If you came of age in the 1960s and decided to get a tattoo, you probably did it to show that you didn’t want to belong to the rich trendy establishment.
But if you came of age in the past ten years and got a tattoo, you probably did it to show that you did belong to the rich trendy establishment.
Tattooing as a form of self-expression has moved from the domain of heavy metal “bad boy” rock stars, military lifers, and Harley-Davidson road hogs in the 1970s to being common among film stars, athletes, and pop stars. From Sir Ian McKellen to Angelina Jolie, Mike Tyson to David Beckham, and Eminem to Brittany Spears, tattoos have become mainstream.
Dating back to King Harold II, who died in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, and whose disfigured corpse was identified, legend has it, by the “Edith and England” tattooed on his chest, even members of the various royal houses of Europe have indulged themselves in the colorful art. Princess Stephanie of Monaco is only the most recent in a long line of them.
Life Magazine, in 1936, estimated that about 6%, or ten million, of all Americans had tattoos; in 2003, according to a Harris Poll, nearly one in six, or about fifty million, given today’s population of three hundred million, are sporting them.
And only last year, in 2006, the American Academy of Dermatology reported that almost one in four of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 50, and more than one in three of those between 18 and 29, have a tattoo.
Tattoos, in other words, are hot. And with the burgeoning demand for them, there is a burgeoning demand for tattoo parlors. But anytime there’s money to be made, there will be those who want to make it in the easiest way possible. So if you are considering getting a tattoo of you own, you need to watch your own, possibly soon to be decorated, back.
Tattooing is not without its risks. If it is done in sanitary conditions by an experienced tattoo artist, it usually will not result in any lasting health problems. But tattoo safety relies on the person injecting a foreign substance permanently into one’s skin. And it’s only natural that some people who get tattoos will experience adverse reactions, ranging from skin irritation to allergies to infection, even when the parlors they use practice the highest standards of tattoo safety.
Even the FDA, as the watchdog of the cosmetics industry, has weighed in on the dyes used in tattooing ink. It has given them the all clear for use in lipsticks, but has remained silent as to their suitability for permanent skin injections. On the other hand, it has not yet tried to regulate their use.
You should know, however, that some red tattoo inks contain mercuric sulfide and ferric hydrate, and mercuric sulfide, present in cinnabar and vermilion inks, is associated with increased allergic reactions sometimes to the forming of granular lesions. These lesions are little nodules which appear because the body’s immune system sees the tattoo dyes as a foreign substance. The nodules reaction can occur with any colored tattoo inks.
Dubbed the “red reaction”, the sensitivity to red tattoo inks may lead to swelling, itching, and inflammation around the tattoo. But the reaction may also lie dormant for many years.
You don’t have to have a medical degree to know that, when you allow yourself to be tattooed, you are allowing thousands of minuscule openings to be made in your skin. And you know that with every breach of your skin there is a chance that bacteria will find their way in.
You can minimize the chances of a bacterial invasion, however, by doing a little pre-tattoo safety investigating. Verify that your tattoo artist uses brand-new sterile needles; that he or she does the equivalent of a brain surgeon’s hand scrubbing before getting to work; and that he or she puts those thoroughly clean hands inside some even cleaner gloves. Skin infection is uncomfortable, but blood infections can be deadly.
If you find yourself in a tattoo parlor where the artist wants to use a deodorant stick to transfer the tattoo design from the paper to you skin, make sure that the deodorant applied to a fresh piece of paper, and then transferred from the paper to your skin. Directly Sharing a community deodorant stick goes against all the rules of tattoo safety, and is one great way of loading your skin with germs before the tattoo needle gets anywhere near it.
If you are someone with a compromised immune system, for instance, if you’re diabetic, you are at greater risk than the general population for infections, and may have an extended healing period following your tattoo.
And while tattoo parties may sound like just the sort of thing wild and crazy people love to do, they are in reality no different from sharing a needle to mainline heroin. Whatever is on that needle when it makes it way to you is going to be yours to keep. That includes things like the Hepatitis B and C viruses, or even HIV. There is, where tattoo parties are concerned, no such thing as tattoo safety .
Even if you get your tattoo in spotless circumstances, you’ll need to take care of it properly during the healing process. The tattoo artist will get you started by applying some a topical anti-bacterial and bandaging it. So you need to know, and tell the artist, if you are allergic to any particular antibiotics.
Once you get your new tattoo home, just follow common sense tattoo safety precautions in keeping it clean.
Leave the bandage on for about an hour, and when you remove it, wash you tattoo with an antibacterial soap and cool water. Then cover it with an ointment to prevent your skin from chapping, and repeat the routine every four to six hours for about a week.
Keep your tattoo out of the sun, keep it from drying our, do not scratch at it, and when you do touch it to clean it, wash you hands with antibacterial soap first.
Don’t expose your healing tattoo to any “community” water with a dip in the swimming pool or shared splash in the tub. And, if you want to maintain the strength of its colors, keep it away from chlorinated or salt water.
And even when it looks healed, keep using an alcohol-free moisturizer on it several times a day for another month.
A tattoo, applied according to tattoo safety standards, and allowed to properly heal, is a great way to make you feel special, and maybe just a touch “naughty”. So don’t settle for any but the cleanest parlor and most careful artist, and you will be treating yourself to a bit of color which will last the rest of your life!