» All About Tattoos

All About Tattoos

Tattoos – all you needed to know about tattoos!

A tattoo is a permanent decorative marking made by inserting ink into layers of skin to change the pigmentation. Tattoos on humans are a form of decorative body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification or branding!

The origin of the word tattoo is from the Samoan word tatau, meaning “open wound”. The word tatau was loaned into English, the pronunciation eventually being changed to conform to English phonology as “tattoo”. Tattoo enthusiasts may refer to tattoos as “Ink”, “Tats”, “Art”, or “Work”, and to tattooists as “Artists”.

Tattooing is an ancient art, practiced worldwide, primarily among tribals. The Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, traditionally wore facial tattoos. Tattooing was widespread among Polynesian people and among certain tribal groups in the Philippines, Borneo, Mentawai Islands, Africa, North America, South America, Mesoamerica, Europe, Japan, Cambodia, New Zealand and Micronesia. Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the art continues to be popular in many parts of the world.

Purposes

Decorative and spiritual uses

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Tattoos have served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans, protection, and as the identification marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts. The symbolism and impact of tattoos varies in different places and cultures. Tattoos may show how a person feels about a relative (commonly mother/father or daughter/son) or about an unrelated person.

Today, people choose to be tattooed for cosmetic, sentimental/memorial, religious, and magical reasons, and to symbolize their belonging to or identification with particular groups, including criminal gangs; but also a particular ethnic group or law-abiding subculture.

Identification

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People have also been forcibly tattooed for various reasons. The most well-known example is the identification system for inmates/Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust. However, tattoos can be linked with identification in more positive ways. For example, in the period of early contact between the Maori and Europeans, Maori chiefs sometimes drew their moko (facial tattoo) on documents in place of a signature. Tattoos sometimes help forensic pathologists identify burned, putrefied, or mutilated bodies. Tattoo pigment is buried deep enough in the skin that even severe burns will often not destroy a tattoo. Because of this, many members of today’s military will have their identification tags tattooed onto their chests or ribs (these are sometimes known as “meat tags” in the American armed forces). The traditional custom continues today in the Royal Navy (Great Britain) and in many other Armed Forces.

Cosmetic
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When used as a form of cosmetics, tattooing includes permanent makeup and hiding or neutralizing skin discolorations. Permanent makeup is the use of tattoos to enhance eyebrows, lips (liner and/or lipstick), eyes (liner), and even moles, usually with natural colors as the designs are intended to resemble makeup

Medical

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Medical tattoos are used to ensure instruments are properly located for repeated application of radiotherapy and for the areola in some forms of breast reconstruction. Tattooing has also been used to convey medical information about the wearer (e.g. blood group).

Procedure

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The most common method of tattooing in modern times is the electric tattoo machine, which inserts ink into the skin via a group of needles that are soldered onto a bar, that is attached to an oscillating unit. The unit rapidly and repeatedly drives the needles in and out of the skin, usually 80 to 150 times a second. This modern procedure is usually hygienic and sanitary. The needles are single-use needles that come packaged individually. The tattoo artist must wash not only his or her hands, but they must also wash the area that will be tattooed. Gloves must be worn at all times and the wound must be wiped frequently with a wet disposable towel of some kind. All tattoo-related instruments must be autoclaved after use.

Studio Hygiene

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The properly equipped tattoo studio will use biohazard containers for objects that have come into contact with blood or bodily fluids, sharps containers for old needles, and an autoclave for sterilizing tools. Certain jurisdictions also require studios by law to have a sink in the work area, that is supplied with both hot and cold water.

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Proper hygiene requires a body modification artist to wash his or her hands before starting to prepare a client for the stencil, between clients, and at any other time where cross contamination can occur. The use of single-use disposable gloves is also mandatory.

It is usually not legal to tattoo impaired persons, people with contraindicated skin conditions, those who are pregnant or nursing, those incapable of consent due to mental incapacity or those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Before the tattooing begins the client is asked to approve the final position of the applied stencil. After approval is given the artist will open new, sterile needle packages in front of the client, and always use new, sterile or sterile disposable instruments and supplies, and fresh ink for each session (loaded into disposable ink caps which are discarded after each client). Also, all areas which may be touched with contaminated gloves will be wrapped in clear plastic to prevent cross-contamination. Equipment that cannot be autoclaved (such as counter tops, machines, and furniture) will be wiped with an approved disinfectant

Aftercare

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Tattoo artists, and people with tattoos, vary widely in their preferred methods of caring for new tattoos. Some artists recommend keeping a new tattoo wrapped for the first twenty-four hours, while others suggest removing temporary bandaging after two hours or less. Many tattooists advise against allowing too much contact with hot tub or pool water, or soaking in a tub for the first two weeks. This is to prevent the tattoo ink from washing out or fading due to over-hydration and avoid infection from exposure to bacteria and chlorine.

General consensus for care advises against removing the scab that forms on a new tattoo, and avoiding exposing one’s tattoo to the sun for extended periods; as both of these can contribute to fading of the image. Furthermore, it is agreed that a new tattoo needs to be kept clean. Various products may be recommended for application to the skin, ranging from those intended for the treatment of cuts, burns and scrapes. Oil based ointments are almost always recommended to be used in very thin layers due to their inability to evaporate and therefore over-hydrate the already perforated skin.

Ultimately, the amount of ink that remains in the skin throughout the healing process determines, how robust the final tattoo will look. If a tattoo becomes infected (uncommon, but possible if one neglects to properly clean their tattoo) or if the scab falls off too soon (e.g., if it absorbs too much water and sloughs off early or is picked or scraped off), then the ink will not be properly fixed in the skin and the final image will be negatively affected.

Infection

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Since tattoo instruments come in contact with blood and bodily fluids, diseases may be transmitted if the instruments are used on more than one person without being sterilized. However, infection from tattooing in clean and modern tattoo studios employing single-use needles is rare. Infections that can theoretically be transmitted by the use of unsterilized tattoo equipment or contaminated ink, include surface infections of the skin.

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