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  • Updated: July 08, 2021

7 Things You Should Know Before You Get A Tattoo

7 Things You Should Know Before You Get A Tattoo

A tattooed man | Source: Pxfuel

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Sydney Elike
Sydney Elike

A graduate of Theatre Arts, Writer, Movie Buff, Avid Reader, and Video Game Enthusiast. 

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We live in a world where people follow trends and many now see tattoos as trendy, with a lot of the female folk hopping onto the train and having themselves 'inked' to look fashionable. While most people crave tattoos, few may be aware of the health risks and other things involved.

Before we look at what tattooing entails and what risks it might pose, it's important to briefly explore its origins as the art form predates civilization itself.

The Beginning of Tattooing

Tattoos can be traced to Neolithic times (the final division of the stone age, about 12,000 years ago) when the first development of farming was found in what is referred to as the prehistory of the Near East.

Archaeologists have discovered preserved tattoos on ancient mummified remains and this shows that it has been practiced in different parts of the world for centuries.

In 2018, the oldest figurative tattoos in the world were found on two mummified bodies in Egypt. They are dated between 3351 and 3017 BC.

A Yoruba woman with a tattoo | Source: PinterestA Yoruba woman with a tattoo | Source: Pinterest

Some of the peoples who are known to practice ancient tattooing are the Austronesian people of Southeast Asia (Oceania and Madagascar speak the Austronesian languages), the Polynesians, the Papuans and Melanesians, the Ainu people of Japan, the Berber women of Tamazgha in North Africa, the Yoruba, Hausa, and Fulani people of Nigeria, and the Welsh.

1. What is a Tattoo?

A tattoo is a design that is intended to modify the body through the insertion of ink, dyes, and/or pigments (either indelible or temporary) into the skin. The art of making tattoos is called tattooing.

2. Types of Tattoos

There are five types of tattoos according to the American Academy of Dermatology. They are:

Traumatic Tattoos (also called "natural tattoos"): They are formed as a result of injuries, usually when a substance such as asphalt or gunpowder is rubbed into the wound during an accident or trauma. They are very hard to remove and spread to various layers of the skin.

Traumatic tattooTraumatic tattoo

Amateur Tattoos: These are tattoos that come in only one colour and are applied at varying depths of the skin. It can be applied by someone at home using a needle and a bottle of Indian ink.

Amateur tattooAmateur tattoo

Professional Tattoos: These are created by a trained practitioner at a salon or a tattoo parlour.

Professional tattooProfessional tattoo

Functional Tattoos: These types of tattoos are primarily used for a purpose other than aesthetics. An example is tattooing an Alzheimer's patient with their name so that they can be identified if they go missing.

Functional tattooFunctional tattoo

Medical Tattoos: These are meant to make sure that instruments are located properly for repeated application of radiotherapy and for the areola in some forms of breast reconstruction.

3. How a Tattoo is done

Typically, the process involves the tattoo artist using a hand-held machine that functions like a sewing machine. One of the needles pierces the skin repeatedly and with every puncture, the needles insert tiny droplets of ink into the skin.

Tattooing in progressTattooing in progress

Tattooing is done without anesthetics and causes a small amount of bleeding and slight to potentially significant pain. 

4. Risks 

Because the skin is breached during the tattooing process, there is the risk of the person involved getting skin infections and other complications which include:

Allergic reactions: The dyes used in the tattoo process (especially the colours red, green, yellow, and blue) can cause allergic skin reactions like itchy rash on the area of the tattoo. This can happen years after the person has gotten the tattoo.

Tattoo ink allergyTattoo ink allergy

Skin infections: A skin infection is always a possibility when one is getting a tattoo.

Other skin problems: Occasionally, an infected area that has been inflamed (called granuloma) can form around tattoo ink. Tattooing can also cause keloids (raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue).

Bloodborne diseases: In the event that the tool used in creating the tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, the person involved can contract different bloodborne diseases, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

MRI complications: Even though it is a rare occurrence, tattooing can lead to swelling or burning in the affected area during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations. In some cases, the tattoo pigments may interfere with the image quality.

5. How can I protect myself?

Despite the potential risks of getting a tattoo, some precautions can be taken to eliminate those risks. Mayoclinic.org recommends that the following things should be taken into consideration by the person involved:

Who is doing the tattooing? It's always best to go to a reputable place with properly trained tattoo artists. 

Does the tattoo artist wear gloves? Ensure that the tattoo artist washes his/her hands and wears a fresh pair of protective gloves before every procedure.

The tattoo process | Source: Getty ImagesThe tattoo process | Source: Getty Images

Does the tattoo artist use proper equipment? It is wise to make sure that the tattoo artist removes the needle and tubes from sealed packages before the procedure begins. Additionally, trays, pigments, or containers should be unused.

Does the tattoo artist sterilize non-disposable equipment? Ensure that the tattoo artist makes use of a heat sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all non-disposable equipment between customers. Instruments and supplies that can't be sterilized with an autoclave (like drawer handles, tables, and sinks) should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after use.

6. How to take good care of your Tattoo

Caring for the tattoo is dependent on the type and extent of work done. Below are the necessary steps to take:

Keep the tattooed area clean: While bathing, use plain soap and water, with a gentle touch on the tattoo. When in the shower, avoid direct streams of water on the newly tattooed skin. Also, pat — don't rub — the area dry.

- Use of moisturizer: Apply a mild moisturizer to the tattooed area of the skin several times on a daily basis.

Don't expose the area to the sun: Keep the tattooed area away from the sun for at least a few weeks.

- Avoid swimming: Avoiding swimming, getting into hot tubs, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water while the tattoo is healing is an absolute necessity.

Be mindful of your clothing: Avoid wearing any outfit that might stick to the tattoo.

Allow healing process of at least 2 weeks: While waiting for the tattoo to heal, make sure you don't get any wound or sore as they could increase the rate of infection, damaging the design and causing scarring.

7. Tattoo removal

Even though some tattoos are permanent, it is sometimes possible to remove them. This can be done fully or partially via laser treatments.

Black and some coloured inks can be removed more completely than inks with other colours. However, tattoo removal comes with a lot more pain than when they are applied.

Pre-laser removal methods include scrubbing the skin with salt, cryosurgery, and excision. These have all been replaced by laser removal treatment options.


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Sydney Elike
Sydney Elike

A graduate of Theatre Arts, Writer, Movie Buff, Avid Reader, and Video Game Enthusiast. 

More From this Author

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