Category Archives: Tattooisms

Dear Tattooist: What happens to my tattoo when my weight changes?

DrRuss asked:

I’ve heard conflicting reports:

What happens to the tattoo image when you gain or lose weight? I am thinking about getting a new tattoo on the side of my torso (rib cage). I am planning on losing weight and want to know if I should get the tattoo now or wait until I lose the weight? Does the stretching of the skin when gaining weight affect the tattoo in any noticeable way?

This is one of those questions that gets the “It depends” answer. Genetics, elasticity of your skin, your age, quantity of weight change, and the location and subject matter of the tattoo all have a big part to play with what will happen to your tattoo in either gaining or losing weight. Areas of skin that are prone to stretching when you gain weight or shrinking when you lose weight may not be in the configuration you want when you achieve that new weight.

Some lucky people’s skin and their tattoos go back to the exact same place after dramatic weight changes. Some.

Just yesterday I saw a client who had stars tattooed across her lower abdomen just a few years ago. Then she got pregnant. Her body figure went back to “normal” after the pregnancy, but her skin did not. Now most of the stars no longer look like stars. They looked more like starfish. All wavy.

I’ve seen guys who had crosses tattooed on their deltoid. One lost weight, the other gained weight. Neither cross tattoo was no longer “straight” after the weight change.

If you are planning on changing weight dramatically, then I would suggest holding off until you are close to the weight target you are looking to hit. This is just my recommendation based on seeing people who have experienced dramatic weight changes and their tattoos.

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...
Erik

Dear Tattooist: Covering a fresh tattoo?

fermat69 asked:

I’ve heard conflicting reports:

Immediately after a tattoo, does one need to keep it covered with plastic wrap for 24 hours? Or should the skin be allowed to breathe?

I will first tell you to take care of your tattoo exactly as your tattoo artist tells you.

Much scientific study in collaboration with trained medical professionals in skin care is something I would like to see more of in this field. Every artist seems to have a different way they recommend to take care of a tattoo, either due to personal experience or training.

That said, I can tell you how we teach our clients to take care of their new tattoo at our studio:

30 minutes after your tattoo is finished, remove the bandage your tattoo artist put over your new tattoo. Wash your tattoo thoroughly with antibacterial soap and warm water. Be sure to rinse away any and all secretions, and be sure that all soap residues are rinsed off. Lightly pat dry your tattoo with a clean paper towel.

After washing and drying your new tattoo, apply a small amount of Curel Unscented or Gold Bond Chamomile lotion and massage it into your tattoo. DO NOT apply a thick coat.

Your new tattoo will develop a layer of dry skin over the next few days. DO NOT PICK this off. Wash and apply lotion three times daily until the layer falls of on its own. After the dry skin has fallen off, there will be a period of adjustment for your skin. It is advisable to continue to use the lotion during this time, which is usually around two weeks for most people.

For some tattoos—depending on the size and location—we recommend to clients that instead of applying lotion, they instead wrap/cover the tattoo with Saran Wrap during certain times. This is usually for large tattoos that a client may fall asleep on and risk sticking to their clothes and sheets, or if the tattoo needs special protection from some hazard the client may be around. (For example, when I get a new tattoo and will be working with clients, I cover it with Saran Wrap to protect it from any aerated blood-borne pathogens, etc.)

The same cleaning and reapplication process applies as mentioned above.

As I said previously, scientific study in collaboration with trained medical professionals in skin care is something I would like to see more of. I should look into that. Then again, I’d also like to find a dermatologist who doesn’t get all weird on you because you have a tattoo.

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...
Erik

Dear Tattooist: Painful Locations?

Greg asked:

Are there any places that tattoo artists consider the most painful places to be tattooed?

There are some areas of the body that are typically painful to most people: the ribcage, the belly, inner thighs, the groin. But since everyone is wired a little differently, what may be painful to one person may not be to the next person.

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...
Erik

Dear Tattooist: How easy is it to remove a tattoo?

