The Tattooed Community

No one known exactly how long the institution of tattooing has been in place, but you can be certain it’s here to stay. While there’s always going to be some sort of stigma attached to permanent body art, its social acceptance has been revolving for decades. Some people have gotten inked to be in and some have done so to settle the fact that they are out. Whether it be out of the closet, out of cash, out of love, out of luck or out of time, one thing is for certain, they are definitely out of mainstream society. Over time, inked outcasts have formed a community of their own, and they’re everywhere. There are numerous chat rooms, forums, discussion groups, books, magazines and Web sites devoted to body art. They’ve even carved a niche into reality TV. If you want to join the club, or just want to voyeur into that word for a bit, here’s a list of places to start:

1. – has all things tattoo, including: online forums, links to magazines, flash and other resources. You can read about other people’s tattooing experiences and tell your own. You can even upload pictures of your own ink and share your story with people who get you.

2. TATTOO magazine – is currently the world’s best selling tattoo-related magazine ( It features profiles on tattooist and shops all over the world, showcases the work they’ve done and fills you in on the latest trends and what’s new in the industry.

3. Miami Ink – A reality TV show, obviously based in a Miami tattoo parlor, that does a good job of showing the everyday goings on of at tattoo artist’s work. You get to watch them work, see the finished piece and hear the clients’ stories of how they chose their design and what it means to them.

4. – This site is absolutely addictive. Anyone and everyone can upload a picture of their body art and post it on this site to be graded on a scale of one to 10 by total stranger. It’s a fun way to see the highs and lows of tattooing and the beautiful and sometimes bizarre designs people come up with.

5. – Possibly the most comprehensive tattoo site on the Web. It has tons of links, a glossary of related terms, tattoo trivia, a fun quiz to test you tattoo knowledge and a lot more. Definitely set aside some time to check out this site. It’s a great place to start your research if you are thinking about getting inked for the first time.

6. – This is a great site for all kinds of research. Just type “tattoo” into the search box and up comes an article explaining how the process of tattooing works from start to finish. It’s another great resource for those who are considering their first tattoo.

7. – has a lot of links to equipment suppliers, flash dealers and tattoo aftercare products as well as a very user friendly calendar of tattoo related events.

8. – This is another one of those sites you’re going to need to set aside some extra time for . You can browse flash by size, color, blackwork, and picture category. They cater to both professionals and individuals with fair prices. They will show you how to print their designs on transfer paper so you can wear it around a while before you decide.

This is just a drop of all the ink-related resources on the Internet. Any one of them is a great place to start if you are thinking about a new tattoo, especially if you’re thinking about getting inked for the very first time. You’ll want to check out all of them, and carve out your own niche in the tattooed community.

Choosing a Tattooist

So you’re thinking about getting a tattoo? There is practically an infamous number of choices involved. What ever you do, don’t allow yourself to be pressured and don’t get into a hurry. After all, we’re talking about a permanent mark on your body. It will be there forever, and one of the most important decisions you’re going to have to make is who you want to apply it.

If you’re serious about your ink, picking out a tattooist is a big deal. You would be wise to shop around. The criteria you use should be very similar to the way you would judge a family doctor, and for many of the same reasons. It’s a choice that ought to involve considerable thought. Here are some ideas to inspire your search:

• Cleanliness – This is by no stretch the most important factor; it can’t be emphasized enough. Drop in unannounced and observe how the artists work. Are they wearing gloves? How do they dispose of used equipment? Surely they don’t reuse needles? What are their sterilization practices? Don’t hesitate to ask questions. A good tattooist will be glad to talk with you. If he won’t take the time to talk, then you walk.

• Personality – A person’s personality is always reflected in their art. When you have your search narrowed down to just a few artists, make an appointment with each one and just have a conversation. Observe them with other clients. Get a feel of the kind of person they are. If something about them turns you off, if you ever feel even a little bit uncomfortable, find someone else.

• Reputation – The best place to start your search is word of mouth. Ask people about their ink. They won’t mind. After all, they wouldn’t have the tat if they didn’t want people to notice it. Find a tattoo you love (not just like, but LOVE) and find out who’s responsible for it. Then go find them.

