Does Tattoo Ink Spread To The Lymph Nodes?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 8, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Attitudes are changing towards tattoos — they’re becoming ever more socially acceptable. This means that their popularity rates are soaring. Research undertaken in 2016, in fact, showed that 77% of study subjects didn’t regret getting their tattoo. 

Even so, it turns out that tattoos could actually have more effects on our health than once thought. New findings show that ink particles can spread to the lymph nodes.

While nothing is proven, scientific research suggests tattoos could have these effects on the lymph nodes:

  • Biomolecular tissue changes in skin
  • Issues with lymph pigment

Alterings in lipid and protein levels

What Is Tattoo Ink Made Of? 

It’s crucial to become knowledgable about the compounds contained in the tattoo ink. This will allow for a better and deeper understanding of the effects these can have on the lymph nodes. 

The dye will contain a carrier and colorant. The carrier works as a solvent, dispersing the pigment to the skin area. It will likely contain glycerin, isopropyl, alcohol, witch hazel and water.

The colorant can contain an array of heavy metals, such as nickel, cobalt and chromium. Possible contaminated ingredients could also be present:

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Phthalates
  • Microorganisms

Macrophagic repair cells will attempt to fight these foreign compounds. Some will be rejected by the body, by flaking or peeling away.

The ink pigment that cannot be destroyed will remain in the dermis layer of skin, and your body will come to accept it.

But, the ingredients sound frightening, right? It’s true. The list raises some red flags. Just what could these compounds be doing to the body, particularly the lymph nodes?

How Can Ink Affect Lymph Nodes? 

Research shows that ink particles can remove themselves from the dermal skin layer and move through the lymphatic system, bloodstream and liver. They will arrive at the lymph nodes along this journey. 

Post mortem studies were carried out on doner lymph node and skin tissue samples from those with tattoos and those without — techniques such as measuring, x-rays and fluorescence imaging were used.

The tattoo ink contains metal pigments, which were found to be carried through the bloodstream or lymph fluid. They ended up in the lymph nodes, and traces of titanium were found here.

Process of making tattoo in the studio.

Those subjects who had tattoos showed more trace of these compounds. 

The study used a technique called spectroscopy. Results showed biomolecular tissue changes in skin and lymph pigment:

  • Higher lipid levels
  • Lower protein levels
  • Tissue protein structural changes.

Scientific researchers in the study noted that this could affect the immune system and skin inflammation. Despite this, nothing is proven, and other independent factors could be at play.

Good Tattoo Practice

Getting your inking is a complicated business, one that implicates an array of risks regarding your health. Since the lymph nodes play such a vital role in the body, it’s advisable to implement certain methods of preparation.

These don’t directly relate to the lymphatic system, but is good advice, in general:

  • Research a reliable, well-reviewed and reputable studio and tattoo artist
  • Ensure the tattoo studio has adequate health and safety measures in place
  • Know the risks involved, no matter how small

Post-tattoo care is also important to minimize infection or health risk. Ensure you:

  • Wash the area with antimicrobial soap
  • Seek medical attention if you have any concerns at all
  • Avoid excessive touching of the area such as scratching and picking


Tattoos don’t come without risks. In making the decision to get inked, you’re putting faith in your selected tattoo parlor and artist. Ensure you have made an educated decision.

Tiny ink particles can leave the dermal skin layer and spread through the bloodstream to the lymphatic system. This puts you at risk of certain blood-borne diseases, particularly if the ink is contaminated. If concerned, seek medical attention.

While tattoos are deemed to be generally safe procedures, always go with a reputable studio and experienced tattoo artist to ensure a safe practice is carried out. This will minimize the risk of any issues further down the line.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.