Tuesday, 29 July 2008 | Tags:

An art form that began in Egypt (and possibly earlier), a tattoo is a decision that should be made carefully. From selecting an artist, a health-conscious, clean studio, where to put it, and what to get, we find out more about this permanent body adornment.

The Basics

  • Tattoos are created by injecting coloured pigment into the skin. The ink sits above the permanent base layer of the skin and below the changing surface level. A tattoo is not only permanent but it can also be associated with a number of serious health risks.

  • Tattoos originated in the sailing tradition of the early explorers. From here the tattoo was used as a brand to identify individuals, most often criminals. The tattoo has a long association with crime and the underworld. Today, the tattoo has become fashionable in a variety of forms.

  • The traditional, small tattoo cost a minimum of $100, but can run into the hundreds and thousands if you have a large, complex, detail-oriented design.

  • When choosing a tattoo parlour and artist, consider these points:

    • Look at the artist’s portfolio.

    • Ensure there is a business license or a permit from the local health department.

    • Make sure there are separate rooms like a medical office.

    • Ensure they have an autoclave to sterilize the needles.

    • Look for hard floors with no carpeting as a sign of cleanliness and also check the bathrooms for cleanliness.

    • Ensure the artist uses fresh ink and needles.

  • When selecting an artist, get a recommendation. When you see work that you like, ask where the individual got it done and how they felt about the experience. Also, ask to see the artist’s portfolio and decide if that is the sort of work you want on your body.

  • You can select an image from a design book or create your own, or have the tattoo artist make one from scratch.

  • When choosing where to put it, remember that as your body changes, so does the tattoo. Women should avoid any region that may be stretched during pregnancy. Also consider different outfits, work clothing/uniforms, and evening attire. Who should see your tattoo and who should not?

  • Consider having your tattoo done in pure henna first. This way you can see how the design you’ve chosen looks on your body. You can have it for a week or so to ‘test it out’ before you make it permanent.

  • Once you and your tattoo have made it home with the mild stinging pain receding the home care begins. Tattoos take 7 to 10 days to heal and in this time they develop small scabs. Do not pick at the tattoo – use recommended moisturizers and follow the after-care pamphlet given to you at the parlour.

Other Considerations

  • A less expensive, semi-permanent form of tattooing is Henna, a long-established tradition in India. As a non-permanent inking process, it still comes with a number of health associated risks. The henna dye can make skin red, irritated and itchy. Professional salons should use pure henna which rarely causes allergies.

Be Aware

  • Cleanliness of the parlour is vital. Bacteria and viruses enter the skin through open wounds. Hepatitis B and C as well as HIV are all viral infections that are spread easily in uncontrolled environments.

  • Think your tattoo was a huge mistake? Undoing the damage can be more painful and often more expensive than the art itself. Tattoo removal can be done through dermabrasion, which involves sanding the skin down to the middle layer where the tattoo is removed. It is very painful and may cause permanent scarring. The newer option for removal is laser surgery. This is not as painful as dermabrasion but still hurts. It takes two or three sessions months apart to remove the tattoo and each session costs from $300 to $1000.


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