Tattoos have grown more popular over the years. About 25 percent of 18-30 year olds have at least one. Over the next few years, this number will swell to 40 percent. And if you think tattoos are only popular among guys, you’re mistaken – 65 percent of people with tattoos are women.
If you are considering about getting ink done, you first have to consider why people get them, understand the health risks involved, and know your removal options in case you change your mind.
As the name suggests, amateur tattoos are created by people who jab ink, charcoal, or ashes under the skin using a pin. They lack the beauty of professional tattoos. There is also a higher risk of infection with such tattoos because they are done under unsanitary conditions using odd pigments.
These types of tattoos are created using traditional methods to members of certain ethnic groups. Cultural tattoos serve a ritual, societal, or cosmetic functions.
Professional tattoos are done by registered artist using a tattoo machine.
Cosmetic tattoos are used as permanent make up – usually as eye liner, lip liner, lipstick, blush, eyebrows, and hair imitation. And since tattoos fade over time, cosmetic tattoos must occasionally be repeated to keep the colors fresh.
Some patients with medical conditions or chronic diseases may use tattoo to notify health care providers in case of an emergency.
Doctors may also use medical tattoos to mark certain sites for repeated application of radiation therapy.
A tattoo may also simulate a nipple after breast reconstruction surgery.
Traumatic tattoos result from accidents or injuries, when dirt or other materials get set in the skin. These include "road rash" from bike accidents, or "pencil point" tattoos from pencil punctures.
Why people get tattoos
People get tattoos for 2 different reasons: to express their individuality and to show membership in a group.
So should you get one? Jonette Keri, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at University of Miami, advises against it. "Down the road, you may not want it — bodies at 60 look different than bodies at 30," she says. "And, people still have preconceived notions about people who get tattoos. If you’ll be looking for a job, you may not get it."
Getting a tattoo safely
If you decide to get a tattoo, choose a studio that is as clean a doctor’s office. Tattooing is an invasive procedure, which entails breaking the skin and coming in contact with blood and body fluids. To tell whether a studio is clean, check the studio’s restroom. If it’s dirty, look for another tattoo studio. Also check the artist’s business license to make sure it is updated. And of course, inspect the tattoo area; there should be a separate area with a clean, hard surface for tattooing, which is free from nonsterile objects.
Other safe tattooing tips
- Do not take drugs or drink alcohol, or take meds, especially aspirin the night before or while getting a tattoo.
- Do not get a tattoo if you are sick.
- Ensure that all the needles are removed from a sterile, single-used package before use.
- Make sure that the tattoo studio has sterilization equipment to clean the tools after each use.
- Make sure your tattoo artist washes his hands and puts on sterile gloves. Many tattooists are required to take training in the prevention of blood-borne illnesses.
- Get a list of the specific pigments used, including color, manufacturer’s name, and lot number.
- After getting a tattoo, carefully follow healing instructions — including use of antibiotic ointment.
Getting a tattoo involves risks. The most serious risks are life-threatening infections, such as HIV or hepatitis C from dirty needles. Other infections you may contract from getting a tattoo with infected needles include a staph infection called impetigo or MRSA, and a deep-skin infection cellulitis.
Some people develop allergic reactions from the ink or tattoo pigments – particularly red pigments. Tissue injury and inflammatory reaction to dyes or metal into the skin can, or even contact dermatitis can also happen.