You could be the proud owner of a new tattoo in a matter of hours -- but don't let the ease of getting tattoos stop you from making a thoughtful decision about body art. Before you get a tattoo, make sure you know what's involved. Also, be certain that tattooing is the right decision for you.
How Tattoos Are Done
A tattoo is a permanent mark or design made with pigments inserted into the skin. Typically, tattoo artists use an electrically-powered, hand-held machine; it moves one or several needles up and down to puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. With every puncture, the needles insert tiny ink droplets. The process -- which is generally done without anesthetics -- causes a small amount of bleeding and slight to potentially significant pain, depending on an individual's tolerance.
When you look at a person's tattoo, you're seeing the ink through the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin. The ink is actually in the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin. The cells of the dermis are far more stable than the cells of the epidermis, so the tattoo's ink will stay in place, with minor fading and dispersion, for a person's entire life.
Make Sure You're Ready
Before you get a tattoo, ask yourself whether you truly want to invest in permanent body art. If you're unsure or worried that you might regret it someday, give yourself more time to think about it. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into getting a tattoo, and don't get a tattoo if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you decide to go ahead with the tattoo, choose the location of the tattoo carefully. Consider whether you want the tattoo to be visible or hidden under clothing. Also remember that weight gain -- including pregnancy weight gain -- might distort the tattoo or otherwise affect its appearance.