Getting a Painless Tattoo Is Almost Possible

Are you one of the many people who want a tattoo but not the pain that comes with it? You could be in luck. Scientists developed a quick and painless tattoo option just for you. Each tattoo patch looks like a small band aid with a design of microneedles on it. The needles are the ink itself, held within a structure that dissolves when pressed onto the skin. After a few minutes, the tattoo is likely permanent. So far, rats are the only study subjects. A year in and the ink remains. The research originally started as an alternative to the tattoos pets and other animals sometimes receive, but the technology could be applied to humans next.  

Multiple images of tattoos scientists tested as part of a painless patch with microneedles of ink
Song Li et al, iScience (2022)

The human applications mentioned in the study included medical purposes, like tattoos to guide radiation treatments for cancer patients. Or replacing medical alert bracelets or indicating blood type. As you can see in the graphic above, the scientists tested different patterns and ink colors. They also tested heat-sensitive and UV tattoos. 

According to a press release from the university, the research started as a project to help identify spayed or neutered pets, which sometimes get tattoos for this purpose. It could also benefit livestock who get ear tags, brands, and other painful markings. The peer-reviewed journal iScience published the results, which we saw on Gizmodo

A person holds a small patch with tattoo microneedles on it close to their arm
Georgia Institute of Technology

Other medical tattoos are under development, including some designed to monitor blood pressure and other measurements of health. This form of microneedle tattoo likely won’t ever replace complicated and artistic work. But for those who need or want simple designs, a painless and permanent tattoo could be coming soon.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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