Hello from your friendly moderator.
I'm more into getting ink than piercings...but I have had my fair share. :) Please feel free to post pretty much anything involving body modification. If I think it's off topic I'll go ahead and comment to it and let you know. :) So take a chance.
For the first post, I just want to put a little ditty for any newbies to tattooing and piercing:
So What Exactly Is a Tattoo?
A tattoo is a puncture wound, made deep in your skin, that's filled with ink. It's made by penetrating your skin with a needle and injecting ink into the area, usually creating some sort of design. What makes tattoos so long-lasting is they're so deep - the ink isn't injected into the epidermis (the top layer of skin that you continue to produce and shed throughout your lifetime). Instead, the ink is injected into the dermis, which is the second, deeper layer of skin. Dermis cells are very stable, so the tattoo is practically permanent.
Tattoos used to be done manually - that is, the tattoo artist would puncture the skin with a needle and inject the ink by hand. Though this process is still used in parts of the world, most tattoo shops use a tattoo machine these days. A tattoo machine is a handheld electric instrument that uses a tube and needle system. On one end is a sterilized needle, which is attached to tubes that contain ink. A foot switch is used to turn on the machine, which moves the needle in and out while driving the ink about 1/8 inch (about 3 millimeters) into your skin.
Most tattoo artists know how deep to drive the needle into your skin, but not going deep enough will produce a ragged tattoo, and going too deep can cause bleeding and intense pain. Getting a tattoo can take several hours, depending on the size and design chosen.
Does It Hurt to Get a Tattoo?
It can - but the level of pain can vary. Because getting a tattoo involves being stuck multiple times with a needle, it can feel like getting a bunch of shots or being stung by a hornet multiple times. Some people describe the tattoo sensation as "tingling." It all depends on your pain threshold, how good the person wielding the tattoo machine is, and where exactly on your body you're getting the tattoo. Also, keep in mind that you'll probably bleed a little.
If You're Thinking About It
If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, there is one very important thing you have to keep in mind - getting it done safely. Although it might look a whole lot cooler than a big scab, a new tattoo is also a wound. Like any other slice, scrape, puncture, cut, or penetration to your skin, a tattoo is at risk for infections and disease.
First, make sure you're up to date with your immunizations (especially hepatitis and tetanus shots) and plan where you'll get medical care if your tattoo becomes infected (signs of infection include excessive redness or tenderness around the tattoo, prolonged bleeding, pus, or changes in your skin color around the tattoo).
If you have a medical problem such as heart disease, allergies, diabetes, skin disorders, a condition that affects your immune system, or infections - or if you are pregnant - ask your doctor if there are any special concerns you should have or precautions you should take beforehand. Also, if you're prone to getting keloids (an overgrowth of scar tissue), it's probably best to avoid getting a tattoo altogether.
It's very important to make sure the tattoo studio is clean and safe, and that all equipment they use is disposable (in the case of needles, gloves, masks, etc.) and sterilized (everything else). Some states, cities, and communities set up standards for tattoo studios, but others don't. You can call your state, county, or local health department to find out about the laws in your community, ask for recommendations on licensed tattoo shops, or check for any complaints about a particular studio.
Professional studios usually take pride in their cleanliness. Here are some things to check for:
Make sure the tattoo studio has an autoclave (a device that uses steam, pressure, and heat for sterilization). You should be allowed to watch as equipment is sterilized in the autoclave.
Check that the tattoo artist is a licensed practitioner. If so, the tattoo artist should be able to provide you with references.
Be sure that the tattoo studio follows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Universal Precautions. These are regulations that outline procedures to be followed when dealing with bodily fluids (in this case, blood).
If the studio looks unclean, if anything looks out of the ordinary, or if you feel in any way uncomfortable, find a better place to get your tattoo.
What's the Procedure Like?
Here's what you can expect from a normal tattooing procedure:
The tattoo artist will first wash his or her hands.
The to-be-tattooed area on your body will be cleaned and disinfected.
