Healthy Living

Can Tattoos Lead to Skin Infections?


According to a recent study, some regular practices at tattoo parlors may increase the risk of skin infections. Skin infections are normally seen in people with a weak immune system. The study, published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases, reports two cases of Mycobacterium haemophilum skin infections as associated with tattooing. According to researchers, the infections developed by using tap water to dilute the ink used for shading tattoos. Meagan K. Kay of the CDC in King County, Washington, researchers of the study, recommends that it is better to not use common water for tattooing, although infections with tap water are not very common.

In one of the cases, a healthy 44-year-old man reported a painless rash in the region of the tattoo. It was determined that the rash was caused by a mycobacterium infection and treated with antibiotics. The second case was reported from the same parlor, a 35-year-old man received the tattoo from the same parlor and developed a similar infection. The source of the infection was suspected to be mycobacterium, but it was not confirmed.

The researchers could not confirm the presence of bacteria in the municipal water supply; however, they assumed normal tap water as the most likely source. Instructions were given to parlor personnel to use sterile water to prevent further infections. 

Key Takeaways

  • Tattoo artists should use clean, sterile tools to tattoo.
  • Skin affections can occur with the use of dirty equipment.