Researchers Develop Self-Administered, Painless Tattoos

When it comes to do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, most people think home repairs. And if you look at the stats, there’s a reason for this. The average U.S. household juggles nine DIY projects simultaneously and more than 50 percent of American homeowners categorize their residences as works-in-progress.

Of course, residential repairs aren’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to things you can do yourself — researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology claim you can now add self-administered tattoos to the mix!

Here’s what you need to know about this bizarre technological advance and its surprisingly practical potential applications.

Pain-Free Tattoos?

Some things go together. Think peanut butter and jelly or bacon and eggs. And other things are inescapable consequences of specific actions. For example, pain is seen as the unavoidable result of getting a tattoo. But researchers may be well on the way to taking the discomfort out of permanent skin art.

Georgia Tech’s foray into pain-free, self-applied ink builds upon recent medical advances in the use of microneedle patches. As the name suggests, these needles are downright miniscule compared to their more traditional counterparts. And unlike the needles used to deliver flu vaccines or run-of-the-mill tattoos, microneedles don’t leave a telltale sting.

Microneedle Patch Tattoo

Microneedle patch tattoo close-up. Credit: Song Li, Youngeun Kim, Jeong Woo Lee, Mark R. Prausnitz (CC BY 4.0)

Practical Applications for DIY Ink

That said, diehard tattoo lovers take a certain pride in knowing the skin art they’ve received is a symbol of pain tolerance. So, what gives when it comes to microneedle ink? DIY tats have many practical applications, especially in the medical industry. After all, not all tattoo recipients are in it for the pain.

Some patients get skin art to cover up post-surgery scars and others need it to let paramedics know about specific medical conditions. For patients receiving cancer treatments, small tattooed reference marks ensure radiation beams get directed to the right parts of the body. For these individuals, pain-free tattoos could be a game changer, eschewing the need to spend hours in the painful tattoo chair.

Microneedle tattoo applications

Microneedle patch tattoo applications. Credit: Song Li, Youngeun Kim, Jeong Woo Lee, Mark R. Prausnitz (CC BY 4.0)

Skin Patches Do the Trick

The benefits of microneedle patch tattoos don’t end there. They also represent a bloodless and low-cost alternative. Mark Prausnitz, the principle researcher involved in this study, explains, “This could be a way not only to make medical tattoos more accessible, but also to create new opportunities for cosmetic tattoos because of the ease of administration.”

Prausnitz puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to advancing microneedle technology. As co-founder of Micron Biomedical, a company that focuses on microneedle patch technology, Prausnitz has big plans when it comes to the future of this industry.

By Engrid Barnett, contributor for


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