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Tattoo Tips

What is a tattoo?
Are Tattoo’s safe?
How do I pick a Tattoo Artist?
What to look for in a tattoo studio.
This is my first tattoo – What should I expect?
What to do before getting a Tattoo.
Does It Hurt to Get a Tattoo?
What's the Procedure Like?
How to Take Care of a Tattoo
What Are the Risks?
The tattoo itself involves several steps
Caring for a New Tattoo
Can you remove your tattoo?
What is Laser Removal?



What is a tattoo?
Did you know that about twelve million Americans have one tattoo! A tattoo is a design made on the skin by a process of pricking and ingraining an indelible pigment. The design is made on the skin with a temporary dye such as henna or ink. “The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian "tatu" which means "to mark something.” Tattoos date back to 3300 years B.C. and have been known to be found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies. Many societies wore tattoos as part of their culture but in todays society, tattoos are widely accepted and are used to convey a message or display artwork.

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Are Tattoo’s safe?
Yes, if administered properly. The first step is to look for a tattoo artist who is licensed. It is best to have your hepatitis and tetanus immunizations up to date when getting a tattoo. Some cities and states have standards for tattoo studios. Call your state, county or local health department to find out about the laws in your community.

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How do I pick a Tattoo Artist?
Start by asking people you know who have tattoos that you like. Look on TattooBin for your Tattoo Artist and Tattoo Studio. Visit several studios to see the artists work and ask to see photographs of the artists work to see if you like their style. Check out TattooBin.com and the different tattoo publications. When looking for a Tattoo artist there are a few things to consider, first; when looking at their photographs, check to see if the lines are clean and smooth or broken and jagged and be sure they meet up. Take the time to shop around because that will make a big difference in your end result. A good tattoo artist will take time to sit with you and they will create a special work of art just for you. Ask the tattoo artist if he or she is a member of a national tattoo organization. The Alliance of Professional Tattooing is a nonprofit organization that monitors legislations and keeps the artists updated on safety issues.

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What to look for in a tattoo studio.
To find a good studio you should do some research on your own and talk to people you know and get references. It is commonly said that a good studio should be equipped with an autoclave which is a device that pressurizes the instruments and kills any viruses or bacteria. It is recommended that a good studio should have germicidal soap, needle buckets, proper disposal containers, packaged gauze with sterility intact, disposable gloves and check to be sure the studio is clean. Ask to see their permits if they are not displayed on the walls and be sure they are current. The equipment used by the studio should be individually packaged, dated, sealed and sterilized. The tattoo artist should disinfect the work area on your skin with an EPA approved virucidal that will kill any surface bacteria or viruses.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Universal Precautions should be followed by the studio. These are regulations that outline procedures to be followed when dealing with bodily fluids.

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This is my first tattoo – What should I expect?
This can be a very exciting experience so being prepared on what to expect can make your experience safe and fun! Be sure to be well rested and well fed before a tattoo application. If you are tired, or your blood sugar is low, you could experience a higher level of discomfort than you normally would. It is best not to drink alcohol before getting tattooed because not only do you become dehydrated, it will also cause you to bleed more which can have a negative effect on your new tattoo.

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What to do before getting a Tattoo.
PLEASE: Do not get a tattoo if you are feeling ill. Be sure to wait until you're feeling better before getting that tattoo.

  • Food and rest are important. If you get tattooed on an empty stomach or if you are drunk, it may cause you to feel faint, nauseated, or dizzy.
  • Don't take pain killers like aspirin, ibuprofen, and anesthetics, which may cause increased bleeding or other problems.
  • It is not wise to get tattooed if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The local department of health in your area can advise you if there is an age limit for getting a tattoo and you will probably need a valid form of identification with you.

Does It Hurt to Get a Tattoo?
This depends on your pain threshold and the expertise of the person wielding the tattoo machine. Where you get the tattoo is also a factor in pain. Getting a tattoo involves being stuck multiple times with a needle, therefore, it can feel like getting a bunch of shots or being stung by a hornet multiple times. It is also normal to bleed a little.

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What's the Procedure Like?
Here's what you might expect from a normal tattooing procedure:

  • The tattoo artist will wash his or her hands with a germicidal soap.
  • The to-be-tattooed area on your body should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • The tattoo artist should put on clean, fresh gloves (and possibly a surgical mask).
  • The tattoo artist should then explain the sterilization procedure to you and open up the single-use, sterilized equipment (such as needles, etc.).
  • If the tattoo artist is using the tattoo machine (with a sterile, single-use needle attached), the tattoo artist will begin drawing an outline of the tattoo.
  • The outline will be cleaned with antiseptic soap and water.
  • Sterile, thicker needles are usually installed on the tattoo machine, and the tattoo artist will start shading the design. Once the tattoo artist has cleaned the area again, color will be injected.
  • A disposable cloth will be used to remove any blood.
  • Once the new tattoo is finished, the area will be cleaned once again and a bandage will be applied.

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How to Take Care of a Tattoo
This is a very important step — take care of your tattoo until it fully heals. Instructions that the studio gives you should be followed when caring for your tattoo so that you heal properly. If you see or feel any signs of infection such as pain, spreading redness, swelling, or drainage of pus, call your doctor.