• Relationship – When you find the artist you want, stop by for a visit a couple of times before you actually get to work on the tattoo. Don’t stay for ever, and don’t get in the way. Form a relationship with the person who will be applying artwork permanently onto the only body you are ever going to have. It will be reflected in his work.

• Conventions – Tattoo conventions are a great way to see several artists work in one spot. However, don’t plan on getting inked at the actually convention. The tattooists are away from their usual space and may not work as comfortably as they would if they were. Also, conventions are usually already booked well in advance.

• Style – After cleanliness, this may be the most important element. There are several different genres of tattooing, kind of like music. For example, if you like the look of jailhouse tattoos, find somebody who is really good at that. If it’s a portrait you want, find someone who excels at that (prison records are a matter of public record). It just makes good sense. After all, you wouldn’t ask Dolly Pardon to rap, would you?

This is by no means a complete list of things to consider, but it’s a good place to start. This is not a decision to take lightly. Most people don’t have the cash for a good tattoo readily available at any given time. It may be a good idea to more or less decide on a design, shop for an artist, and then use the time it takes your to save up for the project to really do some soul searching about the step you are getting ready to take.

Tattoo and Copyright Laws

Creativity is an extremely personal thing. All true artists are protective of their work. It’s a part of them, an extension of their soul. Tattooists are no exception. Copyright laws are intended to protect artists and inventors from having their ideas stolen, their profits suffer and their art abused. However, the idea of copyrighting tattoo designs is not something tattooists are ready to jump on board for. No one is ever anxious to bring lawyers into the mix, and it’s very questionable whether or not copyrighting would even effectively protect custom work.

Even flash, the sheets of tattoo designs that paper the walls of just about every tattoo shop on the planet started its existence as someone’s original work. Tattooists buy the sheets from a dealer, probably the same supplier they get the rest of their stuff from. When that deal goes down, it’s not art in the sense of wall décor they are paying for; they could go to any discount store for that. It’s the right to reproduce the design to a stencil and tattoo it on to a customer. The legal principal behind flash is the same as selling a book that you brought at a bookstore. You paid for the right to own that copy of the book and you have the right to sell it.

Theoretically, custom work is an original design intended for only for one person. The vast majority of the time, all custom designs start out as drawings on actual paper before being applied to someone’s skin. So for the purposes of copyright law, the tattoo itself is actually a reproduction. Since it’s typically the same artist who both draws and applies the tattoo it’s not that big of a deal.

The law is not super clear on what constitutes an infringement of copyright when it comes to tattoo reproduction. It’s impossible to make any body art the exact same way twice. Bodies are shaped differently, ink takes to differently to various skin types, the colored pigments with mix up a little bit differently each time, etc. So in that sense, tattoos can’t be replicated. Even if another tattooist copies your original work, it’s still just that, a copy. That’s like a professional band covering another’s song. It’s just their version of it.

On the other hand, the law used the following phrase: “substantially similar.” That means the reproduction in question doesn’t have to be exactly perfect, it just has to be similar. Under that logic, the design can be colored entirely differently, and embellished upon, but still be considered “substantially” the same enough to
support a law suit. To the layman, it sounds like the viability of such a suit depends on who is interpreting what constitutes as substantial.

Under copyright law, a work can technically be very much the same as another and still be considered original. For example, innumerable musicians have recorded Beatles songs over the years, and even though it’s been done so many times, one version of “All You Need is Love” is legally just as good as another (no accounting for taste, of course).

So, to the average person it seems that copyright laws would be much more user friendly for tattooists, and the rest of the creative community for that matter, if it were the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law that mattered. For the most part, the tattoo industry regulates itself and seems to try and keep it that way by not raising much of a fuss. Law suits involving tattoos are not terribly common and professions who make up the industry don’t seem to be bothered enough by others appreciating their work to start filling up the court system. It may be in part because they think doing so would be just like inviting the government in to regulate them.

Tattoos: To Color or Not to Color?

More than 50 different pigments, shades and diluents are currently used in tattooing and while some are approved for use as cosmetics, none are approved for subcutaneous injection. Many tattoo inks are not approved for skin contact at all. Some unconscionable tattooist have been known to used automobile paint or printers’ ink.

