It seems like everyone has one these days. What used to be the property of sailors, outlaws, and biker gangs is now a popular body decoration for many people. And it’s not just anchors, skulls, and battleships anymore, from school emblems to Celtic designs to personalized symbols; people have found many ways to express themselves with them. Maybe you’ve thought about getting one. Well before you head down to the nearest tattoo shop and roll up your sleeve, there are a few things you need to know.
So You Ask, What Exactly is a Tattoo?
A tattoo is a puncture wound, made deep in your skin, that’s filled with ink. The tattoo is made by penetrating your skin with a needle and injecting ink into the area creating some sort of design of your choosing. The thing that makes tattoos so long lasting is the fact that 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.
Most tattoo shops these days use a tattoo machine, which is a handheld electric instrument that uses a tube and needle system. 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 inches into your skin.
Getting a tattoo can take several hours, depending on the size and design. Does it Hurt to Get a Tattoo?
Getting a tattoo can be very painful, but the level of pain can vary, depending on your pain threshold, how good the artist is with the machine, and the location of the tattoo. Because getting a tattoo involves being stuck multiple times with a needle, it can fell like getting a bunch of shots or being stung by a hornet multiple times. Some people describe it as “tingling.” But again, it all depends on your own...
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