The Cultural Significance of Tattoos

For many people, tattoos are marks of machismo – a form of expression for sailors, bikers and convicts with little significance outside of those subcultures. On the contrary, tattoos are often symbolic of rich cultural histories.

In many cases, tattoos are a way to place protective or therapeutic symbols permanently on the body. Polynesian cultures have developed elaborate geometric tattoos over thousands of years. After British explorer James Cook’s expedition to Tahiti in 1769, the marks became fashionable in Europe. As a result, European men in dangerous professions, in particular sailors and coal miners, have tattooed anchors or miner’s lamps on their forearms for protection since the late 18th Century. The tradition of tattooing a loved one’s name also developed during this time.

In other cultures, tattoos mark people as part of specific social, political or religious groups. In the Maori culture of New Zealand, the head is considered the most important part of the body. The face is embellished with elaborate tattoos, which serve as marks of high status. Each tattoo design is unique to the individual, as it conveys specific information about that person’s social status, ancestry and skills. Men are given tattoos at various stages in their lives, and the decorations are designed to enhance their features and make them more attractive to potential wives. Although Maori women are also tattooed on their faces, the markings are concentrated around the mouth. The Maori believe tattoos around the mouth and chin prevent the skin becoming wrinkled and keep them young.

Similarly, there are countless meanings behind traditional Native American tattoos, but most tattoos were a symbol of a warrior’s status within a tribe. It was also common for a tribe to give tattoos to those who had proficiency in using the symbol that was tattooed upon their body. For example, warriors often had tattoos of weaponry, while women were given tattoos of various labor tools. Although Europeans have had the names of loved ones tattooed onto their skin for centuries, Native Americans generally wore their own names.

Various groups throughout Africa employ tattoos as cultural symbols. Berber tribes in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya tattoo fine dots on the faces of women after they give birth to a male heir. Women also tattoo their faces, hands, and ankles with symbols marking their ethnic identity. In Egypt, members of the Christian Copts sect bear small crosses on their inner forearms. The elaborate facial tattoos of Wodaabe, nomadic herders and traders in western Africa, carry various meanings. Wodaabe women dot their temples, cheeks and lips with geometric tattoos to ward off evil spirits. Men and women use black henna as a temporary tattoo covering entire hands, forearm, feet and shin during weddings, baptism, and special holidays.

At times, tattoos are a form of artistic expression. Modern Japanese tattoos are considered fully realized works of art. The highly skilled tattooists of Samoa consider tattooing both a craft and a spiritual awakening. They create their art with the same tools as were used prior to the invention of modern tattooing equipment. This process is seen as a spiritual journey, a strongly psychological experience that will change their lives forever.

In North America, the cultural status of tattooing has steadily evolved over the past thirty years, from a rebellious, anti-social activity in the 1960s to a mainstream means of asserting one’s identity in the 1990s. Although tattooing is simply a trendy fashion statement for many, others choose tattooing as a way of honoring their cultural, ethnic or religious heritage. Often tattoos represent both fashion and cultural significance, as in the increasing popularity of Americanized geometric tribal tattoos.

Learning to Tattoo

So you think you want to be at tattoo artist? You had better be good at it; there is a whole lot of pressure involved. People are going to be paying you quite a bit of money to apply a design to their skin that not only has deep sentimental value to them, but is going to be there for the rest of their lives whether you do a good job or not. There’s no one way to become a tattooist, but there are probably some ways that are better than others. Let’s take a look at what’s available out there and weigh the options.

1. Apprenticing – involves working along side a experienced, professional tattoo artist in a functioning shop. It’s a good way to not only learn the art, but learn the business as well. It would be hands on experience. You would have the chance to learn by actually doing instead of just reading about it. They probably aren’t going to train you for free, but if you don’t have the money, there’s a couple of different ways to work it out. You could do some work around the shop, like clean up and empty the trash, a to cover the costs If you have some other kind of skill to offer, you can do that in trade, like keeping the books or doing in their taxes. You might even be able to work out a combination of these ideas.