Nevertheless, many tattoo wearers choose color as a time saver or due to physical difficulty applying temporary makeup. Others find color tattooing an alternative to reconstructive surgery, to simulate natural pigmentation, and combat alopecia by having “eyebrows” tattooed on. Whatever their reason, color-tattoo wearers should be aware of risks.

The primary complications that can result from color tattooing are infection leading to hepatitis. Some tattooing equipment cannot be sterilized because of design and dimensions. The American Association of Blood Banks requires a one-year wait between a tattoo and donating blood. All color tattoos require some sort of medical post-care. Removing color tattoos is a painstaking and expensive process. Complete removal without scarring may be impossible. Allergic reaction to color tattooing is rare but problematic if it occurs because pigments used are hard to remove. Sometimes allergic reactions are observed to tattoos worn for years with impunity.

Granuolomas or nodules may form around color pigments your immune system detects as foreign. If you are prone to keloids –excessive scarring – color tattoos will traumatize your skin. Office of Cosmetics and Colors dermatologist Ella Toombs, MD defines color tattooing as skin trauma while Charles Zwerling, M.D.,
Annette Walker, R.N., and Norman Goldstein, M.D., warn scarring occurs as a consequence of tattoo removal. Color tattoos have been known to cause complications in patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Mascara produces similar effects but mascara is removable. Why is happens is unclear but some suggest tattoo-color and MRI pigment interaction as likely. Color tattoos wearers should inform the MRI technician to take appropriate precautions and avoid complications.
A common problem with color tattoos is desire and difficulty to remove them. The main complication with eyelid tattooing is pigment-placement. You should consider the consequences of permanently wearing an artist’s mistake.

Remember that all tattoos fade in sun and if tattoo-artists inject pigments too deeply possibility of migration from original sites may occur. Changes in the human body and seasonal styles may cause flattering color tattoos too later clash with changing tones and contours. Any permanent facial makeup may become distorted with time. A once stylish tattoo may become dated and embarrassing. Changing color tattoos is not as easy as changing your mind.
Knowing what pigments are in your tattoo is difficult due to tattoo inks variety. Because inks are sold by brand and not by chemical composition directly to tattoo parlors rather than retail basis to consumers, manufacturers are not legally bound to list their ingredients. If a manufacturer considers identity and grade of their pigments “proprietary,” neither tattooist nor wearer may be able to know exactly “what” is in the tattoo.

Any kind of abrasion to remove a color tattoo invariably leaves a scar in its place. Discomfort is inevitable. Camouflaging your color tattoo with another pigment may not look natural as pigments lack skins translucence.

Temporary tattoos are a viable option for the cautious tattoo-wearer but even these have a caveat. Color tattoos use foreign pigments not allowed into the United States due to FDA reports of allergic reactions. As such, even Henna treatments carry alert. In the US, Henna is approved only for use as hair day – not for direct application to the skin. What specifically causes the typical reddish brown Henna tint is a mystery making what exactly is in “black” and “blue” henna even more curious. “Black henna” may contain the “coal tar” color p-phenylenediamine, which stimulates allergic response in some individuals. The only legal use of PPD in cosmetics is as a hair dye.

Ultimately your choice of a colored tattoo rests on your shoulders. Product availability render legality of ingredients a moot point – If you want a colored tattoo you can easily find a tattooist who will sell you one. The questions to ask yourself are: Do you trust the ingredients in them sufficiently to risk later allergic response, or other medical complications or social second thoughts? The permanence of color tattoos has far-reaching life-long implications.

Frequently Asked Questions

For centuries, perhaps for longer than we know, tattoos have belonged to those on the fringes of society. They adorned pirates who sail the mysterious waters of the uncharted seas, gypsies who forsook the normalcy of steady work and calling the same spot home every night, people who did not conform to the way everyone else lived.

Tattoos are often associated with bikers, gang members, carnival freaks, prisoners and rock stars. Individuals perceived to fall into categories for which there is no place in the status quo. Are they the ones being rejected, or are they rejecting the restrictive, binding mold that many think everyone should fit in?