The tattoo artist will put on clean, fresh gloves (and possibly a surgical mask).
The tattoo artist will explain the sterilization procedure to you and open up the single-use, sterilized equipment (such as needles, etc.).
Using the tattoo machine (with a sterile, single-use needle attached), the tattoo artist will begin drawing an outline of the tattoo under your skin.
The outline will be cleaned with antiseptic soap and water.
Sterile, thicker needles will be installed on the tattoo machine, and the tattoo artist will start shading the design. After cleaning the area again, color will be injected.
Any blood will be removed by a sterile, disposable cloth or towel.
When finished, the area, now sporting a finished tattoo, will be cleaned once again and a bandage will be applied.
Taking Care of a Tattoo
The last step in getting a tattoo is very important - taking care of the tattoo until it fully heals. Follow all of the instructions the studio gives you for caring for your tattoo to make sure it heals properly. Also, keep in mind that it's very important to call your doctor right away if you see or feel any signs of infection such as pain, spreading redness, swelling, or drainage of pus. Make sure your tattoo heals properly by:
Keeping a bandage on the area for up to 24 hours.
Avoiding touching the tattooed area and don't pick at any scabs that may form.
Washing the tattoo with an antibacterial soap (don't use alcohol or peroxide - they'll dry out the tattoo). Use a soft towel to dry the tattoo - just pat it dry and be sure not to rub it.
Rubbing antibiotic ointment into the tattoo. Don't use petroleum jelly!
Putting an ice pack on the tattooed area if you see any redness or swelling.
Trying not to get the tattoo wet until it fully heals. Stay away from pools, hot tubs, or long, hot baths.
Keeping your tattoo away from the sun until it's fully healed.
Even after it's fully healed, a tattoo is more susceptible to the sun's rays, so it's a good idea to always keep it protected from direct sunlight. If you're outside often or hang out at the beach, it's recommended that you always wear a sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 on the tattoo. This not only protects your skin, but keeps the tattoo from fading.
What Are the Risks?
If you decide to get a tattoo, chances are everything will go as planned. But if disinfection and sterilization steps aren't followed, there are some things you need to be aware of that can go wrong. If you don't go to a tattoo studio or the tattoo studio doesn't follow precautions like using sterilized equipment or if it 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).
Also, some people have allergic reactions to the tattoo ink. And if you already have a skin condition such as eczema, you may have flare-ups as a result of the tattoo.
Serious complications can result 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 followed. For this reason, the American Red Cross and some other blood banks require people to wait 12 months after getting a tattoo before they can donate blood.
A lot of people love their tattoos and keep them forever. But others decide a couple of years down the road that they really don't like that rose on their ankle or snake on their bicep anymore. Or maybe you broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and no longer want his or her initials on your stomach. What then?
In the past, tattoo removal required surgery, but now it can be done through a medical procedure that uses a laser. Some tattoo shops also offer tattoo removal, but it's a better idea to make sure the person doing the removal is a medical doctor. Before you go just anywhere to get your tattoo removed, check with your doctor or contact the American Dermatological Association to find a reputable laser removal specialist in your area.
OK, so it's called tattoo removal. But dermatologists are quick to point out that completely removing a tattoo can be difficult depending on factors like how old the tattoo is, how big the tattoo is, and the types and colors of inks that were used. Removal of the entire tattoo is not always guaranteed. It's best to consult with a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal to get your questions answered - such as whether anesthesia is used. The dermatologist can also give you a good idea of how much (if not all) of the tattoo can be removed.
Laser tattoo removal usually requires a number of visits, with each procedure lasting only a few minutes. Anesthesia may or may not be used. What happens is the laser sends short pulses of light through the top layers of your skin, with the laser's energy aimed at specific pigments in the tattoo. Those zapped pigments are then removed by your body's immune system.
Removing a tattoo by laser can be uncomfortable and can feel a lot like getting a tattoo. The entire process can take several weeks.