2. Academic Schooling – When you’re talking about putting something permanent into people’s skin they will carry everywhere they go for the rest of their lives, it’s not enough to know how, you have to be able to produce the results. Most people don’t just pick up a tat gun one day and decide to be a tattooist. Most of them started off with natural talent that they worked to develop over the course of their lives. Many have a degree in some art-related field. So, at least taking some art classes would give you a foundation to start from.

3. Books, Tapes, etc – Think about it. You could cosmetically mutilate for life if you don’t have the proper training. It may be entirely possible come out of such a course they best tattooist who ever lived, but would you go to a doctor who learned how to perform surgery over the Internet? These materials may be a great place to get some extra information, but if it’s the only experience you have, you should come with a warning sign.

4. Tattoo Courses – Most people feel more comfortable with the courses that require them to actually show up somewhere on a regular basis and actually interact with an instructor, and actually touch the equipment. Your future clients will probably feel better about that too. However, despite the previous warning about correspondence courses, not every single one of them is a sham. If you chose to go this route, be sure to check them out with the Better Business Bureau in your area. The only ones worth checking into will still have an apprenticeship program and put you straight on track to receive a legitimate tattoo license in your state upon graduation from the course. That goes for any method of training you choose. You also need to know things about sterilization, pathogens and blood-borne diseases, so a course in microbiology wouldn’t hurt either.

Learning to tattoo is a huge commitment, and you need to have some realistic expectations. Just reading a book, watching a video and picking up a tattoo gun isn’t going to make you a tattooist. It takes practice and dedication. Even if you are the most artistically talented tattoo artist this is that’s no guarantee you are going to be a success. There’s more to it than that. You have to have some business sense, and know how to manage finances, staff and marketing.

Marriage Tattoos

Tattoos have long been a medium people use to pledge their undying love for each other. In the United States, we tend to associate hearts with love, thus a heart design is a popular choice to show affection. Some people have even chosen to get tattoos to commemorate their marriage. Other cultures dictate that a woman be tattooed before she is even eligible to marry. Others use tattooing as a method to attract mates.

Perhaps the origin of marriage related tattooing in North America stems from the devotion tattoo. Devotion tattoos usually involve a heart or some other symbol of love and usually someone’s name. Names don’t necessarily have to be involved though, something else could be used to symbolize the devotee, like a favorite flower or something to do with her interests.

Tattooed wedding rings have been around for centuries, but their modern celebrity status has given them a new lease on being hip and trendy. Back in the mid 1990’s rocker Tommy Lee wed Pamela Anderson of “Baywatch” fame. Unfortunately, the union didn’t last as long as the matching tattooed bands on their ring fingers. Fashion model, Mia Tyler (daughter of Areosmith’s Steven Tyler) and her musician husband, David Buckner also have tattooed bands.

Although tattoos in pace of actually rings sounds extreme and absurd, it may actually have some practical advantages. Some people, like doctors and nurses have professions that require them to wash their hands all the time. A tattooed ring would mean they can do so without having to bother with taking their wedding band on and off repeatedly and risk losing or forgetting it.

Other’s have jobs that have certain risk factors associated with wearing jewelry, like oil field worker, mechanics and others who deal with heavy machinery on a regular basis. Conventional rings can get caught on the machine’s moving parts and cause damage, and maybe even the loss of a finger. The ring finger has a tendency not to heal as well as other parts of the body, so the design may turn out a little blurry.

Not all marriage tattoos have to be permanent to be important. The Hindu religion mandates they couple, especially the bride to be, be decorated with henna tattoos for the ceremony, or their union will not be considered official. The word “mehendi” is often used in place of “henna” and is synonymous with the word “marriage.” Its reddish color is symbolic of good luck and prosperity a new bride is going to bring to the family she is becoming a part of. The designs are usually placed on the hands and feet by the bride’s female relatives during a ritual preformed the day before the wedding. At least one the groom’s hands is usually decorated for the ceremony as well.

In other cultures, a woman is not considered worthy to marry unless she is tattooed because it’s believed if she can’t take the pain of getting extensively tattooed, then she might never be able to stand the even more intense pain of child birth. By the same token, and untattooed man isn’t worth marrying because if her can’t endure the discomfort of getting inked, he is not going to be a good worker so he can’t provide well for his family. He will probably be considered a incompetent warrior.