The 1960s brought about a series of social revolutions. The civil rights movement was coming to a boil, and women were carving out their place in the world. People not only became more aware of the flaws in their government and social structure, but were moved in mass numbers to do something to make them better. Tattooing became a little more mainstream because it moved people away from the norm in a time when the social structure was increasingly unpopular.

In recent year, people are getting tattoos to fit in rather than to opt out, but some of the stigma remains. Information is the key to abolishing prejudices of all kinds.
Take some time to review a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding tattooing.

Q: Does it hurt?
A: Well, it doesn’t tickle. A needle is being repeatedly stuck in your skin, sometimes for hours. Most people aren’t bothered by the discomfort enough not to get the tattoo. Of course, pain tolerance varies greatly from on person to the next, and placement of the design also makes a difference. Boney spots usually hurt more than fleshy spots.

Q: How long does it take?
A: That depends on many things: the size and amount of detail involved in the design, how long you’re able to sit at a time and the tattooist’s schedule. If your design is large or very detailed, you may have to break it up into several visits.

Q: Will I be more comfortable if I have a couple of drinks first?
A: Absolutely not. Blaming a goofy tat on inebriation is probably just an excuse. Most tattoo shops won’t even work with you if you’ve been drinking. Unless you’re passed out cold, (and maybe even if you are) drunks tend not to hold still very well. Alcohol makes you bleed more than you would otherwise. The excessive bleeding is unhealthy and may keep the ink from depositing into your skin correctly, and sometimes not at all. Besides, getting a tattoo is an experience; don’t you want to remember it?

Q: What’s the least expensive tattoo I can get?
A: Don’t be silly; would you trust a doctor who would take out your tonsils for a $5 bill? Of course you wouldn’t. That tat will be with you for the rest of your life.
Treat it like an investment. Choose your tattooist and design base on quality, cleanliness and professionalism, not how much cash you happen to be carrying at the time. It will save you from making an impulsive decision.

Q: How long does it take to heal?
A: Usually a couple of weeks if everything goes well and you take care of it properly. You have to leave the bandage on for at least a few hours, and wash the area with mild soap and water immediately after removing the covering. If you can’t wash right away, leave the gauze on until you can. Always pat the tat dry, never rub. DO NOT pick at your scabs. Do you WANT to get an infection? Always keep a fresh tattoo moisturized. Your tattooist should be able to recommend a great product for that.

Now you have a little more information, but these questions are just a jumping off place. There are many books on the subject if you need to know more, or make an appointment with the artist you’re considering to ask questions before you actually make up your mind.

Men and Women Tattoo Design Ideas

Do you find it hard to decipher which design is best for you? That is why it is highly advisable for one to ponder on the idea over and over again as well as to go over a collection of designs before finally deciding on anything. More so, the tattoo artists are also fond of presenting you with other choices.

Take note that you are the one who is having it inked on your skin and therefore, it is your own call. Hence, it follows that you look for your prospect tattoo design ideas, trim down your list, and then finalize your decision.

Men vs. Women’s Ideas

It is but natural for the men to have a different choice over the women. Most of the men are likely to prefer the designs that spell masculinity whereas the women are more into the pretty and dainty concepts. After all, the choice of a tattoo design comes with the sense of expression.

As it goes, many men profess their undying love for their girlfriends or wives by employing a tattoo with their names on the heart designs. Some of them even extend their efforts of coming up with personalized and creative designs.

Many people agree at one point and that is to refrain from having these tattoo designs inked on their skin as there is a large possibility for the relationship to go on the rocks and then end up for nothing. A tattoo can only be removed by undergoing a surgical procedure, so to speak.

For the women, the most common choices include the tiny and interesting feminine designs of hearts, flowers, and butterflies, to name a few. They also love having them on their hips, leg, shoulder, lower back, and ankle. They are also easier to hide.

So much more, the tattoo is something that can be very personal. It is oftentimes thought of as a reflection of the person’s personality and also a way of showing off something that is very dear to him or her.

