The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word ‘tatu’ which means ‘to mark something.’ Tattooing today is the sixth-fastest-growing retail business in the United States.
U.S. Tattoo Statistics
- Annual amount of U.S. spending on tattoos is $1.65 billion dollars.
- 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo.
- 36% of U.S. adults ages 18 – 25 have at least one tattoo.
- 40% of U.S. adults ages 26 – 40 have at least one tattoo.
- 32% of people with tattoos claim they are addicted to ink.
- 17% regret getting a tattoo.
Before making the decision of getting a tattoo, it’s important to know the health risks, preparations and removal options.
Types of Tattoos
- Amateur tattoos are made by jabbing ink, or ashes under the skin with a push pin or a needle. This method of tattooing is not safe and has a high risk for infection.
- Professional tattooing is applied by a registered artist, who uses a tattoo machine. To obtain a tattoo license, the artist is required to go through a training course that covers topics such as cross-contamination, hand-washing techniques and a review of blood borne illnesses.
- Cosmetic tattoos are often referred as “permanent” makeup. People can get permanent eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick, blush, eyebrows, or even hair imitation. Tattoos fade over time and these procedures are usually repeated to keep the colors of the ink looking fresh.
- Medical tattoos are used for a number of reasons. They can be used for surgical procedures and indications of allergies or medical conditions such as diabetes. The military often uses tattoos as a permanent ‘dog tag’ for identity purposes too. Doctors often use tattoos to mark specific sites for repeated application of radiation.
- Traumatic tattoos occur during an injury when dirt particles or other materials get embedded underneath the skin such as road rash from a bike accident. Even a pencil point can leave the lead stuck underneath your skin causing a traumatic tattoo.
If you are planning to get a tattoo, you should know it’s an invasive procedure with a tattoo gun which breaks the skin and comes into contact with blood and body fluids.
- Look around- make sure the tattoo studio is just as clean as a doctor’s office.
- Check the artist’s business and tattoo license to make sure it’s current.
- Inspect the tattoo area for cleanliness and make sure that it is clear of non-sterile objects.
- Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs (especially aspirin) the night before getting a tattoo.
- Don’t get a tattoo if you are sick because you are more susceptible to infection and your body will resist the ink being inserted under your skin and into your blood.
- Make sure all needles are removed from a sterile single-use package before use.
- Make sure the studio has sterilization equipment to clean instruments after each use.
- The artist should wash his hands before even beginning to lay everything out or putting on his gloves.
- After getting a tattoo, carefully follow the healing instructions to help prevent infection.
- Infection- Whenever you get a tattoo, there are always risks involved. The most serious are life threatening infections, such as HIV or Hepatitis C from unsafe needles. Other infections such as staph or deep skin infection called cellulitis may develop.
- Allergic Reaction- Some people can develop allergic reactions to tattoo pigments- especially to the color red. Tissue injury and inflammatory reactions to dyes or metals into the skin can occur. Occasionally contact dermatitis can also occur.
Tattoos can always be removed, but sometimes they will not fully disappear and usually the skin will not return to its original color or quality. A tattoo with black pigment has better removal success rates than tattoos with bright colors such as red.
There are a few different techniques that can be used to remove tattoos. It is best that you research exactly what route you want to take. The removal can even be more painful than getting the actual tattoo. Different lasers are used on the various colors to break down the pigment into small particles to be eliminated from the body. Sometimes right after the treatment, the skin under the tattoo may whiten. A more normal skin color usually appears with time.
Tattoo Removal Risks
- Allergic Reaction- Lasers break down tattoo pigments which increases the risk of allergic reactions. There can be almost a blistering effect if the laser is too harsh on the skin.
- Scarring- Not every tattoo can be removed perfectly and some will require a series of treatments. You may not get the results you want and there is always risk of scarring.
Statistic Source: Pew Research Center
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.