• A tattoo is a form of body modification or drawing on the skin made by inserting pigmented ink into the dermis layer (second layer) of the skin.
  • Tattooing involve placement of the ink into the skin’s dermis as this is the most stable layer of the skin. This is why a tattoo is permanent.
  • Tattoo can be made manually (handmade and hand held tools with needles of sharpened bamboo or steel) or in modern times using electric tattoo machine with tubes and needles.
  • The tattoo machine rapidly and repeatedly drives the needles in and out of the skin at about 3mm deep throughout the dermis layer.
  • This process is done without any prior anesthesia. You will be able to feel the pain during the procedure.
  • There may be minor bleeding on the tattooed skin


  • Bacterial infection
    Since the whole process involve cutting into the skin, infection can occur if the tattoo artist does not practice hygiene. Symptoms include swelling, pain or even pus discharge from tattoo area.
  • Allergic reaction
    Allergic reaction to ink particularly red dye in tattoo area. Symptoms include rash and swelling.

A generalized allergic reaction can cause shortness of breath, fainting episode, and swelling of either eyes or lips and generalized rash.

  • Chronic infection is possible if one neglect to care for their tattoo. Granuloma can form and the final image can be negatively affected.
  • Blood borne pathogens such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B, HIV and tetanus can be transmitted by the use of unsterilized tattoo equipment or contaminated ink.


If you ever decide to get a tattoo, make sure you know the risk involved and precautionary steps before and after the tattoo is done.

Pre-tattoo care

  • Get immunized for hepatitis B and tetanus before getting a tattoo
  • Make sure the tattoo studio that you visited is handled by a trained tattoo artist and in licensed facility
  • Make sure the premise is clean and safe. A properly equipped studio will use biohazard container for object that have come into contact with blood or bodily fluid and sharp container for used needles
  • The tattoo artist has to use gloves while doing the procedure. Make sure glove is change for every client
  • Make sure the artist open new sterile needle packages in front of the client
  • An autoclave machine must be used to clean reusable items

Post tattoo care

  • Open bandage after 24 hours and apply antibiotics cream.
  • Clean tattoo with normal soap and gently wipe with clean cloth.
  • Apply moisturizer to the tattoo.
  • Avoid sun exposure to the tattoo for at least a few weeks.
  • Do not remove scab because it will cause infection and permanent damage to the tattoo.
  • If you ever decide to remove the tattoo, it is advisable to seek treatment from a dermatologist where technique like laser can be use.
Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Dr. Salmiah bt. Md. Shariff
Reviewer : Dr. Nazhatussima bt. Suhaili