a problem for almost all tattooed people–but I can’t speak to the guy who’s turning himself into a snake by tattooing green scales all over his body.

No, your skin doesn’t absorb everything you rub onto it. You have to have something like DMSO to carry it across the–wait for it–phospholipid bilayer that makes up your cells’ membranes. (Don’t know about DMSO? Google dimethyl sulfoxide. It’s good stuff. Goes through everything, including your skin. Dangerous when working with toxic stuff, but good if you’re a pro-athlete who needs to get aspirin directly to his or her knee without going through your stomach first. …make a paste and rub it on. …are they still doing that? Eh, whatever.) Remember: only really non-polar things can slide through without active transport into your cells. Well…and water…via osmosis…but that’s a little different. *Yay, special case!* So, why does DMSO work? You’ll have to read up on that for yourself because this post is already lengthy.

So, in my opinion, if you want to go out and get a Jesus tattoo on your arm, knock yourself out. Winona forever? Go for it. If you wake up with a picture of a winking Betty White permanently dedicated to some guy named Ernest on your chest after a night of heavy drinking, you probably have some pretty big issues to work through. Heavy metal poisoning? Not one of them. Personally, I’d be more afraid about cleanliness during the process. Because metals are treatable. Some blood-born pathogens? Not so much.

P.S. Denatured alcohol is typically high percentage ethanol, which we know–because of our college years–our bodies can pretty easily break down. My advice? Don’t drink it. That’s why we denature it. To get around the consumable alcohol tax.

So, be free, mini-chemists of the world. And don’t blindly trust everything you read on the internet…including my comments. Be painfully educated. That never hurt anybody.

Thank you J!!!! I’m an herbalist, and am tattooed. I appreciate your words of “do your own research, learn and decide for yourself”.

As for everything else… if you want a tattoo, get a tattoo. To me, there’s no sense in not doing something you want to do because someone wrote a slightly scary article without providing clinical evidence of someone with a tattoo having the listed health problems, and said health problems being directly linked to the tattoo. As with everything, you get what you pay for, make sure the place is clean/sanitary, uses sterilized everything, and so on. It is my opinion that one would not get RA, and such, from getting a single or three tattoos. Still, I usually incorporate Liver support into my regimen for the week or two after getting tattooed. Getting tattooed is an emotionally and physically releasing experience, the Liver should be supported with proper diet and complimentary herbs to help process everything.

Brilliant work Jess! But much to your surprise, and mine, if I wouldnt have come across this gentleman who shares identical views on tattoos (http://www.mangalorean.com/news.php?newstype=broadcast&broadcastid=438455), I wouldnt have stumbled upon your article. Cheers! :)

I just wanted to mention that I read a study that showed a few cases of liver inflammation caused by eating aloe Vera gel. If you are trying to detoxify your body and including Aloe you should get some blood work done before and during the process. Its a rare but dangerous side effect. If you have been eating Aloe and are worried, know that the subjects who ceased using aloe had their liver return to normal. If you have HepC or liver disease you should not risk taking aloe unless your doctor suggests it and is monitoring you closely.
Each tattoo ink manufacturer uses different ingredients, so definitely do your research if this is a concern. Most of the ink stays Inbetween the layers of your skin, so I think there are more damaging chemicals in our water and food we consume, and in the products we put on our body everyday, getting a few small tattoos is probably a lower toxic exposure than standing near a smoker for 5 minutes. (Or being a smoker!)
When it comes to tattoos: know your artist, know your state tattoo regulations, and ask for an explanation of sterilization procedures. A tattoo shop should be at least as clean as a doctor’s office!
A lot of people get tattooed on vacation or when away from home, if you do that please stop and research the area you are in, don’t just stop in a random shop and put blind faith in a stranger!

Iron, calcium among others are natural and we need those for our health as well. And if Tattooes were as harmful as you make them to be, why is it that in my own life experience as well as others, it is the fit ones who exercise and who weren’t born with any defectives, they are the ones who die from sudden death. Haven’t heard of any one dying a sudden death from being inked too much. Unfortunately/ fortunately they’re the oldest people.

Just for your info Jess, a person can follow the healthiest routine, eat the right amount of vegetable and etc but be the first to be diagnosed with cancer. Unfair, yes. That’s from personal experience. So you only live once, want a tattoo- just get it! ( as long as its a professional, licensed place)

Thank you for your blog about tattoos. I have three tattoos and that’s enough. I will take your advice and start my detox.
To bad its so harmful.

I’m a former certified neuromuscular therapist. and I was practicing I could not find articles on this particular subject. never made sense to me to put those strange chemicals in this organ to clog its ability to function in breathing & taking in solar energy. But I didnt have anyone that would put it into the terms you just did. So thank you! Unfortunately I’m not in practice anymore professionally. But I can share it with friends. I have thought about getting a tattoo once or twice in my life but I wasn’t driven enough. I guess I saw not getting a tattoo rebellious since so many people started getting tattoos. Plus like I said it didn’t make sense in the long run.

Hi there, I just read this after searching the net for answers on my tattoo. I got a coloured tattoo on my foot end of last year and have had nothing but problems since. My doctor says it has nothing to do with the tattoo. I’ve had gout in my big toe, swelling of the ankles and feet, mostly the tattooed foot. I tested positive for a auto immune disease. She said it’s a rheumatoid arthritis one. But I haven’t Been given anymore answers. So I’m wondering whether I’ve had a reaction to the ink?

Do the heavy metals stay in your body as long as you have a tattoo, or by using remedies that rid the body heavy metals can you get rid of the metals or just counteract the negative effects of the metals on your body?