Skin Care Tips
The Facts about Tattoos
Tattoos and have been around forever. What started as a form of body mutilation for rituals and cultural reasons has evolved to become an extremely common fashion statement. But before you commit to a lifetime of sporting body art, it’s important to know and understand the risks and safety precautions involved.
Tattoos are extremely popular among people all over the world, young and old. The ease of this relatively quick and easy procedure leads millions of people to make the decision to get a tattoo, often without putting much thought into it. But before rushing into the nearest tattoo parlor, it’s important to understand the risks involved and take all necessary precautions. Read on to learn how to ensure the process is done properly and safely, and to make sure you’re appropriately informed before doing something you might regret later on.
What is a tattoo?
Tattoos are permanent body art, in the form of designs or symbols on the skin, made by injecting pigments into the top layer of the skin through a needle. Tattoo artists, as they are called, typically administer the tattoo with a hand-held machine that repeatedly pierces the skin, inserting miniscule ink droplets with each prick. Depending on the size and type of tattoo, the process can last several hours, is done with no anesthetic, and often causes bleeding and varying degrees of pain depending on the size and location of the tattoo on the body.
What are the risks associated with getting a tattoo?
While tattoos are generally done without serious complications, the process of getting a tattoo involves piercing the skin. This opens up the possibility for skin infection, allergic reactions, or other complications, ranging from minor to life threatening. It’s important to know the risks and make sure that all necessary precautions are being taken before getting your tattoo.
Here are some of the most common risks associated with tattoos:
Skin infection. Since the skin is being punctured to create a tattoo, various bacterial infections can result. Symptoms of a tattoo-related skin infection include redness, swelling, pain, and pus-like drainage.
Allergic reaction. The pigments and dyes used to make tattoos, especially the color red, have been known to cause allergic reactions for certain people. An allergic reaction is characterized by an itchy rash at the site of the tattoo, and may occur even years after the tattoo was performed.
Granulomas. Another common risk associated with tattoos is the occurrence of “granulomas.” These are small bumps that can appear around the tattoo site, particularly when the ink injected into the skin was red.
Keloids. Keloids, a condition most common in darker-skinned individuals, is the overgrowth of scar tissue resulting from a wound. Keloids can occur after tattoos in the form of raised, think, and hard areas on the skin.
MRI complications. Though uncommon, tattoos or any kind of permanent makeup can be affected during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations. Individuals have been reported to experience swelling or burning at the tattoo site during an MRI, and the tattoo may even interfere with the quality of the image obtained, such as in the case of a patient with permanent eyeliner having an MRI of the eye.
Blood borne diseases. In addition to the above minor complications, more serious health risks are always a possibility. It’s important to insure that the place you choose to have your tattoo done is clean and sterile, to avoid the possibility of your tattoo being made with equipment contaminated with infected blood. Blood-borne diseases from tattoo equipment can include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus, and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
In the case of allergic reactions, skin infections, granulomas, keloids, or other complications related to tattoos, medication or other treatments may be necessary. In some cases, the tattoo may actually need to be removed.
What safety precautions should be taken?
When getting a tattoo, it is crucially important to ensure that all necessary safety precautions are taken. Before deciding on a place to have your tattoo done, you should make sure of the following things.
A qualified and properly trained tattoo artist. Check with your city, county, or state health department for information on local licensing and regulations to make sure that all necessary regulation requirements and licensing standards are being met.
High sanitation standards. The tattoo artist should use all new, clean equipment, wash his or her hands prior to beginning, and wear a fresh pair of protective gloves. All needles, tubes, trays, containers, pigments, and other equipment should be brand new, unused, and from sealed packages.
In the case of non-disposable equipment, tattoo artists should use heat sterilization machines, known as autoclave, to sterilize all instruments and supplies. Everything else in the facility, such as counter tops, drawer handles, and door knobs, should be thoroughly disinfected before the procedure is begun.
Commitment from your end. Despite the quickness and relative ease of getting a tattoo, this is not a decision that should be rushed into. Make sure you’ve thought long and hard about your tattoo before getting it done—it’s permanent body art that you will see for the rest of your life! You don’t want to wind up regretting your decision later on. Never get a tattoo under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and make sure you visit several locations and compare facilities before deciding where to have your procedure done.
How do I take care of my tattoo?
Your tattoo artist should provide you with customized aftercare instructions following the procedure, depending on the size, type, and location of your tattoo.
Basically, you should plan to be uncomfortable for a few days following the procedure. Plan for a few days of healing and laying off the tattoo site, to avoid doing anything that might jeopardize your healing process or the tattoo.
Some general instructions for aftercare, however, are:
- Remove the bandage after 24 hours. The site should then be left uncovered to fully heal, with antibiotic ointment being applied to the tattooed skin throughout the entire healing process.
- Make sure the tattoo site is kept clean. Simple soap and water can be used to cleanse the tattooed skin. Just remember to be gentle, and pat, never rub, the area dry.
- Moisturize. A mild moisturizer should be applied to the skin several times a day.
- Avoid water. You cannot swim or soak the tattoo in water for at least two weeks afterwards.
- Limit sun exposure. The tattoo site should be kept out of the sun for at least a couple weeks following the procedure. This means no sun bathing or tanning.
- Adjust your clothing choices appropriately. The tattooed skin should never be covered by tight or restrictive clothing. If you’re not careful, clothes can stick to the tattoo, so stick with light, loose clothing options that won’t matter if they get ink or blood on them.
- Don’t touch. Complete healing can take up to two weeks or more. It’s important that you do not pick at any scabs during this time to avoid the risk of infection, damaging the design, or causing any kind of keloids, or permanent scarring.
Tattoo removal is also an option, by laser surgery or a number of other methods. If you’re interested in having a tattoo removed, contact a dermatologist about your individual options.