Waxahachie Journal

The Great Tattoo Epidemic

Tattooing has been around for centuries, used historically to mark an individual as part of a group such as a slave, soldier, or denigrated group of people such as criminals, servants, religious fanatics, and most recently, the tattooing of an identification number on the forearms of Jewish people in the concentration camps of Germany and Poland. In the Far East, tattoos indicate lineage among tribal groups as well as a visible message on girls indicating marital status and on warriors indicating the man's accomplishments. It is a myth that Captain James Cook brought the idea of tattooing back to Great Britain after his voyages to the Polynesian islands of the South Pacific. Tattooing was already popular among sailors who saw the tattoos while visiting foreign ports. Because of this, tattoos were considered a fringe activity practiced by unsavory characters.

Over the last 15 years or so it has become visible in epidemic proportions, not only in the United States but worldwide. What used to indicate a person of low economic stature or a person engaging in risky behavior has now gone mainstream, especially among the Generation X and Y age groups. This is driven, in part, by the prevalence of high-profile individuals sporting one or more tattoos. Tattoos are viewed now, more than ever, as an act of self-expression. And, what better place to do that than on one's own body. For some it is so overly indulgent that the person looks as if they had been used as a scratch pad. Both sexes are being tattooed with styles ranging from sweet butterflies, hearts, cute animals, to more elaborate works portraying demonic and evil illustrations. Could this be the "mark of the beast" mentioned in the Bible?

Tattoos and the Military

In the military, especially the Navy, tattoos are considered a distraction from the message conveyed by the uniform. This extends even to the shorts and tee shirts worn during exercising. If the Navy is considering someone as a possible recruit, visible tattoos are considered, and a person may be turned down because of them. In the corporate world, visible tattoos are viewed much the same way. Corporations consider visible tattoos as a sign of bad judgment and that person may not be considered for that plum assignment and pay raise. Tattoos may now be commonplace, with many of the negative connotations dispelled, but interestingly, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research shows that some of the old stereotypes hold true, with tattooing correlating strongly with risk-taking behaviors. Smokers, both male and female, were three times more likely to have a tattoo than nonsmokers and the more sexual partners a person has, the greater the likelihood that they have a tramp stamp or two.

The Celebrity Tattoo Cult

The cult of celebrity can be blamed for many things: twerking, kids with ridiculous names and tattoos. Actors, singers and athletes have led the tattoo obsession. For many, getting a tattoo is intended as an expression of individuality, but is it just conforming to the popular fashion of the day?

Whether you like it or not, there is a very negative stigma attached to having any visible tattoo. If you look back at the class or type of people that has been associated with tattoos, that should give you some idea of how a tattoo is going to impact your life. Even if you are a good person, an honest and trustworthy person, you are going to be judged. Everyone has heard the saying “you are known by the company you keep.” Having a tattoo will certainly place a label on you that could be detrimental to you in all areas of your life, from getting a good job, joining the military and many more.

The Boom in the Tattoo Removal Business

This boom has caused another booming industry; tattoo removal. Apparently there are a lot of people out there who are having second thoughts about that tattoo. Many say their decision to get a tattoo was done during an impulsive moment, sometimes with their judgment impaired by alcohol or drugs. If the tattoo is to commemorate a special person or event, perhaps that tattoo should be hidden from public view and only be seen privately by that special person. People getting a tattoo to commemorate a life event or to honor a person in their life sometimes feel later that what seemed like a good idea at the time turned into a constant reminder of something or someone they would actually love to forget.

Tattoos are PERMANENT! Careful consideration should be made before getting a tattoo. This is not a condemnation of tattooing; it is simply a plea to consider why you are getting the tattoo. A relative told of being advised by his Chief Petty Officer during basic training that if anyone was stupid enough to get a tattoo, it would be a good idea to get one that they would not regret later. He advised getting "Mom" enclosed in a heart as opposed to having a female acquaintance's name is always the best way to go. Over the years I have spoken to dozens of senior citizens who have a tattoo and the majority regret getting the tattoo and say it has negatively impacted their lives.

When Considering Tattooing

When considering tattooing, understand exactly what a tattoo is and how dangerous it could be. The human body treats a tattoo as an injury and sets in place numerous defenses trying to repair the damage. The ink placed under the skin stays in a liquid state and never dries. The reason tattoos fade over time and become dull is because your body is trying heal itself and to absorb the ink. Older, wrinkled skin also causes the tattoo to become disfigured and unattractive. Like any fashion, there is an inevitable change in what is in vogue; tattoo artists report that men are no longer requesting tribal designs and women are shying away from the "tramp stamp" on the small of their backs.

There was a time when tattoos were considered an act of rebellion. Now they are a fashion statement but you must consider whether what you think looks good today will still look good in 20, 40 or even 60 years' time. Will your work of body art turn into an indecipherable ink blob in a couple of decades?

Our recommendation for anyone considering a tattoo is to “Think, don't ink!”

The Risks of a Tattoo

From the Mayo Clinic - Know the RisksTattoos breach the skin, which means that skin infections and other complications are possible. Specific risks include:

Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes — can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.

Skin infections. A skin infection — which might cause redness, swelling, pain and a pus-like drainage — is possible after tattooing.

Other skin problems. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing can also lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.

Blood borne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various blood borne diseases — including tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Upon entering a tattoo business, look around for evidence of cleanliness and insist on it. If you feel uncertain, go elsewhere. The industry more and more is using one-time use needles, washing hands and the area to be tattooed frequently and using rubber gloves at all times during the procedure. Equipment should be cleaned in a steam nomenclature after each use. Insist on this so you will not be putting your health and life at risk.

MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup might cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image — such as when a person who has permanent eyeliner has an MRI of the eye.

Medication or other treatment — including possible removal of the tattoo — might be needed if you experience an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink or you develop an infection or other skin problem near a tattoo. The most common method of removing a tattoo is done via laser. If you thought getting the tattoo was painful, the laser is even more painful. In many cases, the removal cannot be done in one sitting.



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Additional Reading on the Tattoo Epidemic - Why I will Never Get A Tattoo by Katherine



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