One in 10 people with tattoos experience rashes, scarring or other problems

Survey suggests red ink the most irritating


SCRATCH THAT  Tattoos can irritate the skin for years; red ink may be the most aggravating color. 

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Tattoos may have people seeing red.

Up to 6 percent of inked adults develop a long-lasting rash, researchers report online May 27 in Contact Dermatitis. In some cases, itchy, scaly, puffy skin at the tattoo site lingered for years.

Of 300 tattooed adults surveyed in New York’s Central Park, more than 10 percent had experienced irritating skin reactions. Four percent developed painful, scabby infections that lasted days to months after being inked, and 6 percent had symptoms — including scarring, bubbling and wrinkling — that stuck that around even longer. Red may be the most irksome ink color, the study’s authors suggest: Some 44 percent of the long-term reactions could be traced to the hue. 

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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