Reasons NOT to Get a Tattoo

While there are plenty of reasons for getting a tattoo, there are more reasons not to get one. The most serious ones are medical, but there are also practical considerations.


Risk of Infection

Tattoos increase risk of contracting infections or STD’s. Once contracted, they can require months or years of treatment, and still may not be curable. The risk is minimized if you go to a fully registered and licensed tattoo parlor, but it is still possible to contract a serious infection from a “safe” location. Even at fully vetted tattoo parlors, inking needles may have seen multiple customers before coming near you.

Interference in Medical Diagnoses

Aside from the risk of contracting an illness, there is also the chance that you may come down with an unrelated medical condition that has as one of its symptoms discoloration or distortion of parts of the skin. A doctor would have an idea of how to help you just by looking at said blemishes – but what if your tattoo obscures them? Admittedly, most doctors will have other tests they can perform to obtain a diagnosis, but a clear view of the skin could narrow down the range of tests required from dozens to just one.

Risk of Death

It may sound melodramatic, but for people with serious medical conditions, tattoos can present a very real risk to health and life. People with heart conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, hemophilia, and allergies should not get tattoos. The list also includes those who have had organ transplants, anyone on blood thinners, and those who are pregnant or nursing. Both the conditions and the medications for them can affect the body’s ability to survive tattooing. It is not only the risk of infection from inking needles that should be considered. Sometimes the ink itself can lead to serious health complications by interfering with medications. In the case of pregnant or nursing women, the chances of passing infection or toxic chemicals from the tattoo to the baby are great.

A caveat: Although not normally considered a serious medical condition, acne should be thought of as one in the context of tattooing. Some prescription acne medications cause hypersensitivity of the skin. This will not usually cause death, but can lead to severe scarring on tattoos. Acne patients who want to be tattooed should wait at least six months after stopping the medication to reduce that risk.

Practical Reasons Not to Get a Tattoo

Employment and Military Enlistment

Tattoos can reduce your chances of getting hired for a job or being accepted into the armed forces. Visible tattoos would contradict the reputation for respectability and trustworthiness most companies strive for. Tattoos also run the risk of offending or discomfiting your potential colleagues. Even if you are accepted at a job, if the company needs to downsize, chances are you will be among the first in the line of fire. Employers have been known to cut the least savory-seeming employees ahead of any other consideration – and they are legally allowed to do so.

Those aspiring to join the military with visible tattoos, no matter how qualified, will be turned away until those tattoos are removed.


In many societies, tattoos are thought to signify low or dangerous character. Those with tattoos have been known to be mistaken for gang members by both “respectable” people and people who are really in gangs (the latter of which can be dangerously territorial). There is also the chance others might take the tattoo to represent loose morals. Especially for women, this can attract an unpleasant group of unwanted suitors.


You loved someone so much you put his (or her) name on your skin. Now you are no longer with that person and you want to forget all about them. Your tattoo proves your gang loyalty, but you got out of that life ages ago. Your awesome foreign-language tattoo doesn’t mean what you thought it meant; it’s actually something quite embarrassing about your personal habits. The design looked great on paper and is a mess on your body. You need to get rid of it fast!

And that leads to the best practical reason for not getting a tattoo: they are permanent.

There are tattoo removal services. However, these work only if you are not in a hurry and have plenty of money to spare. Removal services can cost several thousand dollars and take months to fully erase even small images. Some insurance companies will cover tattoo removal, but only for specific medical reasons (“the sight of his name on my arm makes me physically ill” is not a medical reason).

If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, keep in mind the risks to your future – physical, social, and financial – before going ahead with it.

Comments 14
  1. This article is absolute bullcrap. As long as you're placing your tattoo in a smart place on your body, and not getting anything offensive, gang related, or plain old stupid, you're not really screwing yourself over as much as this article makes it out to be. I'm a female with a tattoo and I have no line of unwanted suitors who think I'm "loose" in the morals because of my tattoo. If anything, tattoos on women represent strength, dedication and passion. Obviously there are some exceptions, but not everyone with a tattoo is a knuckle dragging gang member. Many professionals and other high earning individuals have tattoos as well.

    1. In my opinion tattoos on a woman represent that she has no respect for her own body, and feels a tattoo would make her more special. Which shouldn’t be needed, as everyone is special enough as they are.