It is necessary to take note that there is nothing such as a universal tattoo for men or for women. It all depends on the understanding, choice, and preference of the individual. What matters most is that you should take time to browse through the catalogue either online or that which is owned by the tattoo artist so that you may understand which one will best suit you.

Suggestions for Tattoo Designs

Your preference highly depends on your gender plus your style. Making up your mind may be difficult but all that you should do is to look at several prospects and finally pick out one.

For the women, the most popular choice is the butterfly design. The cross and fairy tattoos are typically used as the symbols of a person’s faith. They can also be used as dainty, attractive, discreet, and sensual signs of the body. Other common selections are the flowers and rose tattoo designs.

For the men, the tribal tattoos rank as the number one choice. They mainly spell the masculinity of a person. Other popular preferences include the sleeve designs, the dragon tattoos, the lion, Celtic, eagle, and those designs that spread over the shoulder blades.

Going over the tattoo design ideas is not that hard especially if you have a clear idea in mind.

Trendy Tattoo Ideas for You

There is the misconception that a tattoo is only a thing for someone who has spent his days in the prison cell. True enough, it had also been utilized in the past to mark a person who has done something wrong like a crime or a violation. However, this must not always be the case.

In the olden days, it had always been regarded as a body ornament that served whether as a symbol of seniority, ranking, right, religion, devotion, an award for someone’s bravery, talismans, as an amulet, or as a symbol of security.

In fact up to these days, some religious sects still require their believers to acquire that certain type of marking. On the other hand, such is also being practiced by the members of a gang. So this just clearly shows that the variety of tattoo ideas is applied for different purposes.

Some Ideas to Pique Your Interest

Are you fairly interested in having your own tattoo? Do you want to be a part of the trend? Are you cramming to find a cool idea? To spice up your quest, you may consider different styles that range from the historical up to the modern and newer ideas. Here are some suggestions for you to consider.

The sailor tattoos. They have never been forgotten all throughout the years. Although they may be a bit common to possess yet they bear a strong sense of symbolism. The nautical star is one of the best designs ever that is classically believed to bring forth guidance and strength.

The dragon tattoos. Again, they are one of the most ordinarily used emblems. The striking and bold dragon tattoos stand for strength and power. Their styles range from the classic ones up to the modern choices. For the women, the dragon design produces a sexy appeal while never setting aside the embodiment of the strong female strength and other related dominating qualities.

The modern designs. Indeed, a number of unique and new designs have come about. Included are the butterfly, flowers, and other personalized crafts. In fact if you are creative enough, you may come up with your own design and hand it over to the artist who is assigned to do the job on you.

The Best Source of Ideas

The first source for tattoo designs is your own creative inclination. Think about a cartoon character or a certain concept. With your creative juices pouring out, you may generate a sweet, sexy, strong, or tough impression depending on the design that you decide to get tattooed on your skin.

The next source is the tattoo library. You will find a lot of online websites that store as much as 10,000 and above designs from the classic up to the contemporary. Some of the websites allow free access whereas some others ask for a small fee.

Of course, you may browse through the tattoo artists’ catalogues too. If you are lucky enough, you may spot their personal creations.

There are lots of tattoo ideas to choose from. You may opt for something romantic, something that is tough, or something that simply defines your hidden side. Your decision greatly depends on the image that you want to project. Hence, you must be wise enough to pick out the right design and scout for the best resources that come available.

Celebrity Tattoos

Celebrity tattoos have been a frequent topic in mainstream pop culture and the media since the early 1990s. Actors, musicians and sports figures have gone under the needle, and their designs have inspired millions to do the same.

Oscar winning actor and budding humanitarian Angelina Jolie is also closely associated with her myriad of tattoos. Jolie is a dedicated tattoo enthusiast, collecting at least a dozen tattoos to symbolize various beliefs and life events. Jolie has made the dragon one of the most popular tattoos for women and sparked interest in traditional tattoo styles of Southeast Asia.

Rapper, Record Producer and actor 50 Cent is as noted for his body art as for his music. Fifty’s tattoos cover his back; the giant “Southside 50” rising from smoke and flames has become his signature. The back tattoo was designed by celebrity inkster Mr. Cartoon, who also designs Nike sneakers.

