Many believe that tattoos are in some way a form of rebellion with tribal overtones. The predominance of images like the dragon, the eagle, the lion, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, while invoking forms of social connection, are also proclamations of power. Historically in the West, tattoos symbolised criminality. The practice of branding of criminals evolved into a show of pride with prison tattooing. In the next evolution the world community of seamen treated the tattoo as a trademark.
Tattooing has been around since the ancient times and continues to be a growing attraction among teenagers. The word comes from the Polynesian markings known as tatu or tatau, first described by Captain James Cook in his 1769 voyage to the South Pacific.
Archeologically validated works of art showing tattoos started appearing about 30000 years ago. Ice age rock carvings of 15000 BC show tattooed figures. Even 4200 BC Egyptian mummies wear tattoos. The body of a Bronze Age man, believed to have died 5000 years ago, was found intact, and on close examination researchers found that both his arms, legs and torso were covered with elaborate tattoos representing mythical creatures.
- A needle is used to penetrate deep into the skin and color pigments are injected into the area, usually creating some sort of design. As we continue to produce and shed our outer skin, the ink in tattooing is injected into the second layer of the skin, known as the dermis. The stability of the dermis cell makes the tattooing almost permanent.
- Those tattoo artists who use an electrically powered instrument to inject the tattoo pigments, are able to do so at a rate of 50 to 30,000 times per minute at a depth of 1/64 to 1/16 of an inch. The needle has to be inserted at the correct depth. Too much depth can cause bleeding and more pain. Too less creates ragged designs.
- Others inject the pigments by hand. This process takes anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours or sometimes months to complete.
- A lot depends on the way the tattoo artist wields the tattoo machine. Some people find the needle insertion tingling, while others feel they are being stung by a hornet multiple times.
Necessary to Take all Precautions
A tattoo is just like a wound and is open to the risks of infections and disease. Excessive redness or tenderness around the tattoo, prolonged bleeding, pus, or changes in your skin color around the tattoo are sure signs of infection. It is, therefore, necessary to take certain precautions --
- Be up to date with your immunizations (especially hepatitis and tetanus)
- Consult your doctor if you have a heart condition, allergies, diabetes, skin disorders, or infections — or if you are pregnant. It is better to avoid tattoo altogether if you have a tendency of getting keloids (overgrowth of scar tissue in the area of the wound)
- Choose a tattoo studio which is clean and safe, and uses disposable needles, gloves, masks, etc. and keeps things sterilized
- Make sure that the tattoo artist is a licensed practitioner
Taking Care of a Tattoo
Once done, it is very important to take care of your tattoo. How your tattoo looks three year from now depends on how you take care of it in the early stages. Do call your doctor right away if you see or feel any signs of infection such as pain, spreading redness, swelling, or drainage of pus. To make sure your tattoo heals properly:
- Keep the area bandaged for up to 24 hours, depending on the size and location of the tattoo
- Do not touch the area
- Use an antibacterial soap to wash your tattoo (avoid alcohol or peroxide). Pat it dry with a soft towel and avoid rubbing it
- Rub some antibiotic ointment on the tattoo. First make sure you are not allergic to any antibiotic ointment. Petroleum jelly may cause the tattoo to fade
- In case of any redness or swelling apply an ice pack on the tattooed area
- Keep your tattoo away from the sun and water until it's fully healed
Never attempt to do a tattoo yourself, or have a friend do it for you, as the consequences can be disastrous. Tattooing in unhygienic and unscientific ways can lead to viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Also avoid amateur artists and informal tattooists, known as "scratchers".
Important Tattooing Decisions
Once you are firm on tattooing yourself consider these before coming to a final decision:
- Select a theme carefully -- As a tattoo is almost permanent it is important to select the theme carefully. Don’t take decision in a hurry. Shortlist the designs you love most. Then move from there.
- Choosing a tattoo artist -- Discuss with your friends who have got themselves tattooed. Visit different parlors and talk to the artists before forming your judgment. Mainly analyze the cost and cleanliness aspects
- Tattoo placement -- Once you have finalized the design choose the body part which would ideally match the design. Ideally avoid those parts of the body which are sensitive and hurt more.
Ridding Yourself of That Tattoo
A study by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the top reason for tattoo regret is faded romance.
It may so happen that you no longer fancy keeping her initials on your stomach or worse, your butt, and wish to remove them. Make sure you go to a qualified medical practitioner. A common method now is laser removal, though it is almost as uncomfortable an experience as getting a tattoo. About six to 10 — or even more — laser treatments are required to remove tattoos.
Tattoo removal becomes difficult depending on how old the tattoo is, how big the tattoo is, and the types and colors of inks that were used. Tattoo removal can be very expensive and can cost more than the tattooing itself, depending on factors like the size and design of the tattoo.
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