This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Get A Tattoo!
Tattooing has been a tradition in many cultures throughout history. In fact, female Nubian mummies dating from 400 B.C. were found bearing tattoos believed to represent the Egyptian god of revelry and are, at this time, the earliest known tats depicting something more than simple abstract patterns.
Tattoos like those found on ancient Egyptians seem to be both representations of faith and of celebration. Other tattoos have served as markings to denote property, much like the brands that cattle herds often bear. Darker still are tattoos like the serial numbers with which Nazis marked the Jewish prisoners of concentration camps.
More commonly, African and South American tribes have performed tattooing rituals as rites of passage, marking young men as warriors. Elders may be covered head to toe in tats, which served to mark their honorable age and revered status among the tribe.
Modern tattoos have evolved and taken on meanings of their own running the gamut from personal meaning and artistic expression to rebellion and even the desire to fit in. Today, a tattoo means only as much or as little as it does to the person who wears it.
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As of 2013, at least 45 million Americans had at least one tattoo, spending a whopping $1.65 billion annually getting inked. With 32% of tattooed adults admitting to feeling an addiction to tattoos, it’s fair to presume that these numbers will continue to climb in the years to come.
Of course, there are risks to everything and tattooing is no exception. Before you get inked (or go in for that next tat you’ve been planning), take a few minutes to learn a little more about the actual effects tattooing has on your body.
What Happens to the Body During the Tattooing Process?
Tattoos are permanent because ink-filled needles penetrate deep beneath the skin. Plenty of people will claim that tattoos aren’t painful. Regardless of whether or not you consciously register pain, your body does.
When needles penetrate your body, this is a form of trauma and your body responds in kind. Your Sympathetic Nervous System kicks your fight-or-flight response into gear in response to the pain. The result is a rush of adrenaline.
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Endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers, are also released. These chemicals come directly from the brain, flooding your body. When those endorphins are released, it’s a heady feeling that is sort of intense yet relaxing at the same time.
Your own body’s chemical reaction creates a pretty powerful “high” similar to the natural high many people experience from exercise. Orgasms can give you this endorphin high, too.
What Happens to the Skin After Tattooing?
To be tattooed is to experience a form of trauma and your skin will react in a typical way. Most commonly, the inked design as well as the area surrounding it will be red, tender and swollen.
Within the next day or two, the inked areas will form scabs. Just as quickly, the redness and swelling should subside and the area typically isn’t sore for more than a couple of days.
If you’re experiencing pain along with redness and swelling that’s warm to the touch, that’s a sign of an infection and you should see a doctor to ensure that it doesn’t get serious.
In uncommon cases, tats can become infected to the point that pus oozes from the scabbed-over areas where ink was applied. Again, you should definitely visit a doctor if you’re seeing this adverse reaction.
Itching on and around the tattoo is absolutely normal and is to be expected. In fact, it’s a surefire sign that you’re healing nicely and will soon have a pristine tattoo!
Some Risks Involved with Tattooing
When you head to the tattoo parlor for your new ink, be sure to choose an establishment that puts cleanliness above all else. Dirty needles can infect your blood with some really nasty viruses including hepatitis and HIV. Other risks include:
- Wound infection (poor cleansing and aftercare)
- Allergies to ink pigments
- Granulomas (knots or bumps forming around particles of tattoo pigment)
- MRI complications (while rare, some people do experience swelling or burning during an MRI)
Alternatives to Traditional Tattooing
If you have doubts about permanently marking your body, henna can be used to create beautiful designs with similar aesthetics. While this is not a permanent option, henna does stain the skin and remain for some time.
For those who do want a permanent alternative, there are other (more unconventional) ways to mark your body without the use of ink.
Body and facial piercings are removable, making these an appealing option for some. If piercing is just too tame and tattoos too mainstream, you can go extreme by altering your appearance through scarification or body modification.
These methods are still taboo enough to raise eyebrows. However, they’ve gained enough popularity in recent years that it’s not all that difficult to find a reputable pro who can do just about anything you can dream up.
Whether you decide on full sleeve tats, gauged nipples, a forked tongue or a delicate henna design, it’s all about self-expression. Be conscious of the risks but take stock of the rewards, too. Choose whatever form of body art is most definitely you and you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Then again, if you’re thinking of getting a tattoo or body mod to be different, why not just keep it vanilla? Unmarred, virgin flesh is a sight so rarely seen these days, after all.