In many ways, picking out a tattoo design is much like looking for a spouse. Your tattoo with be your ever present companion in good times and bad, in sickness and health, for richer and for poor. Pretty much the same rules apply. Some times a tattoo outlasts the relationship it was meant to celebrate and the two or three more. Much like a marriage gone wrong, divorcing a tattoo will also leave you hurting, broke and scarred.

Tribal Tattoos

Tribal tattoos were all the rage in the 1990s and remained so into the early 2000s, as with any trend, it led to overuse of the term and a blur in the origin of the artwork. People flocked to tattoo shops all over the country wanting tribal body art without so much as a thought to the symbolism of the piece they were about to have permanently applied to their bodies.

The word “tribal” has a different connotation for different people, largely based on their geographic location. For example, in the Southwest United States, it may bring to mind stereotypical notions of Native Americans living in teepees and hunting buffalo In other parts of the world, it may make someone think of mysterious peoples living in the jungles of the Congo or the African Bush. The art of tattooing has been practiced for centuries in cultures all over the world, so it’s impossible to narrow it to a single group of people.

The very same word, for the purpose of the tattoo industry, is a bit misleading. In the context of tribal tattoos, it simply means a tattoo in a style inspired by Polynesian body art. I guess if you happen to be a Pacific Islander, then your mental image of tribal tattoos is probably the closest to correct.

The word may give some the impression that the art is somehow more meaningful or closer to the roots of tattooing, when the truth is no one is 100 percent sure what the origin is. The fact that tribal tattoos are always solid black makes some people think it is a more pure and undiluted form of the art.

Many people have already had this revelation and have accepted the tribal tattoo for what it really is: still a really sweet looking tat. is a comprehensive Web site that’s completely embraced the idea. It has all kinds of links, and tons of ideas to inspire your new tribal body art. The thumbnails are divided up into easy to use categories like “tribal butterflies,” “tribal religious symbols,” “tribal lettering,” “tribal dragon,” “tribal celestial designs” and of course, tribal renditions of the ever popular upper and lower back tattoos.

It’s seriously doubtful that the body art industry is deliberately trying to trick anybody with this misguided term, but maybe they should consider renaming the trend as a service to the public. Maybe something like “Polynesianesq,” would be better, or “shadow,” in reference to its typically solid black coloring. “Faux tribal” would certainly be more accurate.

Most think the design has some sort of mysterious, deep meaning, when the truth is the popular form of tribal tattooing usually has no symbolic meaning other than the sentimental value placed on it by the wearer. Hopefully you’ve done your research well before you get into the artists chair. He may offer some guidance, but it’s not his responsibility to tell you what kind of tattoo you want.

Don’t be disappointed in your tribal art. If you feel you’ve chosen you design in error, just think back to what attracted you to it in the first place. Was in the unique flow of the shape or the intensity of the solid blackness? All those things are still there and permanently on your body for better or worse. Don’t waste time regretting your decision on a mere technicality. The point is, if you like it and it means something to you, then wear it with pride. When people ask you what your tribal tat stands for, just tell them how it’s symbolic to you. Maybe you got it to memorialize a loved one, or mark a major event in your life. That’s usually what they want to know anyway. Just love your tattoo for what it is.

Popularity of Tattoos

How long the practice of tattooing as been going on and the exact origin of its use remains a matter of much speculation. There’s evidence to suggest that kings and pharaohs have been tattooed since way back, debunking the myth that ink was originally used only for marking criminals and other undesirables.

For years a stigma has been imbedded in body art as ink is in the skin. Perhaps that attitude was perpetuated by the fact that traditionally, tattooed people tended to be somewhat on the fringes of society, and have occupations that were not exactly mainstream and a little mysterious, like pirates, merchant sailors, gypsies and non-Christian clergy, giving body art a rather romantic, outlaw reputation.

