Tattoos

What is a Tattoo?

A tattoo is a design or image created IN your skin by actually injecting ink/dye into the “dermis” layer of your skin. The dermis is the layer below the outermost layer of skin called the epidermis. The epidermis cells continually produce skin cells throughout your lifetime and periodically shed. Your dermis layer, however is more stable. By puncturing your skin deep enough, the ink is then injected into this more stable layer of skin and makes the tattoo essentially permanent.

Does it hurt?

Getting a tattoo involves being stuck several times with a needle. The tattoo artist will inject a small amount of dye into the “dermis” layer of your skin. To do this, he or she must use a needle to puncture your skin. This normally results in bleeding a small amount as well. Some people describe this sensation as feeling as though you are receiving multiple shots or being stung by a hornet, yet others describe it as a “tingling” feeling. Factors that influence this feeling depend on your pain threshold, where you choose to get the tattoo, and how good the tattoo artist is with his or her technique.

Is getting a tattoo safe?

According to HealthyChildren.org here are some risks associated with getting a tattoo in even the safest and cleanest circumstances….

  • Scars, including large keloids (hard scars)
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Allergic reactions to dyes (The pigments typically used in the dyes aren’t regulated by the government.)
  • Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, and tetanus (Hepatitis B and tetanus vaccines are available to help reduce your risk.)
  • Bleeding
  • Infection: signs include redness of the skin, pain, fevers, drainage….if any of these develop then you need to contact us right away!

If you do decide to get a tattoo, here are some tips to help you reduce the outcomes above.

  • First, talk to your healthcare provider and make sure you are up to date on your immunizations (especially tetanus and hepatitis). Discuss if any of your health history or allergies may interfere with your safety during the tattoo procedure.
  • The parlor you choose should be extremely clean (like your doctor’s office) and they should routinely sterilize their equipment using a machine called an autoclave. An autoclave is a device that uses heated steam and pressure to clean instruments.
  • Your tattoo artist should wash their hands and wear gloves during the procedure.
  • New needles and ink bottles should ALWAYS be used for each person. Make sure the artist opens the needle and equipment packages in front of you before they start. Any used or unclean equipment poses a risk to your health, they can introduce infection and even disease into your body.
  • Since getting a tattoo is essentially puncturing your skin and creating a wound, there are specific instructions on how to care for this area of skin. Follow these directions according to HealthyChildren.org:
    • Keep the bandage on for 12 to 24 hours then wash with soap and warm water. All the blood and soap should be rinsed off.
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment or fragrance-free lotion 3 times a day for a week.
    • Don’t use petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, or peroxide.
    • Don’t allow the tattoo to dry out or expose it to direct sunlight for 2 weeks.
    • Avoid swimming, hot tubs, and long baths for several weeks.

Can I have a tattoo removed?

Luckily, with modern technology, we have developed a procedure in which a tattoo can be partially or fully removed. However, this procedure can be costly and is not as quick of a fix as you may think. This procedure involves the use of laser zaps to the tattoo site. The lasers target the pigments in your tattoo and remove the colored dye from your skin. This process can take up to several months to complete and can feel like getting a tattoo all over again.

Usually, laser tattoo removal is very effective, but can irritate, redden, and even cause your skin to scab. Other side effects include, the area becoming infected, scarred, hyperpigmented (skin color becoming darker than other areas), and/or hypopigmented (skin color becoming lighter than other areas). This area of skin should be treated like a wound and kept clean, dry, and medically treated.

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