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Skin expert weighs in on the dark side of tattoo

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Kenyans have been cautioned against tattooing their body parts as they tend to have a long term effect on one’s immune system. Elizabeth Mungai, a dermatologist at Kiambu Level 4 hospital,  says young people are mostly attracted by tattoos due to peer pressure.

Ms Mungai said most of the youth in their early 30s and 40s with tattoos would regret later in life with adverse health implications. The dermatologist noted that tattoos lead to formation of granuloma (a mass of granulation tissue, typically produced in response to infection, inflammation, or the presence of a foreign substance) in the area that has been tattooed as the body treats the tattoo as a foreign pigment and thus an unwanted substance.

She explained that having a tattoo was problematic because tattooed skin secretes 50 percent less sweat that contains sodium as one of its components. Most of the sweat is re-absorbed and can prove toxic to the body. She added that a tattoo, which is achieved through deposition of exogenous pigment into the skin, causes injury to the tissues causing and can acute inflammatory reactions.

“If you have a skin condition like eczema, it would be unsafe to put tattoo because it can cause flare-ups which are triggered by skin coming into contact with irritants and in this case the ink become irritating,” she said.

The skin specialist pointed out that tattoos cause allergic skin reactions such as itchy rash at the affected areas. She added that one could also get Keloids, which are raised by an overgrown of scar tissue. Another risk, the specialist noted, was that one can contract blood borne disease such as tetanus if the equipment used were contaminated with infected blood.

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She points out that the only way one can remove a tattoo is through laser technology, which shatters pigment particles under the skin. This can lead to complications such as pain and blisters and there is no 100 percent guarantee of the effectiveness of the process.

Mr Reuben Mwangi, now 50 years old,  tattooed his skin when he was 19. He later on developed some growth which forced him to turn to laser to get rid of the tattoo. Mr Mwangi says it took him three painful sessions under laser. “The process is expensive. It cost me Ksh30, 000 to completely get rid of tattoo which was a great loss as putting the tattoo cost him just Ksh5, 000,” he says.

He cautioned youth not to be lured into tattooing for they have serious consequences.  He also revealed that he was turned away from the armed forces recruitment last year because of the tattoos on his body.

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