Over time, rebels of all kinds, and some falsely accused of rebellion, have adopted tattoos as a symbol of their beliefs. For example, a particular sort of rainbow is associated with homosexuality. The rainbow in question has six specific colors: red, for life; orange, for healing; yellow, for sun; green, for nature; blue, for harmony and purple, for spirit. This rainbow was first introduced as such in 1978 at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Day parade. The movement desired a banner that could represent them through the ages, and some feel strongly enough to have it permanently inked into their skin so they can always be identified with their cause. For similar reasons, modern Christians, despite traditional religious objection to the practice of tattooing, opt for crosses or fish symbols to illustrate their faith.

Of course, for every action there is an opposite reaction. Various hate groups also have their own tattoo. Members of the Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious white supremacy group, often brand themselves with ink that supports their raciest views. Designs popular with this group may not come right out and say Aryan Brotherhood. Instead they just contain the letters AB or the name Alice Baker to symbolize their hatred. Similarly, other branches of racist extremism, such as skinheads and neo-Nazis, utilize the swastika and the confederate flag.

In the 1960s and 70s, society was in a mess. The black civil rights movement was coming to a head, and women were finally starting to exercise the independence they had been trying to gain for centuries. There were activists for or against so many things. Nixon was on his way out of the White House and people were discouraged with their government. This era was a turning point in widening the social acceptance of tattooing. Suddenly the status quo wasn’t really worth preserving any more.

It seems like movie stars are prone to jumping on band wagons and getting tattoos. The general public’s fascination with celebrity gives them the power to give a voice to their cause, and influence our culture. More and more stars are making appearances with their tattoos hanging out and showing them off in photo shoots, giving their adoring fans one more reason to run out and get inked.

For better or worse, it’s the idea of symbolism that draws people to tattooing. People commonly seek designs that celebrate or commemorate significant events in their lives, such as the birth of a new baby or the death of a loved one. Some people chose a symbol of a monumental accomplishment, like graduating from college, surviving cancer or serving in the armed forces.

Though we obviously have a long, long way to go before every person is free to be themselves in this world, self expression has become more and more acceptable. Getting a tattoo is a way to display art that is deeply meaningful to the owner. It’s ok to ask someone what their tattoo stands for. They wouldn’t have it so prominently displayed if they didn’t want you to notice it.

Tattoo Jargon

It may not seem like it at the time, but getting a tattoo is a huge decision. That ink really is permanent and will be there for the rest of your life. Even if you opt to have it removed, you will still have a scar or traces of ink at the very least. It’s very important that you put a lot of thought into the design you want and the placement of your new tattoo. You should do a lot of research into the process of tattooing and choosing your tattoo artist. As with any specialized trade, there’s a certain amount of jargon, or terms specific to the practice, used. Study up on this; you can’t make informed decisions if you have no idea what the experts are talking about. Here’s a short, and by no means complete glossary to help you get started.

1. Autoclave – a machine that uses pressure and hot water to sterilize tattoo equipment. The autoclave is also used for medical and dental tools. A lot of shops keep the autoclave in plain sight so potential clients know they are using clean supplies. If you don’t see one ask. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer, look for another shop.

2. Body Suit – a full body tattoo. It typically starts at the neck and covers the rest of the body down to the ankles. Hands and feet are usually excluded. Japanese tattooists are known for their artful applied body suits.

3. Cockamamie – one of those cheap temporary tattoos applied by wetting the paper backing and pressing against the skin. Cockamamies were popular in the 1940s and 50s and were often found as prizes in Cracker Jack and cereal boxes.

4. Devotion tattoo – a tat that symbolizes its owner’s love for a significant other, parent, pet, favorite band, favorite food, etc. The possibilities are endless.

5. Cover-up Work – What happens when you change your mind about that devotion tattoo. Cover-up work involves either incorporating an old tat into an new design or covering it up totally. Good cover-up work is hard to spot and is a prized talent among tattoo artists.

6. Flash – The sheets of designs that hang on the walls of tattoo parlors. These designs aren’t necessarily original to that particular artist and are probably fairly common. A shop purchases the flash from the vendor and the rights to legally reproduce it into a stencil so that no copy write laws are broken.

7. Jailhouse Tattoo – a homemade tattoo usually characterized by fine, black or blue lines.

8. Scratcher – a bad tattooist

9. Stencil – a template of the tattoo you’re about to get, usually drawn or traced on your skin so that you have a good idea of what the tat will look like on you and the tattooist has something to go by.

