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Dietary Supplements and Tattoos




I think for this post it may be important to address an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent in fields that deal with modifying skin in any sort of way.  Tattooing and piercing is what this blog is about so that is what will be addressed in reference to the material.

In a day and age where we supplement our diet with many additional chemicals like vitamins, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (fish oil), creatine etc. whether its for weight training or dietary supplementation it is important that we take consideration what we are putting in our bodies prior to being tattooed.  I would even go as far as to say that pharmaceuticals to any degree could generate changes in the skin.  I have not really heard too many people address this issue but this subject matter falls into my background and hopefully this information can help individuals get the best quality tattoo possible. Given, everyone’s body chemistry is unique, and this may not be applicable to everyone so keep that in mind. I would love to hear your results or if anyone has had any experience with the topics I will address in this post please feel free to drop some knowledge as this can help someone out.

It is undeniable that in America we consume the most supplements and pharmaceuticals in the world.  Those statistics are readily available if you want to go looking for them you will not need to go far.  Most of these products hold some benefit to our health or appearance and can be quite important.  However, we do not always get to see the biochemical reactions that are taking place in our bodies during the time the products in question are circulating through our system.  Sometimes we can experience the reactions and health benefits immediately while others may take some time to acclimate into our systems.  The difficult part of this problem to assess is how are these supplements going to affect my tattoo? 

I can give two examples first hand of supplements that can influence how the tattoo sits under the skin during the healing process.  First, fish oil is a great supplement it helps with the appearance and overall health of skin and hair among other aspects of our biology.  However, fish oil is a non-water-soluble oil and absorbs into our skin differently and can influence the pigments and inks to migrate rather than staying put.  For those of you that have not researched solubility or some of its basic principles in chemistry we say like dissolves like. I will make some sense of this because I know it sounds irrelevant. 

When we are thinking about using a solvent in the lab for a substance we have to determine if its overall charge is polar or nonpolar.  Polar compounds are substances like water, table salt, glucose, Epsom salts, etc, hopefully you get the idea, basically these substances carry a charge and will disassociate when being dissolved in water or acetic acid (vinegar) or any other polar solvents.  Nonpolar compounds do not carry a charge and can be organic molecules but the easiest ones to identify with are hydrocarbons or oils and things like that.  Everyone has heard the reference about mixing oil and water, those compounds do NOT mix, on the other hand if we put table salt in water the granules of salt will disappear.  Water is a polar compound and oil is a non-polar compound they are not miscible with each other, but water and salt are both polar compounds and water will dissolve the salt.  Now that we have a basic understanding of this let’s think about what we discussed last week in regard to pigments and inks which are usually organic, and carbon based.  Many times, carbon-based compounds are non-polar, however, there are many exceptions to this rule when it comes to biochemistry but not so much when we are dealing with basic carbon compounds like the components to inks.  Since there are so many variants of ink and pigment on the market with different base components it is hard to determine how they will react with someone’s specific biochemistry until the product is introduced to the body.  So, we can kind of put the pieces of the puzzle together when it comes to supplements and how the polarity will influence the skin during the tattoo and healing process.  If the supplement can partially dissolve or react with the pigment it could cause it to migrate through the dermal layer appearing as a blowout during the healing process.  This could also have an influence on the immune system’s ability to break down the ink/ pigment because the particles have now disassociated and are smaller and easier for the white blood cells to attack.

As you can see, when we introduce supplements and medicine to the mix this can add many variables that were never involved in the original equation.  Hopefully, clients are honest with tattoo artists when it comes to medicine and supplements, so the artist can be prepared for these variables.  I believe another good example of this would be an older client that is on blood thinners or a medication with a side effect that may thin the blood.  Older people generally have a different skin texture which can be determined by the artist using observation, however, the medication could cause the client to bleed significantly more than normal and extra care would be necessary on the artists end.  If someone is bleeding quite a bit during the tattoo the blood can actually help push and dilute some of the ink out of the dermis which can cause greater scabbing and

I understand that reputable shops usually screen their clients for health issues and medication, so it is the client’s responsibility to present any additional circumstances so that they can get a quality tattoo and minimize the variables.  Medicine has been apart of our way of life for centuries and I think tattooing has been just fine.  I think a more prominent issue that will emerge are dietary supplements, these are relatively new in the grand scheme of things and although very good for you can cause issues with tattoos. In the medical field, patients are screened for all supplements and medications before a procedure, so the doctor can utilize necessary methods to be successful.  Pharmacists must do the same thing when calculating dosages for patients and cross checking to see if any medications will react adversely to a current prescription etc.  I have been exposed to quite a few tattoo artists that are discovering it is necessary to ask clients about their dietary supplements before they embark on a project because it can limit issues with blowouts and ink migration etc.  I believe the supplements are largely beneficial to our lives, they help us maintain good immune health and help our skin and hair look great.  I think we should help our tattoo artists out and let them know anything outside of a “normal” diet so they can be prepared for anything.  

As always thank you for reading my blog post and I hope this had some educational value as well as presenting new ideas that have not been studied extensively.  I think there should be more research on tattooing especially since people are getting tattooed more than ever. Then again I am a scientist and I love learning about and researching new material.  We are living in an era where the transmission of information is second to none and we should use what we have to our advantage.  Finally, and as always please enjoy some awesome tats by Zenon for your enjoyment.

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Skull with knife tat.jpeg


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A very concrete note: Some supplements can, like prescription blood thinners, affect bleeding and clotting. High doses of Vitamin E may cause people to bleed more freely. Also, some, like St. John’s Wort, affect sun sensitivity. I suspect that whatever changes happen in the skin from SJW could also affect tattoo healing. 

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