What Happens To Your Blood When You Get A Tattoo?

Getting a tattoo seems like the new go-to after a big life event or putting a symbol that is significant to you somewhere on your body. On the other hand, you also care about your body and wouldn’t want to harm it by getting a tattoo. One of the things you might want to know is what happens to your blood when you get a tattoo.

The body bleeds because of the incisions and later forms blood plasma to protect, cleanse, and heal the wound. Macrophages rush to the area to protect the body from intrusive substances. Some particles get broken down, and the blood transfers them to the liver or lymph nodes.

We might know what happens to our skin when we get a tattoo. Our bodies have a defense mechanism, the immunity system, that fights any intrusions, but some to an extent we don’t realize. We usually see tattoos as an initial wound, and when the tattoo heals, your body and your tattoo live in harmony – not the case.

Does My Tattoo Affect My Blood?

Temporary tattoos – first, the artist doesn’t apply the color with needles, and second, it doesn’t go deep enough. All of us have gotten a temporary tattoo in the past, and it involved no blood. To understand why your tattoo bleeds, you must first understand what happens when you get a tattoo.

We have multiple layers of skin. The top layer, the epidermis, is thin, and this is the layer that regenerates every two to three weeks. A permanent tattoo could thus not be too shallow; then, it will be gone in three weeks.

The second layer of skin is called the dermis. This layer is thick and rich in blood vessels and nerves. The placement of a tattoo under this layer of skin is the ideal spot. The artist will need to use a needle that penetrates about 2mm to place the ink under the dermis.

Our skin is an organ, and the body gears up against any threat to the organs. Bleeding occurs because of the deep lacerations made by the needles to get deep into the dermis. You will experience bleeding for a few days after your tattoo, depending on the area you get it and how big it is.

When the artist places the ink under the dermis through a needle that inserts 100 times per minute, the white blood cells attack that area to secure any unknown particles that might enter the bloodstream and be taken away to other parts of the body.

These cells are called macrophages, and to keep the ink from being taken away through the bloodstream; they encircle the ink particles to try and destroy them or break them down into smaller pieces. The ink composition is too complex or foreign and too big for the macrophages to break down.

What Happens To My Blood After The Tattoo?

Plan B for the macrophages is to hold on to the ink particles for dear life, hoping to keep them shielded against the body, and this is the reason behind the “why” permanent tattoos can be permanent.

It is an ongoing battle, as macrophages cling to the ink, and when these cells die off (it takes quite a long time, but it happens), the ink gets released, and new macrophages encircle the ink that is ready to act as shields.

Research shows that after the macrophages invaded the tattoo and did their jobs as best, about 68% of the ink still sits at the incision site. This percentage makes sense why the tattoo fades a little from the first minute after you get your tattoo to a few weeks after healing.

Now you may wonder, what happens with the other 32% of the ink? The first thought is that the macrophages get the job done and break the ink particles down to be excreted by the body safely.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The unfamiliar and differently structured tattoo ink cannot leave the body likely. A minimal amount could break down as small as needed so the body could excrete it, but most of it roams around in some regions of the body.

The body detects the possible danger and uses the disposal system to try and get it out. Studies showed that the ink the body managed to move from the tattoo site ended up in the liver, but most of it ended up in the lymph nodes closest to the tattoo. The scans also showed that the lymph nodes situated closest to the tattoo are the exact same color.

Can You Clear Your Lymph From Tattoo Ink?

Scientists discovered that the particles of a tattoo that end up in the lymph nodes are on a nano (super tiny) level and not micro (more extensive) than usual particles that go to the lymph. Thus, nobody knows how to handle it and what the outcome would be if these particles stayed there for years and years.

Humans can protect our bodies to ensure that the lymph nodes work optimally and are as clean as possible. You can do a few things to clean out your lymph nodes.

  • Eat raw and healthy foods, especially red – like beetroot or berries – they are soul food for the lymph
  • Drink a lot of water because your lymph nodes are 95%; new water will flush and clean out.
  • Jumping, like trampoline exercise, will help. Moving your lymph nodes and opening them up to drain quicker is one of the benefits of rebound training
  • Yoga practice is great because of the increased blood flow, helping the lymphatic system to drain faster.
  • Better your stress coping mechanism as it can cause your lymph nodes to congest.
  • Get a detox treatment or lymph massage. It helps to slowly move the toxins from the lymph nodes and clear them easier.

Will You Be Able To Donate Blood?

You might want to hold off from blood donation for about three months after you get a new tattoo. The ink is still settling into the skin and gives viruses and bacteria that might have transferred from the needles a chance to show themselves and get dealt with first.


Nobody died of a tattoo before, so you don’t have to worry about that. On the other hand, your lymphatic system will take strain over years and years and might cause infections or allergies. The composition of the ink can also lead to infection, as some colors have metals in them, especially the white color that makes lighter shades.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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