Busting Common Tattoo Myths

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 10, 2020
    Last Updated: January 3, 2021

The art of tattooing dates back over 5,000 years. In Ancient Egypt, women primarily had tattoos and there is evidence these tattoos represented status. From the early days of tattooing all the way into modern times, we’ve seen a steady increase in the popularity of tattoos, along with interesting tales about them. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, many myths about tattoos have existed over the years, including some stories that might dissuade you from getting one yourself. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the facts about tattooing by unraveling 16 of their most popular myths.

Common Myths about Tattoos

Don’t believe everything you hear about tattoos! Here are the facts behind the fantasy. 

1. Tattoos are Permanent

At one time, tattoos were a permanent mark on one’s body. Thanks to science and medical professionals, this is no longer the case. Today, a person can get a tattoo removed through innovative laser technology, surgical procedures, dermabrasion, or removal creams. 

2. Getting a Tattoo is Extremely Painful

Getting a tattoo involves some level of pain. As pain is a subjective feeling, it varies from person to person. Stories about tattoos hurting as bad or worse than giving birth are simply not true. Most people find that the application process feels similar to scratching a sunburn. 

3. Colored Ink Hurts More than Black Ink

After they complete any black outlining required, tattoo artists will apply colored ink if this is what you asked for. The reality is that your skin has already experienced poking many times before they apply the colored ink. Colored ink does not hurt more than black. It may feel more painful because your adrenaline and other pain-relieving hormones will generally fade throughout a tattoo sitting.

4.  Tattoo Machines Contain a Single Needle

A tattoo machine contains multiple needles based upon the desired effect and intended purpose of your new artwork. A magnum can have five to 17 needles. A small round shader can one to five and a large- seven to 21. Tights will have seven to nine needles for intricate lines and flats will have seven to eleven. 

5. Tattoos Cause Cancer

Early investigators have been researching this myth for years. They have found that there may be health concerns, yet there is no hard evidence to support the theory that people with tattoos will get cancer. 

6. Tattoos Can Cause Skin Infections or Transmit HIV 

Getting a tattoo involves opening the skin up where bacteria and pathogens can enter. Once a tattoo is complete, we consider it an open wound. Contaminated equipment and inks can cause infections. As tattoo shops are more regulated today, there is a significantly decreased possibility of an infection. Additionally, your tattoo artist should use new, sterilized needles to ink your skin.

7. You Can’t Get an MRI if You Have a Tattoo

In the past, ink pigments contained certain levels of metals. These metals would cause an unwanted reaction during an MRI. Today, you don’t have to worry about that happening. Ink pigments have improved and now contain no traces of metals in them.   

8. Tattoos Will Wrinkle  

Tattoo artists apply the ink of your tattoo through a grouping of needles that pierce deeper than the first layer of skin. Once the tattoo has healed, it’s not possible for external elements to reach the ink. 

When a tattoo changes, it’s because the skin has changed. As you age, your skin will change and may wrinkle in certain areas. When a tattooed area of the body wrinkles, it’s because the skin is wrinkling, not the tattoo. 

9. Older Tattoos Will Fade to Green or Blue

Tattoos completed over 50 years ago may fade to a shade of green or blue. The fading is because of the quality of ink used back then.

However, inks have improved greatly over recent years. If you have gotten a tattoo recently or in the last decade, your ink will resist color change much better than before.

10. Tattoos are Unharmed by Scratching and Peeling 

Tattoos require you to practice good self-care when you first receive your tattoo. If you peel skin on or around the tattoo, you could alter the appearance of your tattoo. Scratching and peeling can cause keloids or scar tissue to form around the tattoo. You could also change the pigment of the ink colors. 

11. Your Tattoo Will Heal Faster if You Apply Ointment Excessively

You need to keep a fresh tattoo hydrated and nourished while it heals. What is important to note is that too much ointment can actually suffocate the skin, therefore disrupting the healing process.

This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel

12. Chlorine Fades Tattoos

Once your tattoo has healed (usually within a month), it is completely safe to take a dip in the pool. Chlorine can change the appearance of colors in an unhealed tattoo because it is an open wound, though older tattoos are completely protected from the elements.

13. Taking Aspirin or Drinking Alcohol Before Getting a Tattoo Decreases the Pain  

This myth is completely false and could cause problems. You should absolutely not use alcohol or aspirin because they are blood thinners. If you use either of these before getting a tattoo, you could experience excessive bleeding. 

Excess bleeding can cause visibility issues for the tattoo artist and thin the ink. Not to mention, it’s not safe for you either.  

14. You Can’t Donate Blood if You Have a Tattoo 

We once thought that if you have a tattoo, you could never donate blood because of the chemicals in ink. Today we know that this is just not true. It is recommended you wait a year at most after getting a tattoo to donate blood. The wait time is for your tattoo to heal and not develop an infection. 

15. Only Bikers, Sailors and Criminals Have Tattoos

At one time, the stereotype of a person with a tattoo included bikers, sailors and criminals. This stereotype is not the case today. Studies prove that most people generally view tattoos as an art form.

A 2020 study revealed that 36% of Americans age 18-29 have at least one tattoo. People with higher education are the fastest-growing segment of society getting tattoos. Ink is no longer just for the risk-takers of our society. They are for people from all walks of life. 

16. Any Artistic Person Can Create and Give Tattoos

Just because a person is creative and has an elevated artistic ability, it does not mean they can give tattoos. While having artistic abilities is important, a tattoo artist will need training. 

A tattoo artist is trained by working with other tattoo artists or through an apprenticeship. There are certifications and licenses a legitimate tattoo artist needs to have. Always use a professional tattoo artist, never your artsy friend. 


Tattoos are an art form that people have been practicing for centuries. Unfortunately, among the practice, there have been a lot of stories told. These stories have led to false information becoming truth.

People believe they cannot do certain activities if they have a tattoo or will have spent hard-earned money on something that will fade away with time. We have unraveled those stories and busted the myths, so you can feel confident scheduling your next appointment for some new ink.