Cremated ashes in tattoo ink gaining popularity

Tattoos are much more accepted now than they were 20 years ago, and people get tattoos for many unique reasons. One of the most popular types of tattoos is a memorial for a lost loved one. Strangely enough, this trend has a new twist you may not have heard of.

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Image from Creative Commons.

Some people who get memorial tattoos choose to ask their artist to include the cremated ashes of their loved one. That way the tattoo will not only serve as a reminder, but their loved one will actually be a part of them forever. While this may sound strange, the practice isn’t new and is quickly growing in popularity.

The process is pretty simple. A small amount of cremation ashes, known as cremains, are simply stirred into the tattoo ink before the artist injects it into your skin. The amount of ashes they use is actually microscopic, but the rest of the process is the same. The artist makes sure the ashes are a very fine powder before stirring them in, and also makes sure everything is sterilized, as with any professional tattoo.

While some medical experts worry that the process might be harmful or unhealthy for clients, professional tattoo artists see no complications with this process. As with any tattoo, however, you always run the risk of having an infection if you don’t take care of it properly.

Some people view this as spiritual experience, but not everyone feels the same about the issue. Dr. Joel Schlessinger is a dermatologist who finds the practice horrifying.

“It’s bad enough to take a foreign body and inject it into somebody else, let alone a foreign body that used to be part of somebody’s body,” he told Fox 42 News. Schlessinger cautions that the ashes could cause infection, contamination or allergic reaction.

Although this practice is relatively old, there’s a surprising lack of medical research on the subject.

“Medical procedure would be to inject something into a person, there would be quite a bit of research and FDA approval … But this is completely outside the medical realm. Find something else to remember your loved one by, don’t do this,” Schlessinger said.

Not all types of artists will do these tattoos with ashes, some because of personal beliefs and some because of the lack of concrete research. There are many different opinions on the issue. One blog even called the process “injecting love.” Medically, however, there’s no real way to know if this process is actually harmful until more research is done.

As with any tattoo, you always run the risk of the equipment not being sterile or something going wrong. Perhaps that’s what draws a younger, risk-taking generation to this growing fad. It’s always important to think long and hard before you get a tattoo, and to choose a professional artist if you do decide to get one.