Tat Trouble

In case you’re looking for another reason to not get a tattoo, let me be of assistance — medical researchers are finding that a measurable portion of people who get inked report skin reactions which can last for months, or longer.

A recent study published in the thrillingly named journal Contact Dermatitis interviewed 300 New Yorkers with tats in the area around Central Park in June 2013.  (Wouldn’t you love to know, by the way, whether it took more than 15 minutes to find 300 inked people around Central Park, and how many of the people approached told the researchers to stick it?)  Ten percent of respondents reported having problems with their body art, ranging from rashes to itching, swelling, infections, delaying healing, and skin bumps, with six percent saying the problems continued for more than four months.  Some of the reactions appear to be responses caused by the body’s immune system.

The study also indicates that conditions seem to be related to the color of the ink used, with skin problems reported for red ink at levels disproportionate to the commonness of red ink tattoos. Researchers don’t yet know whether the reactions are due to the ink itself, or to brighteners or preservatives used with the ink — but then, tattoo-related conditions haven’t exactly been a hot topic in the medical research field.  That’s unfortunate because, as Dr. Marie Leger, spokesperson for the study, said, “The skin is a highly immune-sensitive organ, and the long-term consequences of repeatedly testing the body’s immune system with injected dyes and colored inks are poorly understood.”  No kidding!

If you’ve ever had poison ivy or a bad rash, you know that there are few things more maddening than persistently itchy skin.  I can’t imagine dealing with it for months, or even years.  With tattoos becoming increasingly common — Dr. Leger estimates one in five adult Americans has at least one tattoo — maybe it’s time to take a careful and systematic look at just what risks are involved in getting permanently inked up.

Sucked Dry

There are many things that suck about getting older.  In one case, at least, the suckiness is literal.  With each passing year, my skin seems to be sucked dryer, and dryer, and dryer.

This condition is especially acute during the winter.  You go outside into the frigid air and it is as if every particle of moisture is being vacuumed from your body.  By the time you get back inside, your skin is as brittle as parchment, with an unsightly, spotty red appearance.  You come to dread washing your hands, because the act of drying them begins to get painful.  After a few washings your skin experiences a dull ache.  Until this began to happen, I paid absolutely no attention to my skin.  Now I have come to realize, from grim overall sensation, that the skin is the largest organ of the human body.

I’ve gotten to the point where I save those little bottles of lotion you get at every hotel and then start to use them like crazy during the colder months.  But even constant, liberal application of lanolin-based products — which leaves you trailing an odor of coconut, lime, vanilla bean, or some other ingredient associated with a tropical beverage — can provide only momentary relief.  I’ll never get back the dewy skin of youth and, well, it sucks.