Eminem, another Mr. Cartoon client, has dog tags tattooed around his neck, a large mushroom on his left shoulder, his daughter’s name on his left wrist, “Slit Here” on his right wrist, a D on his right arm, the number 12 on his left arm, tattoos for Eminem and Slim Shady on his chest and several others.

The actor and reality television star Nicole Richie has at least nine tattoos, including wings on her back, a rosary around her ankle and a spider on her lower back. A pair of ballerina slippers commemorates both her childhood passion and her father Lionel Richie’s song “Ballerina Girl.”

Similarly, Britney Spears has several tattoos: a fairy on her lower back, a small daisy circling her second toe on right foot, a butterfly leaving a vine on left foot, a flower with Chinese symbol for mystery in middle on lower stomach, three Hebrew characters on back of her neck, and reportedly several others. Critics allege Britney’s rather varied assortment of body art is indicative of her impulsive vices, but others celebrate her love of tattooing.

Drew Barrymore has sported inked crosses and butterflies for more than a decade. Barrymore has posed for countless photographs displaying her tattoos, so she has perhaps the most extensively photographed body art of anyone in the public eye.

In abandoning her late 1990s teen pop image, Christina Aguilera adopted a variety of tattoos. She had the name of her controversial alter ego, Xtina, inked on her neck. She also obtained a flower on her wrist, a design on her forearm and reportedly several unseen designs. Later, she celebrated her marriage to record producer Jordan Bratman with the words “Te Amo Siempre” on her arm.

International sports star David Beckham is as famed for his jet-setting lifestyle, celebrity wife Victoria “Posh” Beckham, and famous friends as he is for his skills. Beckham has his sons’ names on his back, his wife’s name and his jersey number on his arm, and other tattoos. Beckham detailed his tattoos’ symbolic value in his autobiography, and his wife is also a body art fan.

Another celebrity couple who are tattoo fans are pop star Pink and her husband motocross racer Carey Hart. The singer’s tattoos may well number in the dozens. She has a shooting star and angel on her shoulder, “what goes around comes around” on her wrist, “tru luv” on her arm, “Mr. Pink” on her thigh, a cartoon cat on her stomach, the barcode from the album Missundaztood just below her hairline on back of her neck, and many more. Hart owns the Huntington-Hart Tattoo Shop
in the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. The shop is featured in the reality television show “Inked.”

The History of Tattooing

The population of those with inked or colored skin is growing by leaps and bounds. In recent years, tattooing has become much more mainstream. But what is a tattoo? Where did they begin?

Tattooing is the process by which colored dyes or inks are inserted beneath the surface of the skin with some type of sharp tool. In today’s western world, tattoos are most often done with a motorized needle. In other countries, however, tattoos are inflicted on a person with a homemade instrument, by hand, over a period of several days, sometimes months. In such cultures, the art of tattooing has not changed for thousands of years.

Archaeologists have reported finding tools they think were most likely used for tattooing in many digs all across the continent of Europe. The objects are round an flat. They are made of clay and have openings at the top where needles made from bone are inserted. They were probably used as a source of pigment and a reservoir, and the bone needles were used to apply ink to the skin. Engraved figures of clay and stone from the same era have been discovered with these instruments. It is thought that these engravings represented tattoos.

In 1991, the oldest known tattooed man was discovered. He was a mummy from the Bronze Age, which was more than 5,000 years ago. It is hypothesized that the man was caught in a snow storm while hunting. There were a bow and arrows, a bronze ax, and flint found with the body, frozen inside a glacier. Among the Bronze man’s tattoos are “a cross on the inside of the left knee, and six straight lines 15 centimeters long above the kidneys.” These tattoos are thought by experts to be either ornamental or, perhaps, to represent social status or magical meaning.

The History Channel online encyclopedia states that tattoos were being inked into Egyptians’ skin as early as 2000 B.C. According to Dr. W.D. Hambly, author of The History of Tattooing And It’s Significance, published in 1925, there is archaeological evidence which indicates that tattooing could have begun several hundred years earlier than 2000 B.C. Made in Egypt between 4000 and 2000 B.C., Egyptian female clay figurines which have markings by puncture tattoo have been discovered. Two of these tattooed dolls are on display in the museum at Oxford University.

