Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to see a tattoo, well, anywhere. The latest tattoo trend only reinforces this impression.
Underarm – aka, armpit – tattoos are all the rage this summer, with intricate designs in this sensitive and smelly area popping up across Instagram. See for yourself – just search #armpittattoo, and we’ll guarantee you won’t stop scrolling.
But that got us thinking…is getting inked in this area safe?
According to Pauline J. Jose, MD, a clinical instructor in UCLA’s Department of Family Medicine, there’s one real risk with prettying-up those pits: “Tattoo pigments travel through the lymphatic system,” Dr. Jose explains. “Since lymph nodes are abundant in the armpit area, [an armpit tattoo] can pigment those lymph nodes, and mimic—or confuse—a cancer diagnosis.”
Related: How Safe is Tattoo Ink, Really?
Armpit tattoos are particularly troublesome for people with melanoma, as pigmented lymph nodes can look like metastasis.
“All those pigmented lymph nodes, and the skin supplied by them, may need to be biopsied when looking suspicious,” Dr. Jose continued.
Armpits aren’t the only place you shouldn’t be inking. Moles should always be kept clean; covering them up makes it harder to detect changes, which is an indicator of skin cancer. And of course, tattoos near the eye can be dangerous, as the ink can pigment the eyes, Dr. Jose warned.
Remember, tattoos involve a foreign object puncturing your skin, and your body may react accordingly. That means inflammation, pain, and itching. If you have an autoimmune condition, or allergies to food and medications, it may be safer to avoid tattoos altogether.
Having said that, infections from dirty tools or facilities aren’t as common these days. Tattoo parlours practice industry-standard precautions, so they should abide to cleanliness standards if you’re going to a legit business. But, if do go forward with a tattoo, be sure to avoid parlours that still use archaic, heavy, metal-based inks.
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