Urspo asked:

What always stops me is the notion it is permanent; i’ve seen 60yo and older and their tatoos look faded and awful.
How easy is it to remove a tatoo?

First a comment about the 60 year old individuals with tattoos that looked faded and awful: See my “What’s the best way to keep a tattoo fresh?” post for several explanations as to why this happens.

Now, on to the question: “How easy is it to remove a tattoo?” Not easy at all.

Tattoos are, by the science of the process, meant to be permanent.

That said, there are several methods that can be used to attempt to remove a tattoo. I have yet to read about or see a tattoo that was 100% removed, and there is usually either some skin discoloration or scarring as a result of the process.

Currently the most common method to remove a tattoo is Q-switching Laser Removal. Short pulses of intense light pass through the top layers of the skin to be selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. This laser energy causes the tattoo pigment to fragment into smaller particles that are then removed by the body’s immune system over time. There are different kinds of lasers for different colors of ink (e.g. Ruby, Alexandrite, Nd:YAG, and Frequency-doubled Nd:YAG lasers). The process is typically both painful and expensive.

There are a few other methods of tattoo removal that have been used over time.

Intense Light Pulse Therapy works in the same way as laser removal, except a special gel is rubbed on the skin and a wand is used to emit intense light pulses.

Excision, where a dermatologic surgeon removes the tattoo with a scalpel and closes the wound with stitches.

Dermabrasion, where the skin is “sanded” to remove the surface and middle layers.

Salabrasion, where the skin is “sanded” with salt to remove the surface and middle layers.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)/“Do-It-Yourself” Cream Removals, where chemicals are applied to the area repeatedly to chemically burn the surface and middle layers of skin.

Saline/Hydrogen Peroxide Tattooing, tattooing over the existing tattoo with either a saline or hydrogen peroxide solution. I had never heard of this method until I started researching for this post. All the information I can find on it says it tends to lighten/blurry a tattoo but will not remove it.

Dry Tattooing, tattooing over the existing tattoo with no solution in an effort to scab the area and pull the ink out of the skin.

Cover-up Tattooing, camouflaging the existing tattoo with a new tattoo. We do many cover-up tattoos here in the studio. For different reasons. Some tattoos are just bad and need to be corrected. Some clients aren’t happy with the tattoo choices they made in their past and want to hide it. Some clients want to enhance or enlarge their existing tattoo.

For more information, I refer you to the following overviews:
http://www.howstuffworks.com/tattoo-removal.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tattoo_removal

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...
Erik

Dear Tattooist: What about mom? And Leviticus?

kyle asked:

dear tattooist.

a) will it hurt? i’m a complete pussy and don’t like pain.
b) what would your mom think – i mean, dirtying up your skin and all. don’t you know what leviticus says about it? scandalous.

:-)

I’ll be focusing on “b” in this post. (I covered “a” here.)

First, do I really care what my mom would think? Sure I respect her as my mother. But I’m past the point of being overly concerned with what she thinks of me as to how I live my life. Besides, it’s probably more she’s afraid of what others would think about her since I’m this way. I’m my own adult, thank you very much. Well, I’m an adult most of the time. Come to think of it, I don’t think mom and I ever talked about the tattoos. With the way she flipped out when I took my brother to get his ears pierced when he was in high school, she’s probably have a stroke over my ink now.

Second, I’d have to be a practicing Judeo-Christian in some form or fashion to care about what Leviticus says concerning tattoos. And then what of other religious beliefs and cultural practices for the remainder of the world?

However, since I grew up in a “Christian” household, I’ll play the game. The Leviticus reference to which you refer is Leviticus 19:28.

ושרט לנפש לא תתנו בבשרכם וכתבת קעקע לא תתנו בכם אני יהוה׃

You don’t read Hebrew? What? Neither do I. One might immediately wonder about the relevance of anything written in a different language and how it relates to me. Especially something from several thousand years ago. That is a different discussion however.