10. Lady Luck – this tattoo is traditionally popular at war time. The central figure in the design is always a beautiful woman surrounded by other signs of good fortune like a four leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot, etc. The tattoo was thought to bring luck to the owner.

11. Men’s Ruin Tattoo – pretty much the opposite of Lady Luck, this design also features a woman, but depicted as the source of men’s troubles. She’s often accompanied by representations of vices that can bring a man down such as liquor, drugs and gambling.

Now that you have a decent foundation to at least ask intelligent questions, you’re one step closer to a tattoo experience that with produce a design you will love for a lifetime and preventing the regret that often comes with a tattoo that wasn’t particularly thought out.

Cosmetic Tattooing

If the tattoo industry had an alter-ego, it would be the permanent cosmetic industry. Some people call it the more sophisticated and refined side of tattooing. Other people seem to be in a state of deep denial of the fact that it is a tattoo. Ladies who roll their eyes and shriek at the idea of artistic tattoos, the very same ones who perpetuated the sigma attached to them, are the jumping at the chance to finally define their faint eyebrows and pale lip lines. Dermapigmentation technicians used the same ink and the same equipment as artistic tattooist, but in a far more socially acceptable way.

Though there are documented cases of cosmetic tattooing taking place at the turn of last century, it’s only recently become more or less mainstream. Some ladies go
for the full face, eye shadow and all, but eyeliner, cheek color and lip liner are the most popular procedures.

The process starts with a consultation with a makeup artist who will help you decide the color palette that’s going to be permanently applied to your face. Obviously, this is perhaps the most important step. You wouldn’t want to wake up every day for the rest of your life with an unflattering shade of lipstick.

Once your colors are chosen, the technician will apply a topical anesthetic to the area. This will numb the skin, but you will still feel a stinging sensation. Most people feel the end result is worth the discomfort, or there would be women walking around with half finished faces.

After the tattoo is applied, you should treat the site just like a wound. An antibiotic ointment should be applied and the area should be covered as well as possible. Your technician should be able to recommend an ointment or cream that’s best for delicate facial skin. Even if your technician is well trained and runs a reputable and sterile operation, side effects and complications can occur. If you start running a fever, contact your doctor to rule out infection. A patch test should be done ahead of time to make certain you are not allergic to the ink.

Your new cosmetic tattoo is just as permanent as any artistic tattoo, but it will eventually fade to some extent. Eyeliner usually needs to be touched up every four to six years. Lip liner usually doesn’t last quite as long and may need to be reapplied ever two to for years. There are a couple of factors that cause the need for reapplication: pigments and your body’s natural skin cell renewing process.

Different color pigments fade at different rates, which may account for the fact that dark eyeliner lasts longer than lip color which tends to be rosier.

Cosmetic tattooing has a more practical side as well. It can be used to cover up scars after reconstructive surgery and make skin discolorations virtually disappear. Tattooing has successfully covered up facial scars and created facial features for people who lost theirs due to being burned or some other type of accident. It can also be used to create new aureolas and improve the appearance of a nipple after breast reconstruction. It’s a simple procedure that can make all the difference in the world to someone’s self esteem.

The best way to choose a reconstructive tattooist is with the help of your plastic surgeon. You’re doctor may be able to give you a mild anesthetic before your appointment. Unfortunately, the procedure is no covered by most insurance companies and the cost can be quite high, but you can’t put a price on felling like yourself again, especially after an accident or a life altering surgery that requires reconstruction.

The Process of Tattooing

So, you’re finally going to do it? You’re going to get that tattoo you’ve been talking about for years. You have the perfect design all picked out and know exactly where you want it. You’ve visited the shop a few times and are confident you’re chosen the right one. It’s clean and well lit, the artists are all wearing gloves and the autoclave is in plain sight so you see that it’s being used. The guy who’s going to do your ink seems nice and you feel like he’s really listening to you and understands what you want. You’re just a little hesitant because you don’t know precisely what to expect. Well, here’s a little enlightenment on the process.

