Why is the Tattoo Ink Not Staying in Skin?

February 15, 2024

You’ve heard about how a strong immune system will help you fight off viruses, but it also plays a key role in how well your tattoo ink stays in skin. That’s because the tattoo needle goes down into the middle layer of the skin, called the dermis. This creates a wound, and the body tries to heal it by sending special repair cells called macrophages to the area. These cells swallow the ink, but because they can’t break it down, it ends up stuck in the dermis. Some of the ink even makes its way to lymph nodes, and research suggests that a small percentage may also end up lodged in the liver.

If the ink isn’t cleared away by these repair cells, it will eventually start to show through the top layers of the epidermis. Then it’s pushed out by other skin cells, including those called fibroblasts, which are meant to rebuild the scar tissue that has formed. This forms a scab, and when the scab falls off, it will take the ink with it.

There are a few different reasons why the tattoo ink might not be staying in your skin, and finding out what that reason is is the first step in getting it fixed. It could be as simple as the lubricant that was used for tattooing, and some lubricants are known to create a barrier (such as petroleum jelly). It might be as complicated as having incredibly tough skin that is difficult to tattoo, or you may be allergic to ingredients in the carrier agent (used to suspend the pigment) or preservatives.

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