The American King James Version translates this verse as: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

From the research I’ve done, many Orthodox Jews state that the Biblical law prohibits all tattoos regardless of their reason. The original Hebrew words for this are “ketovet kaaka”, meaning “dug-out writing”. All the reference work I found online don’t seem to explain the “for the dead” junction, or what “dug-out writing” actually is.

A Google search of “Leviticus 19:28” and “Tattoo Leviticus” shows how NOT so simple the debate is over this verse within the Judeo-Christian community. Much like EVERY other aspect of both the Torah and the Bible. Again, I digress.

The key to this statement for me, in reading this verse in the context of the section, is the “for the dead” bit. Which could possibly mean no memorial tattoos. Which we do a large number of. Mostly on seemingly “religious” individuals judging by the subject matter that is usually tattooed.

Personally I think I’m more upset that God can’t stand the sight of handicapped people or dwarfs, and didn’t want them as priests. (See Leviticus 21:16-23.)

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...
Erik

Dear Tattooist: How can I find a good tattoo artist?

Java asked:

How can I find a good tattoo artist? How will I know he or she is good? To me, “good” means someone who uses quality ink, needles, etc. Generally, excellence in the safety and quality of the process. I also want an artist who makes good art, spells words correctly in tattoos, etc. How can I be sure before getting a tattoo?

One would think for something that is a permanent alteration to your body, more people would ask this question. Most don’t seem to. I’m glad you have.

Do people you know have tattoos you like? Word-of-mouth is an excellent way to find a great tattooist. What studio and to what tattooist did they go? Did they have a good experience while at the studio?

If you see someone in public with tattoos that you like, politely ask who their tattooist is. Many people with tattoos are happy to promote their tattooist(s).

Most studios and tattooists should have websites with portfolios of their work and pictures of the studio, like my studio does. These will give you an idea of the studio and artist without having to go to each studio.

But please do physically visit different tattoo studios. Do you feel comfortable walking into that studio? Listen to your senses. Does it “look” clean, or is dark and dingy? Does it smell clean, or not-so-fresh? I know this sounds odd, but go visit the restroom. It’s appearance and condition is usually an accurate reflection of the establishment as a whole.

Obviously, the studio is not the same as each tattooist who works in it, but many facets mirror each other.

Ask about the sanitation and sterilization procedures the studio and tattooist follows. Are new sterile needles used with each client? Are all other tools that are involved in the tattooing process either sterilized or disposed of after each client? Non-disposable equipment should be sterilized with an autoclave (an apparatus that uses superheated steam under high pressure to sterilize instruments).

Are studios and tattooists regulated and licensed by your state’s Health Department? If so, you can contact the Health Department about infractions and complaints.

Tattooists should have a photo portfolio of their tattoo work. The portfolio will contain a biased sampling, as a tattooist is obviously only going to put good examples of their work in said portfolio. Also, it’s not possible to know that the tattooist actually did the work in said portfolio. I’ve actually heard of cases where a dishonest tattooist was using other tattooist’s pictures.

What is the style of tattoo you are wanting? Think of all the different styles of art by all the different artists over time. The same is true of tattooists. Not all tattooists tattoo all styles and subject matter. Are there examples of the style of tattoo you want in the tattooist’s portfolio?

What are your impressions of the tattooist? Does he or she “look” clean? Does he or she smell clean, or not-so-fresh? Do you feel comfortable with the tattooist?

How long has the tattooist been tattooing? What styles of tattoo do they enjoy doing? If a tattooist is annoyed because of, or does not have solid answers to any of your questions, that should tell you a few things about the compatibility between you and the tattooist.

You don’t have to be buddies with your tattooist, but you do have to communicate what you want and expect. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your tattooist, it’s not likely that you will get what you want.

There’s a book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting a Tattoo. I hate, hate, hate the title! It’s a great resource, and I keep a copy at the studio. You can also Google for “getting my first tattoo“. There are plenty of good resources out there as well.

Hopefully this information will assist you in finding the tattooist that is right for you.

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...
Erik