Marked for life...Should you get a tattoo?
Whether you think getting a tattoo is a creative celebration of the body or a personal defacement, the most unique way to express your individuality or an obvious signal you're bowing to peer pressure, there's no doubt that body art is on the rise especially for teenagers. Amazingly, tattooing was the country's sixth fastest-growing retail business, after the Internet, paging services, bagel, computer, and cellular phone shops. Whether you view getting branded as a painful, potentially dangerous, sometimes even illegal procedure or an acceptable, bordering on respectable, form of self-expression, there are millions of American teens who agree with you on tattoos for teenagers.
Where fifty years ago most tattoo parlors were found in amusement arcades and pool halls, today they dot suburban strip centers and shopping malls. Fashion magazines and music videos feature tattoos prominently. But before you emulate your favorite rock star, movie actress, or female athlete, BeingGirl believes a few facts will help bolster your opinion about tattoos for teenagers.
Exactly how is a tattoo applied?
Tattoos are made with an instrument that uses a vibrating needle to insert ink into the skin. A tattoo gun—a cluster of electrically-powered needles is used to pump ink into the dermis, the skin's middle layer, at speeds up to 3,000 times a minute. The dermis is made up of blood vessels, hair and nerve cells, sweat glands, and a network of protein fibers called collagen, which gives skin its strength. These cells are permanent and stick with you for life, just like the tattoo.
The tattoo ink or pigment starts out as a solid powder. The tattooist mixes the tiny clumps of pigment with a liquid to form a suspension. After dipping the needles in the mixture, the tattooist glides the gun along the skin. As the gun whirls in and out, the needles shoot tiny clumps of pigment into the dermis.
What should you look for if you are considering tattoos for teenagers?
First, if a place is not clean, walk away. Be aware of amateurs operating in flea markets and fruit stands. Make sure the needles come in sealed packages and are opened in front of you. Each pot of ink should also be fresh. And the tattooist should wear latex gloves.
What can go wrong?
Okay, here's the important stuff—and some of the reasons your parents object. This scary list is not meant to dissuade you, just to make you the most knowledgeable you can be about tattoos for teenagers.
- If the tattooist presses the gun against the skin, the needles can pierce the fat or muscle underneath the dermis, leading to scarring or excessive bleeding. If ink penetrates fat, it can spread and look like a permanent bruise.
- If the autoclave, a sterilizer that works like a pressure cooker to kill hepatitis B, HIV, and other diseases carried by viruses and bacteria, is not properly maintained, you're at risk of having an infection transferred into your bloodstream.
- Some people develop an allergic reaction to tattoo ink that results in a severe rash that might have to be surgically cut out of the skin.
Keep in mind many states ban tattoos for teenagers under eighteen for a reason. There's a famous Norman Rockwell painting of a man tattooing the name Betty on a sailor's arm which had six other names crossed out.
Like smoking and sex, certain decisions demand maturity. Depending on the size and color—black ink is easier to remove than green—most tattoos take several expensive, painful laser sessions to remove. It's a serious decision requiring that you think before you ink.