Tattoos and permanent makeup have been used by most cultures for centuries and recently have become very popular with both men and women. Most people who have a tattoo do not develop any problems. Home treatment can help speed healing and prevent problems.
A tattoo is a series of puncture wounds that carry dye into the different levels of the skin. At first, the tattoo may be swollen and there may be some crusting on the surface. It is normal for the tattoo to ooze small amounts of blood for up to 24 hours, and it may ooze clear, yellow, or blood-tinged fluid for several days.
Problems with tattoos include:
■ Infection at the tattoo site.
■ Minor skin reactions (contact dermatitis) or serious allergic reactions to the tattooing method or dye.
■ Scarring, which can include raised scar tissue (keloids).
■ Spread of infectious disease, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), if a dirty method or equipment is used.
Be sure to consider all aspects of getting a tattoo. A tattoo should be considered permanent. Tattoo removal is hard and may cause scarring. It may not be possible to completely remove a tattoo and restore your normal skin color and texture.
Temporary tattoos, such as henna tattoos (mehndi), may also cause problems. Although most of the ingredients in temporary tattoos are safe for application to the skin, there have been reports of allergic skin reactions (contact dermatitis) to the ingredients in some of the tattoos. Henna tattoos are not approved for use by the FDA.
Tattoo safety checks
■ Treat a tattoo as you would any other medical procedure. “You want a tattoo parlor to be at least as clean as a dentist or dermatologist’s office,” Tanzi says.
■ Ask to see the tools the artist will use. The needles should be new, sterilized, and wrapped -- no exceptions. The ink should be in small pots meant for single-use and anything that touches your skin should not be reused. And the artist should wear gloves.
■ Make sure the work area is free of any possible contamination from items like purses and cell phones.
You might think that if you get tired of your tattoo, you can just have it removed, but the process of tattoo removal is actually expensive, time consuming, and painful. Depending on the size of the tattoo and other factors, you may need to undergo anywhere from five to 20 sessions for a satisfactory removal.
The process of tattoo removal involves a laser that targets the pigment and dissolves it so the body can absorb it. Some tattoos can never be removed completely because the ink has been placed too deep in the skin and the laser treatment can’t reach it. Other complications include hypopigmentation (white spots where the tattoo used to be) and fibrosis (thickening of the skin in the tattoo site). Because of the risks (burns and scarring) involved and the skill required, you should see a medical professional to have the work done.
Black is the easiest shade to remove, while green, blue, yellow and purple can be the most stubborn. Older tattoos will fade more easily than newer ones. And the darker your skin pigment, the more difficult it will be to erase your ink. Where the art is on your body can also affect removal: The further away the tattoo is from your heart, the harder it is to treat.
A new ink called Freedom2Ink has recently earned FDA approval and may make tattoos less permanent. The ink is micro-encapsulated so that when laser energy hits the pigment, it is destroyed quickly. Removal with this type of ink will require fewer visits, possibly as few as one or two, making them easier to erase.
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