  • It is advisable to keep a bandage on the area for up to 24 hours.
  • The tattoo artist will probably advise you to avoid touching the tattoo and not to pick at any scabs that form.
  • You will be advised to wash the tattoo with an antibacterial soap (don't use alcohol or peroxide — they'll dry out the tattoo). Using a soft towel to dry the tattoo — just pat it dry and don’t rub.
  • Antibiotic ointment may be advised on the tattoo. It is recommended not to use petroleum jelly!
  • If you have redness or swelling try an ice pack on the area.
  • Keep the tattoo dry until it heals, staying away from pools, hot tubs, or long, hot baths would be best.
  • Your tattoo should be kept out of the sun until it's fully healed.

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What Are the Risks?
Chances are everything will be just fine. Be sure that the tattoo artist uses all sterilized equipment and tools. Keep in mind that if you don't go to a tattoo studio or the tattoo studio doesn't follow precautions like using sterilized equipment or if the tattoo artist shares ink between customers, you're putting yourself at risk for getting viral infections such as hepatitis, bacterial skin infections, or dermatitis (severe skin irritation).

Some people may have allergic reactions to the tattoo ink so know your body and if you already have a skin condition such as eczema, you may have flare-ups as a result of the tattoo.

You may have serious complications if you attempt to do a tattoo yourself, have a friend do it for you, or have it done in any unclean environment. Because tattooing involves injections under the skin, viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C can be transferred into your body if proper precautions aren’t taken. At times, the American Red Cross and some other blood banks require people to wait 12 months after getting a tattoo before they can donate blood.

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The tattoo itself involves several steps
Here is one way it works; begin by outlining: By using a single-tipped needle and a thin ink, the artist creates a permanent line over the stencil. They usually start at the bottom of the right side and work up (lefties generally start on the left side) so they don't smear the stencil when cleaning excess ink from the permanent line.

  • Shading: Once the area is cleaned with soap and water, the artist uses a thicker ink and a variety of needles to create an even, solid line. Be careful here because Improper technique during this step can cause shadowed lines, excessive pain and delayed healing.
  • Color: The artist then cleans the tattoo and overlaps each line of color to ensure solid, even hues.
  • There is a final cleaning and bandaging: After using a disposable towel to remove any blood and plasma, a sterile bandage is used to cover the tattoo. You will find that some bleeding occurs during tattooing, but most stop within a few minutes. The tattoo artist then fills in a tattoo using a thicker needle.

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Caring for a New Tattoo
Your tattoo artist will probably give you a pamphlet that explains all the necessary procedures along with instructions such as:

  • You should remove the bandage one to two hours after completion.
  • Wash gently with cool or lukewarm water, using a mild antibacterial soap.
  • Always pat dry. (Don't rub!)
  • Apply very thin coats of antibacterial ointment and work into the skin. You will find that too much ointment can pull color out of the tattoo.
  • Do not soak the tattoo in water or letting the shower pound directly on it.
  • Avoiding the sun, sea and swimming pool until healed is advised.
  • Do not pick at your scabs. They will fall off as the tattoo heals, approximately in one to three weeks.
  • Ice packs should be used if swelling or redness occurs.
  • Always call a doctor if you have even the slightest signs of infection.

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Can you remove your tattoo?
Most people will keep their tattoos forever but sometimes people decide they would prefer to have their tattoo removed. In the past, surgery was required but today a medical procedure using a laser can remove your tattoo and some of the tattoo shops have this service. Check with the American Dermatological Association to find a reputable laser removal specialist.

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What is Laser Removal?
Laser tattoo removal is the process of breaking the ink molecules into smaller pieces and allowing them to be absorbed into the bloodstream and disappear.

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Does it hurt? Pain is a relative term and of course, it depends on your threshold of pain. Most people believe the best thing about laser tattoo removal is how much ‘less pain’ there is when compared to other tattoo removal procedures. “Some people describe the sensation of the laser as being akin to a mosquito bite, or a rubber band being snapped against the skin.”

How long does it take? Depending on the size and how complex the tattoo you choose will determine how long it takes. Black tattoos with simple outlining and shading is said to be a lot easier to do than full back colored tattoo. It can take from a couple weeks to a couple of months because the body needs three weeks to heal between laser tattoo removal sessions—and some lasers are designs for specific colors only.

Why choose Laser Tattoo Removal? It is virtually painless when comparing to other tattoo removal procedures and it is free of infection risk, and is known to have great results. There are other methods, like excision which actually remove the tattooed skin with a scalpel and this can often make the tattooed area look worse than it did before. Another technique like dermabrasion actually ‘sands down’ the tattooed area of the skin, making laser tattoo removal a popular and comfortable choice when it comes to tattoo removal.

Tattoo Tidbit: Even after your tattoo is healed, tattoos are more susceptible to the sun’s rays, so protect it from direct sunlight. Always wear a sunscreen SPF 30 on the tattoo. This protects your skin and keeps the tattoo from facing.

Tattoo Tidbit: The color additives used in tattooing pigments are the same as those used in cosmetics. They are monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and approved for topical application only. There are more than 100 different colors.

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Reference: http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/safe_tattooing.html