Happiness, nervousness, and pain. These are the three emotions I feel circle round and round in my body each time I get a tattoo. I currently have nine tattoos but as every person who has ever gotten a tattoo will tell you, they are addicting, and I am sure to have many more. I shake with energy each time an image of a tattoo in my mind is brought to life by my tattoo artist. Each time that the stencil is put on, then taken off, then put on, then taken off again until the sketch is in the perfect spot on my skin, as my skin will never again be bare in that area, is an exhilarating process. As I try to breathe normally, I hear the buzzing of the tattoo gun and shortly after I feel the pain that, for me, can be compared to being scratched by a cat. I tell myself that it will all be worth it to see an important expression of myself inked onto me for the rest of my life for not only myself but all passersby to appreciate. After I walk out the shop door with my newest tattoo, I have already forgotten the pain and am trying to figure out what my next tattoo will be, but it is safe to say that I did not always feel this way.
I was only 16 when I got my first tattoo and being a perfectionist, indecisive, and clean freak, I was terrified, to say the least.
My first tattoo was my mother’s birthday in roman numerals down my side. Now, I knew that this would not be something I would come to regret, and it would always be hidden by my clothes so I took care of the indecisive issue. I quadruple checked that the roman numeral date was correct, that the stencil was on perfectly straight, and that the numbers were in a font that I would live forever. Aside from the pain that I knew I was in for, which would be gone that minute the tattoo was finished, I was far more paranoid about the risks involved in getting the tattoo. I was scared that it would get infected, that I would have some sort of allergic reaction, that I would get a disease, or that I would have trouble in the job force because of the way I was viewed due to my choice of expressive body art. After researching these risks, understanding the reasoning behind the risks, and seeing how rare the chance of any of those happening due to a tattoo are, I calmed down significantly.
First, let’s talk about infections stemming from tattoos. Infections are caused by a pathogen that invades the skin and causes an inflammatory and immune response.
The inflammatory and immune response is manifested in visible characteristics such as redness, pus, and swelling along with fever, an area that is warm to the touch, and a feeling of fatigue. Now, an infection that is caused by a tattoo would come from the needle breaking the skin and a pathogen entering due to an unsanitary environment. If you were to watch a professional artist ready a their station for a tattoo, you would see them wipe the chair down, wrap the area of the chair that will hold the body part that is going to be tattooed, clean and wrap all of their equipment, change the needle on the tattoo gun, and finally wash their hands and put gloves on. Due to this extensive cleaning process that is carried out at all professional tattoo shops, the risk of an infection is very slim. One can get an infection after the process when the client goes home but professional shops will also send the client home with instructions with how to keep the tattoo clean and how to care for it. Due to both of these factors, the chances of infection are very low and a person could probably bet that they are just as likely to get an infection from getting a shot at the doctors as they are getting a tattoo from a reputable and professional tattoo shop.
The next topic that I researched in my attempts to be less terrified to get my first tattoo was the risk of having an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink.
Allergic reactions are immune responses from the body reacting to something foreign that is introduced to the body. Normally these are things like pollen, animal fur, peanuts, or dust. However, when it comes to getting tattoos, some people can have an allergic reaction to the different types of metals, pigments, or dyes used to make the colored inks of tattoos. This reaction can happen at any time too, not just the first or second time that you get a tattoo. The signs of an allergic reaction to tattoo ink can include development of a rash, swelling, or itchiness. Allergic reactions to ink have been found to be pretty rare and less likely than reactions to peanuts or animal fur. Even if someone does develop a reaction, it is usually mild and can be treated with nothing more than some over the counter antihistamines.
Getting a disease as a result of a tattoo was my next topic of greatest concern.
As a future nurse, I knew that HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and syphilis were all diseases that could be spread through the use of an infected needle. However, the fear of contracting any of these diseases as the result of a tattoo disappeared just as fast as the fear had come on. This is for the very same reason that I was no longer scared of getting an infection. A reputable and professional tattoo shop should be sterilizing and disinfecting each workstation, tattoo gun, and especially needles after each use or client. This knowledge helped me to realize that the realistic chance of myself contracting a bloodborne disease from a used needle was pretty much zero if the work was done by a professional tattoo artist.
Finally, I was worried that my future job opportunities would be limited because of my choice to get a tattoo.
Since I was a child and saw people with tattoos, they always held a stigma of being for people affiliated with bikers, gangs, prison, or tattoo artists. However, as I have grown up, societal attitude towards tattoos have shifted away from having negative connotations of rebellion toward any person being able to have a tattoo. In modern day, it is approximated that around 1 in 5 Americans are walking around with a tattoo somewhere on their body and that figure is only going to increase as the years move forward and body art becomes more accepted. Although it may have been a concern years ago, having a tattoo or two on your body will rarely prevent you from getting your dream job especially since the person hiring you likely has a tattoo as well.
There are many reasons why teens and adult alike are scared to get their first tattoo or even scared to get each tattoo after that as well.
However, if a person takes the time to truly research the reasons why they are scared, the tattoo shops in the area, and gets to know how the tattoo process works, they are likely to be far less scared. When done right, by a professional tattoo artist, and when taken care of correctly by the client, the few risks of getting a tattoo are extremely rare and most of the time easily remedied even if they were to happen.
Article by: Megan Gardner