Just like when you get a tattoo, you must look after the wound area after a tattoo is removed. The area should be kept clean, but it shouldn't be scrubbed. Also, it might turn red for a few days and a scab might form. Don't rub or scrub the area or pick at the scab. Let it heal on its own.
Laser tattoo removal is usually effective, but some things can go wrong. Side effects can include hyperpigmentation, which causes the area where your tattoo used to be to become darker than your normal skin, or hypopigmentation, which causes the area where your tattoo used to be to become lighter than your normal skin color. The area can also become infected or scarred.
Now for the big part - tattoo removal can be pretty expensive. Depending on factors like the size and design of the tattoo, removal can cost significantly more than the actual tattoo.
So Is It Worth It?
Is getting a tattoo worth the money and hassle? It's up to you. Some people really enjoy their tattoos and keep them for life, whereas others might regret that they acted on impulse and didn't think enough about it before they got one. Getting a tattoo is a big deal, especially because they're designed to be permanent. If you've thought about it and decided you want a tattoo, make sure you do a little detective work and find a clean, safe, and professional tattoo shop in your area. Also, remember that getting and maintaining a tattoo involves some responsibility - after you leave the tattoo shop, it's up to you to protect and treat it to prevent infections or other complications.
Body Piercing Aftercare & Healing Guidelines
Body piercing Aftercare and healing suggestions can vary slightly from piercer to piercer. Each piercer has their own experiences with certain healing techniques; however, when deciding how to provide you, the piercee, with the highest quality aftercare, healing, and infection information available, Tribalectic decided to use the most medically sound and supported information. Therefore, our suggested aftercare & healing guidelines have been compiled by performing extensive research on the following:
• Standard healing and aftercare medical information
• Suggestions and tips from highly reputable body piercing friendly medics
• Suggestions and tips from top professional piercers
• Piercee healing successes
• Current popular industry suggestions
• Personal experience as a professional piercer
• Observations of infected body piercings and their recovery
After compiling our first edition of Tribalectic’s suggested aftercare & healing guidelines, we submitted the information for medical review by piercing-friendly physician Dr. Janet L. H. Keating with Duke University's Student Health Service in Durham, North Carolina. In addition, constant consultation with John Lopez—senior piercer at Gotham (formerly the Master Piercers of Gauntlet, the most renowned gurus in the game who founded the first body piercing establishment in the US)—also helped fine-tune our suggestions.
Since the world of medicine (both holistic and traditional western) is continually evolving, Tribalectic will be updating our suggested aftercare & healing guidelines in order to provide you with the highest quality information available. We look forward to receiving comments and suggestions from more piercing-friendly medics, professional piercers, and piercees as well as successful and unsuccessful infection treatments.
To get specific information for aftercare & healing, we encourage you to post messages in Tribalectic's Body Piercing Forum. We also encourage you to check out our Body Piercing FAQ, our Body Piercing Myths, and, for those who need additional tips, please read Dr. Janet Keating's article "Caring for Infections".
Tribalectic is a free information society and believes that the following information should be accessible to people pierced and interested in getting pierced. We humbly thank all our contributors for supporting the flow of essential information. Tribalectic does not claim to own or copyright the following suggestions. All healing and aftercare techniques are universal methods of treatment that can be used by everyone. In other words, our suggestions are common knowledge to be shared by all.
And remember, this information is meant to help you heal and care for your healthy and infected piercing(s), however, it is not magic. Each human body is unique and may react differently to specific treatments. Neither Tribalectic nor any of the contributors to the suggested aftercare & healing guidelines are responsible for the healing of your piercing(s) or infections, or the application of this information. Many uncontrollable factors may inhibit the proper healing of your body piercing(s). Consequently, if you feel as though these suggestions are not benefiting the progress of your healing, or you feel that your body piercing(s) are getting infected, please consult your personal doctor.
Here's the link for the piercing information: http://www.tribalectic.com/Body_Piercing_Aftercare.asp