Just like most other major life decisions, getting a new tattoo begins with some paperwork. You’ll be asked for the usual stuff, then a photo ID to prove your age. Rules vary from state to state, but you have to be at least 18 everywhere. Tattooing a minor with a parent present and/or written parental consent used to be ok in some places. The rules were stretched and abused, and it’s really not the norm now, but some shops will still do it.

After all your forms are filled out, you’ll have a seat in the artist’s chair. Some used chairs kind of like a dentist would have, other’s used tables or benches like a massage therapist does. If the shop is small, it may just be a plain kitchen chair. You may be seated in an open work area or a closed room, depending on the placement of your tattoo. Either way, your artist will try to make you comfortable.

Next is the preparation phase. The skin that’s about to be inked will be cleaned, usually with rubbing alcohol, then shaved, then cleaned again. Nothing but a brand new disposable razor should be used, and even then, it should only be used once. You can ask to check the razor out first if you want to. The artist won’t think you’re rude. He’ll probably thing you’re dumb if you don’t.

Now you need a stencil. These use to be traces or drawn by hand. It was a time consuming and tedious process. Thanks to the invention of the thermal-fax, it now takes just a few minutes. You can bring in a design you like, and your artist can scan it into the thermal-fax which prints it on a piece of transfer paper (assuming there’s not copyright infringement involved). He will then moisten your skin with water, soap, or sometimes a stick deodorant. This will help the transfer stick better and come off darker on your skin.

At this point, you artist will take a few minutes to prepare his workstation. He can’t do this ahead of time or everything wouldn’t be sterile. He will gather the ink into little bowls called “ink caps.” Then he will take the tubes and needles out of their sterile wrappers and put them in his machine. There should be a cup of distilled water on the table to rinse the needles between colors.

Now it’s time to get down to business. Before the needle touches your skin, the tattooist will dab a bit of ointment over the transfer. This is to make the transfer stay on longer, and to help the needle slide more smoothly over your skin so you’ll be more comfortable. First comes the outline. It’s basically getting what’s on the stencil permanently inked onto you skin. It’s going to hurt, but it shouldn’t be unbearable, otherwise there would be people walking around everywhere with half-finished tattoos. If you’re not getting color, you’d be finished at this point. If you are, the tattooist will switch to magnums, needles specifically made for coloring and shading.

You’re now the proud owner of a new tattoo. The artist will clean it and usually take a picture for his portfolio so prospective clients can see what he’s done. Next, he will put a protective ointment over the area, and cover it will gauze. On your way out, you’ll be given a sheet of instructions on how to care for your tattoo while it’s healing.

Henna Tattooing

Are you thinking of getting inked, but not sure you’re ready for the commitment? Consider a henna tattoo. It’s the best way to avoid permanent ink with out looking like you whimped out.

The tall shrub like henna plant grows in dry, arid climates. Much of the world’s henna supply comes from Egypt, Sudan and India, but it’s cultivated in some
African and Middle Eastern countries as well. In Pakistan, the plant tends to be known as “Mendhi.” The plant is ground into powder and made into a paste that will temporarily stain the skin.

Leaves are harvested from the plant just as the pink and cream-colored buds start to bloom. The flowers are can be used for perfume, and the leaves are hung to dry. It’s important to keep them out of direct light. Allowing them to air dry in semidarkness will preserve their skin-staining qualities.

The paste consists of the powder and a substance usually referred to as a “developer.” Hot water is by far the most common developer. Some henna artists swear by additives such as lemon juice, various kinds of tea and certain essential oils. Henna will start staining the skin upon the initial contact, as well as any soft surface it comes in contact with, so it’s important to protect the work area and make sure the paste goes exactly where you mean for it to.

The paste should set on the skin for about two hours after design is fully applied. Carefully brush the dried paste off of the skin without rubbing. The design should be an orange color. Don’t panic. The color is not finished developing. It should keep evolving for the next 12 to 48 hours depending on skin type.

It’s of utmost importance that the new tattoo doesn’t get wet in the first 12 hours. The water will automatically stop the color development. Aftercare of the fresh henna tattoo is very similar to that of a regular under skin ink tattoo. Avoid soaking in the bath, and use only mild soap. Be careful to keep it clean and make sure to pat the area dry rather than rubbing.

