Getting inked is a way of expressing oneself. The wide palette of colours and their shades, inked onto one’s body is an art on its own. While tattooing isn’t a new art, it only received mainstream attention in the mid-20th century. And since then, there is no looking back.
While it wasn’t observed as a very sophisticated practice, the times have changed and getting inked has become the new fad. More and more people are becoming open to the idea of getting inked and with many A-list celebrities such as David Beckham, Demi Lovato and Zayn Malik openly flaunting their tattoos, more and more people are booking appointments with tattooing parlours.
But as this is an invasive technique, there are risks involved as well as measures that need to be followed to keep the area clean.
What does tattooing do to your skin?
Your skin can be divided into layers. The topmost is called Epidermis, and underneath it lies the Dermis. When you get a permanent tattoo, the ink needs to penetrate the dermis layer for it to be permanent. To achieve this, the tattoo artist uses a needle to prick the skin and introduce the dye into the dermis layer. The needle can vary in size and shape based on whether the artist is lining or shading.
What happens inside your body when you get a tattoo?
- Imagine you prick yourself with a needle. Immediately what you’ll notice is that blood will start oozing out. Gradually, it will clot. Imagine that instead of one needle, you get pricked by multiple needles or with the same needle you get pricked numerous times.
- When this happens, your immune system gets activated because it knows there is something foreign that is entering your body.
- Immediately it will send its offensive cells to fix it. It is during this process that specialized cells called macrophages engulf the ink in an attempt to fix the issue.
- But what happens is half of them move to the liver to eventually be excreted from your body, while the other half don’t.
- It is this other half that makes your tattoo visible and the previous half which makes the tattoo fade over time.
Things that cause a problem
Since this is an invasive technique that breaches your first line of defence, i.e. your skin, it is quite possible that you might end up facing some skin irritation or complications.
- Skin Infections – It is frequently observed that after tattooing, a rash develops around the area. And for people with sensitive skin, the occasional development of redness, itching and pain is also observed.
- Allergies – There is a reason why it is important that you get your tattoo done by a professional as the dyes used can cause an allergic reaction. This might even get aggravated that you might experience keloids (overgrowth of scar tissue) or even granuloma (inflammation).
- MRI complications – If your tattoo contains particles of iron, it will cause stinging pain in the tattooed region when getting an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging). These sorts of contaminated dyes are prevalent in unauthorized shops.
- Other skin problems – Apart from inflamed skin, if the needle itself is contaminated with the blood of previous clients, there is a high chance you might end up with cross-contamination and face a host of infections such as Hepatitis or even AIDS.
To avoid the above-mentioned problems, you can follow a strict hygiene routine as described below-
Before getting a tattoo
- Stay hydrated – Drinking water not only provides the proper flow of ions inside your body but also keeps your skin hydrated and naturally moisturized. This helps your skin sustain the pressure of the needle and not get over inflamed.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol – You might feel the need to gulp down a shot in hopes of dealing with the pain or a shot of caffeine to survive through the pain, but it will do you more harm than good. Apart from causing embarrassing mistakes, you can make yourself bleed more during the process of getting inked.
- Avoid tablets that have blood-thinning side effects – There are drugs available in the market that can cause your blood to thin out. What this means is that you restrict the ability of your immune system to clot the blood. This not only makes you bleed more but also makes your tattoo come out bad.
- Eat right – A healthy portion of a balanced diet is the go-to diet if you want to avoid getting dizzy or fainting out during the procedure.
Freshly tattooed skincare
- Keep the area covered – This is the first step that all tattoo artists recommend. As you are basically wounding your skin, you need to get it bandaged. Make sure your tattoo artist applies a moisturizer or a calming jelly and covers it with a bandage.
- Cleansing – This step is essential as any wound needs to be cleaned to prevent any microbial infection. Your tattoo artist will mostly recommend that the tattoo be covered for 12-24hrs, following which you should clean it with warm soapy water. The best soap would be a fragrance-free soap as the fragrant compounds might irritate your inflamed skin.
- Moisturization – To aid in faster healing, you should be generous in applying the moisturizer. Repeating this multiple times a day is recommended for at least the first two weeks as it will aid in the healing process and yet keep your skin supple.
- Sunscreen – If you are stepping out, make sure to apply sunscreen on your tattoo if it is on your exposed part of the body. The sun can fade the tattoo or even lead to superficial burns on your new tattooed skin. Avoid swimming or saunas for the first few weeks as well, as it might fade your tattoo.
Long term skincare
- Tattoo scabbing – It is quite natural for your tattoo to flake out over time as this is your dead skin falling out. The best way to deal with this is to let it fall on its own. Do not poke it or peel it as it might hurt you. Keep the place moisturized as it will prevent dryness.
- Cleansing and moisturization – After the first few weeks have passed, you can revert to using your fragrant soap. But make sure to keep your tattoo clean. As the skin around the tattoo might become dry, apply a generous amount of cream or lotion to keep it hydrated.
- Sunscreen – This is for the long-term benefit as sun rays will gradually start fading your tattoo. It is best if you apply and re-apply sunscreen if needed to keep that tattoo from fading.
- Waxing – While you should avoid waxing or shaving your freshly tattooed skin, you can resume waxing after a month or so to be sure. This is because, in the first month, your tattooed skin heals. You will only aggravate it if you apply hot wax on it.
Eventually, you do pay a lot to get it done right. So, it is better to take care of the tattooed skin to earn the benefits of that beautiful tattoo as well. Your tattoo artist will mostly instruct you on the aftercare as well, but just in case you missed it, the above will help you get that tattoo to come out perfect.