From Egypt, the art of tattooing spread around the world. The 3rd and 4th Dynasties were the golden age of Egyptian pyramid-building. The massive tombs still
standing at Giza were constructed during this time. During this time, between 2800 and 2000 B.C., the art of tattooing began to spread across the globe, to Arabia, Greece, Persia, and Asia.

The types of tattoos and instruments used in their application vary from culture to culture, as does the meaning. In the early days of tattooing, most of the time tattooing or scarification was applied to indicate a person’s social status within a tribe. A tattoo could indicate a person’s high ranking social status in one culture, or one’s a low societal ranking in another culture. Tattoos have been used throughout history to show religious affiliation and loyalty, and since the time of the first tattoo there have been those who were inked for merely decorative purposes.

Tattooing is an invasive, painful procedure that can result in serious health problems if not done correctly. If done by an inexperienced and ill-prepared artist, a tattoo could spell death for someone in the form of AIDS or hepatitis. If done correctly, however, a tattoo is priceless, a personalized piece of art that lasts a lifetime.

Aging Tattoos

Although there have been many technological advances in tattooing, tattoos will always age as the skin ages. Genetics, environment and lifestyle combine to determine both the skin’s long term health and the appearance of a tattoo. Even with fastidious care, aging skin tissue loses moisture and elasticity. A tattoo on dry skin with diminished elasticity will fade and its contours will soften.

The more fine detail work in the tattoo’s design, the more it will change when the skin ages. Faded and softened tattoos do not show detail or shading as well, and the smaller the tattoo the more pronounced the effect. For that reason, large tattoos tend to age more gracefully than smaller, intricate designs. Bolder and larger pieces hold up to changes over the years. Trendy, bold tribal tattoos will change very little over time, whereas small, elaborate designs with fine line shading are likely to change dramatically. Just as prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause dramatic, irreversible and sometimes deadly skin damage, they also accelerate damage to body art. Sun exposure speeds up line or color decay. Black ink is particularly sensitive to sun exposure. Some black inks fade to gray with extended sun exposure, while others take on a bluish tinge. Occasionally, whites and light yellows disappear if the skin is badly sunburned. One of the key threats to an aging tattoo design does not alter the tattoo itself but is a very real consequence of a simple fact of life – weight fluctuations. The speed of weight gain or weight loss, skin moisture and tattoo placement all influence how well a tattoo withstands weight gain. The more slowly the weight fluctuates, the more skin retains its elasticity. Moisture also helps skin to retain its elasticity.

The way a tattoo reacts to weight gain varies widely from person to person, because it depends on where the person carries his or her weight. Areas where the skin remains more taut or areas that have more muscle will hold the design better than sagging or fatty areas. Although most tattoos will change shape when the skin is stretched or contracted, torso tattoos are arguably the most susceptible to irreparable damage after weight gain. A tattoo artist’s skill and equipment can change a tattoo’s long term durability. A well trained tattoo artist can bring considerable craftsmanship to the boldest and simplest tattoos. There is a wide variety in the resilience of tattoo inks as well. Tattoo inks consist of simple carbon particles. The carbon base usually comes from burnt wood, cotton, vegetables, India or pen ink and plastic. Professional artists have access to more than 100 different colors.

Ink manufacturers are not required to list the composition of their products, so tattoo artists may not know the base of their chosen ink. Nevertheless, plastic based inks are heavily marketed for their relative colorfastness and permanence. Unfortunately, plastic based inks are also more likely to cause allergic reactions.

Though there was no documented study available at the writing of this article, it makes since that the technological advances in skin care could be beneficial to prolonging the life of your tattoo. The age-fighting trend is enormously popular in the cosmetic industry these days. Virtually every major brand is getting in on it. There are all kinds of products claiming to lift, firm and unwrinkled the skin. Some of them even claim to slow down, stop or even reverse the aging process. Most of them really do work to some degree. If it makes the skin on your face look better, why wouldn’t it make your tattoo look better as well?