The art of henna application is typically practiced by females, or at least there is very little documentation that proves otherwise. Henna tattoos are traditionally applied to the hands, including the fingernails, and the feet for ceremonies and celebrations such as weddings and festivals, especially religious ceremonies.

The earliest documented use of henna as body art dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Mummies uncovered in archeological digs have revealed signs of henna use, not only on the hands and feet, but as a hair dye and possibly even a conditioner. There is evidence that pharaohs were often hennaed and that specifically hennaed hands may have been perceived as a status symbol among the ancients, signifying prosperity. In other parts of the world where henna application is popular, it’s used without respect to social or economic boundaries. Peasants are just as likely to be tattooed as royals.

Henna crosses many diverse cultural boundaries, but application techniques have stayed pretty much the same. The artwork may vary depending on the formality of the event. Tattoos worn for every-day decoration won’t be as ordinate as those for special occasions. The popularity of various designs changes from one geographical region to the next.

For example, the dominant style in Arabia is large, flowery design covering the palm, in addition to the back of the hand. This design tends to leave more unadorned skin showing than some alternative styles. Fine-lined, intricate paisley patterns are popular in northern India. These designs usually only cover the palm and leave very little skin uncovered.

Henna is a permanent dye. It only fades because of the natural regeneration of the skin. The typically tattoo lasts about 10 to 15 days. The fading process is affected by the tattoos placement on the skin and the lifestyle of its wearer.


You should have listened to your friends when they said you’d regret getting your significant other’s name tattooed on your arm, and you really should have known how your mother would react upon seeing “Momma” scrawled across your back. Tattoos are created by injecting colored pigment under the skin with a needle, and are relatively permanent.

Lucky for you, and your poor mother, there are several methods for tattoo removal. The success of the removal depends on several factors including; the location, size, the individual’s ability to heal, how the tattoo was applied, and how old the tattoo is. A physician will review these factors while choosing the best method for you.

Dermabrasion is the method in which a small area of the tattoo is sprayed with a solution that freezes the skin. The physician then uses an instrument to “sand” the skin, peeling layers away. Some bleeding is likely to occur, and a dressing is immediately applied to the area.

The Salabrasion method has been performed for centuries, and is still occasionally used today. The tattoo and surrounding area are numbed by a local anesthetic and then rubbed vigorously with salt or a salt block until the layers of skin trapping the ink are literally rubbed off and the ink able to escape the skin.

Excision is a method used to remove small areas of the tattoo. The patient is given local anesthesia to the affected area and the tattoo is surgically cut from the skin. The edges of the remaining skin are sutured together. It is a simple procedure with a mild recovery time as long as there are no complications, such as infection. If that tattoo is too large it may be necessary to excise the areas in stages, removing the center of the tattoo first, then the perimeter at a later date. A skin graft may be taken from another part of the body to replace the portion of skin that was removed..

In recent years physicians have considered laser surgery one of the best methods of tattoo removal. Anesthesia is not required for laser removal, but depending on the patient’s pain threshold a physician may decide to use a numbing cream or local painkillers. The patient is given protective eyewear and pulses of light are directed onto the tattoo, breaking up the pigments. Over the next few weeks the pigments are absorbed into the body. Black and blue pigments respond well to laser treatments, whereas greens can be resistant, and red pigments do not respond at all to Ruby laser light. Thanks to new laser technology scarring is not a significant risk for laser tattoo removal.

Your skin is the largest organ on your body and your first line of defense against infection. Anything you do to damage or break the skin weakens your natural immune responses. Just as your tattooist did when you got your new tattoo, you doctor should give you precise instructions on how to care for your skin as it heals. Keeping the area clean is of the utmost importance. There is no complete method of tattoo removal. While the procedures and patient responses vary, you’re essentially trading a tattoo for residual pigmentation and some degree of scarring. Before choosing to get a tattoo, make sure your motives are lasting and you
tattooist is reputable. Stay away from fads and choose a design that is deeply meaningful to you.

Removal of your little mistake isn’t going to be cheap. Depending on the size, type, and amount of treatments needed; the average cost can be from $150 for the excision of a small tattoo, up to $5,000 for larger pieces that may take several treatments.