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Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in TellMeWhy |

What Is a Tattoo?

What Is a Tattoo?

A tattoo is a marking made by inserting indelible ink into the layer of skin to change the pigment for decorative or other reasons. Tattoos on humans are a type of decorative body modification, while on animals are most commonly used for identification or branding.

Whether on arms, legs, ankles or buttocks, they are painted all over our bodies by injecting ink into our skin. A needle attached to a hand-held tool injects ink into the cells of the dermis-a section of our skin that keeps them from fading and stretching. The tool moves the needle up and down at a rate of several hundred vibrations per minute and penetrates the skin by about one millimeter. The ink that is left in the skin after the injection process is the tattoo.

Anthropologist Ling Roth in 1900 described four methods of skin marking and suggested they be differentiated under the names “tatu”, “moko”, “cicatrix”, and “keloid”. Tattoo enthusiasts may refer to tattoos as “ink”, “pieces”, “skin art”, “tattoo art”, “tats”, or “work”; to the creators as “tattoo artists”, “tattooers”, or “tattooists”; and to places where they work as “tattoo shops”, “tattoo studios”, or “tattoo parlors”.

The word, tattoo originates from the Tahitian word tattau, which means “to mark” and was first mentioned in explorer James Cook’s records from his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific. However, some scientists believe that the earliest known evidence of tattooing dates back to markings found on the skin of the Iceman, a mummified human body that dates as far back as 3300 B.C.

More widely recognized are tattoos found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from about 2000 B.C. Classical authors mention the use of tattoos in connection with Greeks, ancient Germans, Gauls, Thracians and ancient Britons.

The Japanese word irezumi means “insertion of ink” and can mean tattoos using tebori, the traditional Japanese hand method, a Western-style machine, or for that matter, any method of tattooing using insertion of ink. The most common word used for traditional Japanese tattoo designs is Horimono. Japanese may use the word “tattoo” to mean non-Japanese styles of tattooing.

Tattooing was rediscovered by Europeans when they came into contact with Polynesians and American Indians through their explorations. Because tattoos were considered so exotic in European and U.S. societies, tattooed Indians and Polynesians amazed crowds at circuses and fairs during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The practice of tattooing has different meanings to various cultures. Decoration was the most common motive for tattooing and that still holds true today. In some cultures, tattoos served as identification of the wearer’s rank or status within a group. For instance, the early Romans tattooed slaves and criminals. Tahitian tattoos served as rites of passage, telling the history of the wearer’s life.

Many tribal peoples through the centuries have used tattooing to signify events in a person’s life, to strength family ties, to ward off evil, to protect in battle, to enhance fertility or simply to beautify their bodies. Tattoos in our modern society can still have profound meanings for some people. They might mark the birth of a child or the recovery from illness. Others are using the infinite variety of tattoo imagery just to decorate themselves or enhance their self-esteem.

Mainstream art galleries hold exhibitions of both conventional and custom tattoo designs such as Beyond Skin, at the Museum of Croydon. Copyrighted tattoo designs that are mass-produced and sent to tattoo artists are known as “flash”, a notable instance of industrial design. Flash sheets are prominently displayed in many tattoo parlors for the purpose of providing both inspiration and ready-made tattoo images to customers.

Tattooing has never been more popular than it is today. There are many reasons for this. The increased visibility of tattoos in the media has helped to make them more socially acceptable (although not entirely…). A tattoo to most, is putting a serious meaning on the body. Tattooing puts us in touch with our physical selves and it gives us control over our bodies in a world where it often feels we have no control over any aspect of our lives.

Tattoo Care

01. After 2-3 hours of getting your tattoo dressed, remove the protective dressing.

02. Gently wash tattoo with lukewarm water and an anti-bacterial soap. Pat dry and apply a thin layer of any antibiotic cream like Calendula. Avoid ointment that contains pain relief.

03. Do not re-bandage your tattoo.

04. Don’t wet the tattoo for two weeks. While bathing, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly like Vaseline over it, to avoid water seeping into the tattoo.

05. Wear loose clothes, as the tattoo needs to breathe.

06. Keep tattoo out of direct sunlight.

07. Keep tattoo out of chlorinated water (pools/hot tubs), salt water (ocean).

08. After two to three days a light crust (scab) will form. Do not pick or scratch it.

09. Continue to use the antibiotic cream for no more than three to four days. After this, switch to a skin moisturizer.

10. Your tattoo should be completely healed within ten to fourteen days. To keep your tattoo looking good it is recommended to use a good sun block, to protect your tattoo from harmful UV rays.

11. After the scabs fall off, it is followed by a thin white flaky coat, which would take about another three to four days to heal. During this period the tattoo will tend to look really pale and dry. Don’t pick on it. Apply a moisturizer as instructed.

12. With proper care and precautions, you would definitely end up having a clear and crisp tattoo.

Content for this question contributed by Billy Richter, resident of Millvale, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA