People with a phobia of needles can now get tattoos without any worries.
Scientists have developed a way to get a permanent tattoo without going under the needle and incurring hours of pain.
The new technology is in the form of a skin patch containing microscopic needles smaller than a grain of sand. While it still has “needles” in its name, these micro needles are no comparison to normal needles and their effect is painless and bloodless.
“While some people are willing to accept the pain and time required for a tattoo, we thought that others might prefer a tattoo that is pressed only to the skin and does not hurt,” said the principal investigator, Professor Mark. Prausnitz said.
Microneedles can be arranged in various designs, words, symbols – anything – to create the ideal custom tattoo. They can also be made to respond to environmental factors, including light or temperature changes.
Using skin patches is also a faster process. The patch is pressed onto the body – just like one would apply temporary tattoo paper – and then the microneedles dissolve. A few minutes later, the ink sinks into the skin. They can also be self-administered – no tattoo shop required.
“Since microneedles are made of tattoo ink, they deposit ink into the skin,” said Dr. Song Lee, a senior research scientist at Micron Biomedical and a co-author of the study published in iScience.
Dr Prausnitz said: “We have made the needle smaller so that it is painless, but can still effectively deposit tattoo ink into the skin.”
In addition to the benefit of not sitting under the needle, these tattoo patches are less penetrating, meaning there is less risk of infection.
While the study found that tattoos are more likely to be permanent, they can also be made with temporary tattoo ink for those who do not wish to make that decision.
While some will be excited that the new technology will eventually help them achieve pain-free tattoos, skin patches can also help with medical and veterinary tattoos.
Tattoos are often used to guide repeated cancer radiation treatments, cover scars, and communicate serious medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes or allergies. The environmental feedback feature allows patients some privacy and can hide the tattoo unless it is under ultraviolet light or high temperatures.
Non-invasive tattoos can also be used to help pets. Instead of clipping their ears and applying ear tags, vets can go ahead and painlessly tattoo important information – such as whether the animal has been spayed or neutered – directly onto the animal’s skin.
While these skin patches can be revolutionary and extremely appealing, the researchers don’t want to denigrate the hard work of tattoo artists.
“The goal is not to replace all tattoos, which are often works of beauty created by tattoo artists,” Dr. Prausnitz said. “Our goal is to create new opportunities for patients, pets, and people who want a painless tattoo that can be easily administered.”