Tattoos can be beautiful and empowering (and hey, new research even suggests that a couple of tats could boost immunity). But there's a new trend in body art that's sparking a debate on social media about its safety: The Internet is freaking out about "blackout" tats, which completely cover entire areas of your body in solid, black ink. Unlike the teensy finger tattoos that have been popular of late, or even a good ol' lower-back tramp stamp, this artwork covers major skin real estate. We’re talking whole arms and legs, the entire back, the bulk of your dÃƒÂ©colletage—that kind of thing. Take a look:
Striking as they are, we couldn’t ignore the question of whether it's safe to have so much ink living in your skin, so we turned to Will Kirby, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of LaserAway medi-spa in New York City, who specializes in tattoo removal.
The type of ink being used plays a big role in determining the risks surrounding a blackout tattoo, Kirby explains. “It’s not only the quantity of ink but the constituents of the ink injected,” he says. “These days artists frequently mix ink together, and an all-black tattoo, which clinically appears to be composed of just carbon-based ink, may actually be an amalgamation of different inks.” Those other inks pose a big problem, he explains, because they could include harmful ingredients like cobalt and lead chromate, which shouldn’t be in your system. “While these ingredients in any amount are worrisome, there is a valid argument for problems being dose dependent—meaning the higher volume of ink you have in your body, the more likely you are to suffer negative consequences from it.”
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Research has also shown that tattoo ink can potentially make its way into your lymph nodes, which can result in calcified tissue bits that can be easily mistaken for cancer. And speaking of the Big C, all that dark ink can make it tough to diagnose skin cancer on those sections of the body.
They could also mess up MRIs. "Since most of these blackout tattoos are all black, they normally do not cause allergic reactions; however, since the black ink contains iron oxide, it makes it difficult for MRI scanners to heat up and actually take a reading,” says David E. Bank, director at The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York. “The area might also swell or feel like it is burning while under and MRI.”
Another concern raised by some physicians is how the coverage affects a person’s ability to synthesize vitamin D (which your skin typically makes when exposed to sunlight).
All in all, it’s worth a second (and maybe third or fourth) think if you're considering blacking out a part of your bod.