The tattoo in question. (Credit: Estela Martin.)

Estela Martín was testing her swimming skills during an entrance exam for the Spanish army when a male examiner noticed a black lotus flower tattooed on the upper part of her right foot. She was told she could not complete the exam because the tattoo was visible, and that it would be particularly obvious were she to wear a skirt.

The Spanish army’s rules no longer required women to don skirts, however, and Ms. Martín was fully aware of this change in policy, which was re-solidified after her expulsion. The tattoo was not visible when Ms. Martín wore trousers — her typical choice of wardrobe during her service — and she argued she was within regulations, but the examiner refused to budge in his steadfastness against her tattoo, insisting she could one day receive orders to wear a skirt.

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Turns out there’s more to worry about than pain, potential infection and skin aging when getting a tattoo: Scientists say the inks can actually migrate to the lymph nodes.

Researchers in Europe examined four cadavers with tattoos and two without, and found that the tattooed bodies’ lymph nodes contained multiple colored pigments. Taking it a step further, the researchers then tattooed corpses with synchrotron X-ray fluorescence, which allowed them to not only confirm that tattoo ink can migrate through the lymphatic system, but cause the lymph nodes to become inflamed as well. The findings were published in Scientific Reports in 2017.

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