Humans have been creating this kind of body art since time immemorial, for the purposes of decorative beauty or traditional ritualistic practices.
Many question why certain people become addicted to such a drawn-out and painful procedure? Using their body as a canvas for art, especially when it is for all intents and purposes, permanent.
Getting a tattoo requires that a person experience a rapidly moving needle penetrate underneath their skin, sometimes for many hour long sessions, in order to deposit ink into the dermis layer.
The dermis layer contains capillaries that draw the ink in more deeply to ensure it will be permanent. It is said to feel like having a knife dragged across your skin, so obviously your body will respond to this external “attack”.
Immune System Apocalypse
As soon as the needle starts repeatedly stabbing the skin, the immune system is alerted to respond to this alien intruder. Ironically, it is this process that traps the ink and makes it permanent. Macrophages are the rescue cells that arrive at the scene whose job it is to heal the inflammation from all the tiny wounds.
The dye that is injected by the needle gets imprisoned in skin cells called fibroblasts, and the finished tattoo is projected through the skin via them.
While some people refuse to get a tattoo because they believe that their body is too sacred, others are too afraid of the pain they would have to endure. Indeed, tattoos have historically been used in rites of passage.
To prove one’s resilience, and eventually they became symbolic of toughness and fearlessness for prisoners and members of motorcycle gangs. But in more recent history they became a fashion statement.
While there are supposed potions and lotions that can numb the skin, there is still a culture of expectation that you should suffer for your art. Some parts of the body hurt more, some less. The least painful areas of the body to receive some art on are fleshy areas like the upper arm, thigh, or forearm.
If you are willing to experience the feeling of a blowtorch across your skin, you could try being tattooed on your shoulders or the center of your back. If you want to end up crying like a baby, then have your design placed on your ribs, stomach, hips or nipples.
It is recommended that you lather up extra thickly with sunscreen over a tattoo – especially if it is recent. In fact, the more recent it is, the more likely it is that a sunburn could totally fade the designs. Sunlight is attracted to darker areas of the skin so a tattoo is a prime target for burns. If you are sunburned elsewhere on your body, the damage will be much worse where a tattoo is located. This also applies to using tanning beds, and extends to a warning that a doctor must be alerted about any tattoos before an MRI is performed.
Giant Open Itchy Wound
A freshly drawn tattoo is essentially one giant open itchy wound. Your body will want to heal the area of the design in the same way it heals any other regular wound. Inflammation, redness, and an oozing of plasma.
Your body will try to create a giant scab straight away, and you may even spike a fever. About a week later this plasma scab starts to itch and flake off. It isn’t until about a month has passed that the skin will have healed on the surface. But deep down it will continue to repair itself for up to six months.
So it is obvious that caring for a new tattoo is the same as caring for any wound. In order that it can avoid developing infection, it will need to be frequently cleaned with a skin sensitive soap and warm water.
For such a permanent life decision, many people choose to get a tattoo on a whim – maybe they are drunk on alcohol, or drunk on love. But many people do come to regret getting a tattoo. There are a couple of supposed remedies, like expensive laser removal – which is more painful than getting the tattoo to begin with. So even creams which have been proven to be notoriously useless.
However a Ph.D student called Alec Falkenham is currently working in conjunction with a pharmaceutical company to come up with a cream that will destroy the cells that hold the ink, and thus remove the tattoo. He had been researching a chemical compound, called bisphosphonate liposomal, and its effects on healing heart tissue.
He noticed that it destroys the macrophage cells and leaves all other cells intact, and immediately made the mental connection to tattoo removal. If testing on humans proves successful, then the tradition of tattoos being a life-long commitment will be left in the annals of history.