Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Think Before You Ink

What could possibly be the problem with tattoos?

What's wrong with a bunny on your ankle, or a picture of The Incredible Hulk on your arm, or a 12" square map of your favorite town on your chest?
No room to correct spelling. Oops.

Well......somewhere down the line, you may find it's not really 'you' anymore. That artwork you thought was brilliant when you were 19 may be really lame when you're 25. It might be downright embarrassing by the ripe old age of 40.

It can also be a big turnoff for an employer who sees it. Sometimes businesses aren't keen on employees having multicolored sailing ships or vines trailing up their necks. It might prove so distracting at an interview that it's all they remember about you.

According to Wikipedia, tattooing has been done since about the 4th to 5th millennium BC. It was found on one mummified body found in the Otz valley of the Alps; this guy had about 57 tattoos consisting of dots and lines; they may have had some connection to acupuncture treatments he received. There have also been tattoos found on mummies from Egypt.

So it's been around for quite some time. It's thought they were originally done by burning the skin and then forcing pigments (color/ink such as from plants or coal) into the wound, or sometimes 'just' burning the skin deeply. The marks were usually meant to indicate what tribe a person belonged to, or what their craft was (weaving, metalwork, farming). It could also indicate whether a person was married or single. As more types of ink became available, the method of making tattoos changed as well.

In order for the ink to be permanent, it has to go deep into the lower layers of your skin (remember how you slough off skin all the time? Sunburns, for example?)

Modern-day tattoos are applied by using an electric tattoo machine with needles that rapidly puncture the skin with an up and down motion not unlike a sewing machine.

Because of how the ink is ‘punctured’ deep into the skin, bacteria can easily be introduced along with the ink. A reputable tattoo artist will have taken precautions to use sterilized/disposable needles and wear disposable latex gloves with each client, but you know how germs are. And how much fun would it be to contract hepatitis, syphilis, or in rare cases HIV (the AIDS virus) from a tattoo needle?

Some inks also contain traces of metal, which can trigger an allergic reaction. It seems your skin and your body are not fans of that kind of iron. On rare occasions, those metals can interfere with  obtaining a clear MRI, if you should need one.
                                             Cost of a well-done tattoo vs ...not well-done.

So let’s say you went ahead and got a tattoo even though it might not be your best choice...and now you have decided you’re not as happy about it as you once were. How do you get rid of it?

You have laser treatments, with a dermatologist (a physician who specializes in skin).  A laser focuses light beams on the tattoo that break up the ink embedded deep in your skin and encourage it to be washed away in your system, as well as, in effect, burning the top layer of skin away to destroy the ink on top. People who have had the treatments say it feels like being snapped with a large rubber band repeatedly.

And then, there is the expense. Here is what The Tattoo Removal Shop in Minneapolis says:

"To completely remove a professional tattoo, without risking side effects, takes approximately 10-14 treatments. If your tattoo is homemade or faded, or you have had previous treatments, your tattoo will come off sooner. For a standard, professionally made, tattoo, the final total price for entire removal is typically $1900 to $3800."

And, thanks to new and improved inks, you may find that removing a tattoo completely may not be possible: You might always have a shadow of that picture of a dragon breathing flames on going up over your shoulder and down to your knee.

How many of us have $1900 to $3800 just lying around my house? Would it not be better spent on Twizzlers or ITunes?

Or maybe half a semester's college costs instead of taking out a loan. Just sayin'.

Henna staining (also called Mehndi) is not permanent. It is used to draw designs on the skin and is particularly popular in India, Africa, Pakistan, and Middle Eastern countries. Henna design is often done on a bride's hands and feet the day before her wedding. It comes in a paste form, and at first is a light orange color but then darkens to a dark brown on skin. Henna is also used to turn your hair red. It will eventually slough off the skin in a month or two. Read more about henna staining here: http://www.mehndimama.com/info.html

Here's my suggestion: When you get the urge for some artwork on your skin, invest in some 'permanent' markers and have at it. No bacteria inserted into the skin, and eventually, it will wash away and you'll have nice clear skin again...and it's not going to take a laser and $4000 to make it gone.

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