      When I like a girl, and notice she has a tattoo, I immediately consider her not wife material, simply because of the kind of person I’m looking for respects the beauty of her own body, doesn’t want to look at the same image for the rest of her life, doesn’t feel the need to be more “tough” or some other strong woman logic that some women convince themselves of to cover their insecurities.

      I also used to have a girlfriend who would get tattoos and piercings whenever she felt like shit, and from my point of view it looked like a form of automutilation or self-punishment.

      This article is a bit over the top with its warnings, but you are implying that getting a tattoo makes you strong and dedicated, which sitting in slight pain for a few hours has nothing to do with. Hard work towards your goals is what takes dedication, and strength in the face of failure and disappointment, and even then, it is a process of more finesse than just being strong and powering through.

  2. This article is absolute bull crap. It is the 21st century for Christ's sake. Tattoos in a work place are rapidly becoming more and more popular. This article is definitely subjective… There is no "health guidance" in this article whatsoever. I am pretty sure someone should know if they shouldn't get a tattoo. But then there are people like me who [probably] shouldn't get one, but am willing to suffer "consequences". I disagree with the belief's this article provides.

  3. Amanda, you wrote "tattoos on women represent strength, dedication and passion" like a proven fact. You might be strong, dedicated and passionate, I don't know you, but if you are, it is not because of your tattoo, but because of who you are. If this was true, how is it possible, that most of intelligent, ambitious and confident women I know do not have a single tattoo. And how is it possible, that most of tattooed women I know tend to be weak, unambitious and with lack of self-confidence and possibly promiscuous, leading them to try to be cool by following the mainstream and getting the ink. Most of them means not all of them, so there is a minority of tattooed woman that are strong, ambitious and self-confident, however, their ink might cause social problems even for them, if nothing else, they have limited options finding the "significant other", since they need to find someone, who don't mind the tattoo. And I am not writing about the old generation, I am writing about people 25-30 years old.

  4. This is a barbaric article. I was looking up reasons to and not to get tattoos for a research article in my English class.

    This article states stereotypes and lies like they are facts. "Tattoos also run the risk of offending or discomfiting your potential colleagues. Even if you are accepted at a job, if the company needs to downsize, chances are you will be among the first in the line of fire."

    Seriously? In what century do you live in, Holly Brewer? Get your facts straight, but start with this one: There are terrible people with tattoos and there are great people with tattoos. There are also terrible people without tattoos and there are also great people without tattoos. They all come together to form … human beings. Wow. That was hard. Now you know.

  5. To all those who have called this piece barbaric!! What Holly has written here are facts. Some of my so called progressive first world friends call them "tramp stamps". Mind you, there are Canadians who believe that too, despite the fact that the new Canadian PM has a tattoo!!!!

  6. My son is seriously thinking of getting a tattoo, I’m really trying to impress upon him the real misconceptions associated with getting a tattoo, other than is cool & makes him look tough, maybe reading the different articles that are out there about the potential health risks & dangers lurking with getting a tattoo, I personal think that tattoos are disgusting & if we were meant to have them we would of been born with them.

  7. I have to disagree with this article. I am a woman in her 40's and have many tattoos. There is no long the stigma around tattooing, expect by close minded people. I am in the medical field and a Sunday school teacher for children ages pre-k – 4 grades. At no time have I ever had a problem with the fact I have tattoos. I have also worked with and in tattoo shops for sterilization and laws governing tattooing and piercing.

  8. Besides the obvious possible health issues listed above I’ve actually never felt the need to pollute my skin with ink. Nothing looks more beautiful that pure skin. My opinion.

  9. After undergoing a stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia two years ago, I am not even going to ask my doctor if I can get permanent eyeliner. I do believe that is considered tattoo, it is permanent. I really wish I could, to give my face a better look. It is a very thin line tattoo. But I just know I can’t take the risk.

  10. There, there… Attacks on this article are mostly “biangular” (yes, I know it’s a nonsense word, but it’s a good metaphor).

    A) I am: strong, successful, imaginative, original, ______(fill in the blank with a popular epithet) AND I have a tattoo (paradox missed?).

    B) It is a 21st century -as in “If everyone is jumping off the cliff you are OBLIGED to respect that, because today that’s considered “cool” as I’m one of them”.

    The sad truth is that not risking your health and being content with your physical beauty the way it was given to you at birth is the NATURAL state. So, there is no “untattooed” and tattooed. There is normal and tattooed. Therefore, don’t shoot the messenger and enjoy your skin ink all you want if you chose to have it.

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