Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tattoo Basics

Many of us have seen tattoos. Sometimes they’re attached to the bodies of fierce-looking bike riders. Sometimes they’re on the bellies of bikini-clad beach blondes. Our favorite lead singers clutch microphones with tattooed hands while the drummers flex tattooed shoulders. We’re all secretly fascinated with them.

At the moment, tattoos have gained a kind of fad status. Everyone wants one, or knows someone who has one. It is important to know as much as you can before you commit to getting one – remember the Offspring song… “He wanted a 13 but they drew a 31”? Tattoos are pretty much permanent. Even removal techniques can leave scars worse than the original ink. So research, read, ruminate and repeat. Wait a while, and if you still want one, read on…

Why do you want a tattoo? Is it to be one of the popular crowd? Think of how a dolphin on your breast today will look after you’ve had children, and body parts aren’t what they used to be. A sprawling tribal design across your shoulders won’t look so attractive at the local school fetes, 15 years later. Or, maybe it will. In any case, a tattoo is not something to rush out and get just to keep up with the rest of your peers.

Sometimes tattoos have significance to the bearer. Mothers who have lost children sometimes get a tattoo to remember them by. Lovers have their partner’s name (or names!), even children have tattoos of parents’ names. People with specific ancestries get tattoos to reflect their heritage. If you are choosing a design for its significance, make sure it moves you. If you are getting a tattoo simply because you like a particular design, great. Just make sure you’ll be happy with it after it’s done.Tattoos are basically made by a tiny needle, or several of them, inserting ink into the layer under the top layer of skin. Because this involves two factors – blood, and the breaking of skin – health is of prime importance.

Make sure you are healthy. If you’re run down, you are more prone to infection. Even the cleanest of tattoo instruments can leave you exposed to infection if your health is not the best. Make sure your immunizations are up to date, and it’s best not to be pregnant, diabetic or suffering from skin concerns. See your doctor beforehand if you have any questions about your health and the impact a tattoo may have on it.

As for the tattoo parlor, make sure they’re safe and sterile. Needles are to be single use, anything else must be sterilized in an autoclave (uses steam to sterilize). The artist must be licensed, and they must adhere to a strict code of ethics. If you feel unsure about anything, it’s best to find somewhere you are completely comfortable.

Getting the tattoo is uncomfortable. It can be downright painful. But one thing is certain, everyone will feel something different. Afterwards, it is imperative that you look after your new tattoo. Take the bandage off after an hour or so, and wash with an antibacterial soap. Dab dry with a clean towel. Otherwise try not to get it wet. Oh, and keep it out of the sun until it’s healed. Ice packs can help with swelling, and over the counter medication should be enough to deal with any slight pain you might feel. Don’t use peroxide or alcohol as they will dry out the tattoo, and don’t use petroleum jelly as it can fade the ink.

Think about the tattoo you want to get. Why do you want it? Where will you get it – where on your body, what parlor? What will you get? And think about safety, health and risks. You want to enjoy your tattoo, not regret it or recover from a poor experience.