Skin As Canvas: So … You Want a Tattoo?
Defiance and artistic expression have finally come to a blissful truce. Tattoos have migrated from the fringes of society into the mainstream. It seems like everyone is flaunting a tattoo as a statement of style and individualism. You may be surprised to learn that your ultraconservative boss may be hiding one of her own underneath her Versace blouse.
This is because the general opinion about tattoos is changing and most people accept skin art as creative expression. Nevertheless, the old adage claiming everything gets better with time does not necessarily apply to a tattoo. Since they do not come with an exchange policy, it’s a good idea to do some research before taking on that fine piece of art. This permanent skin stain is relatively inexpensive to apply but can cost thousands to remove.
Many people are under the false presumption that a tattoo can be easily removed. Southern California based dermatologist Dr. Judith Feldman emphasizes the permanency of a tattoo application, “I get many requests to remove ink from patients who have grown tired of their design, have outgrown the boyfriend whose name is inscribed, or whose tattoo has outgrown them with age. But there is not an effective laser treatment that can eliminate ink from the body entirely, the most effective way is to excise the entire area.”
With ink removal, the patient is still left with the shape of the tattoo, so it becomes a colorless scar that looks similar to the original design. Even if a small tattoo can be safely and discreetly exterminated, Feldman believes that the medical risks are still too high to ignore, “Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of people who have received tattoos have been exposed to hepatitis C, which to this day has no cure. Hypersensitivity can also occur because of the mercury and other metals contained in some of the ink colors.”
Tattoos also fade in time because the skin absorbs the ink; it is the body’s way of trying to get rid of it. “Tattoos damage the pigment forming cells, so the skin under a tattoo is more prone to sun damage,” Feldman explains.
Tattoos can also present problems in cases of routine or emergency medical treatments. Inked skin can hide skin moles and cancers and can impede a proper analysis. Patients with ink-marked skin can be refused Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) due to an adverse reaction from the way the ink reacts to its magnetic features.
All that said, there are instances where medical indications call for tattooing. Breast reconstruction after surgery, a cleft lip, and a host of other imperfections require medical grade tattoos. Vitiligo, a condition that marks skin with color discrepancies, can be treated with tattoos as pigment applied as camouflage.
And there is something to be said for the artistic expression of a tattoo. So if you still want that tattoo, then be sure to do your homework: Visit several facilities and choose the safest and most reputable one. A tattoo parlor should fit your clinical and creative needs and expectations. Because a tattoo or body pierce poorly applied can give new meaning to the term, “fashion costs an arm or a leg.”
Fact Box: News to Know
- Never have a friend or other amateur perform the piercing or tattooing, as the conditions can be unsanitary.
- Although there have been no reported cases of HIV transmission from tattooing or piercing to date, the concern exists because needles are employed and skin is lacerated in the procedure. Packaged, sterilized needles should only be used once.
- The tattoo establishment should have a sterilization unit to disinfect equipment and tools between customers (most parlors are proud of this feature!).