Tattooing has been around since ancient times and its presence in our mainstream society is not going to fade away anytime soon. In 3 percent of American households today, at least one of their members has one or more tattoos. At least 12 million Americans have one tattoo.

This decorative artform continues to be a growing attraction to teenagers.
Teens as young as 13 and 14 are getting their first tattoos. It isn't just males who are getting them, over the past twenty years the number of women getting tattoos has quadrupled.

The color additives used in tattooing pigments are the same as those used in cosmetics. They are monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and approved for topical application only. There are more than 100 different color variations, but the most common colors are red, green, yellow, blue and white. White is used to mix colors to make color variations.

The Technique

Permanent tattoos are applied by injecting the color pigments mention above into the skin using a solid, round-tip needle attached to a motorized instrument that holds up to 14 needles attached to the pigments. The pigments are injected into the middle layer of the skin at a rate of 15 to 3,000 times per minute.
In other cases, tattoo artists apply the tattoo by hand dipping a needle into pigment, without the use of an electric instrument. Depending upon the complexity of design, the process takes anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours or sometimes months to complete.

Remember, a tattoo is forever. Some people may think that it is a way to express their individuality. Some people see it as an art form. But before you walk into a tattoo studio, you should know exactly what you want to put on your body. After you have decided, you will need to find the right artist to do the work. Choose someone with a good reputation; someone whose work you have seen on your friends or other people.

State health departments in Texas, Oregon and Wisconsin monitor and inspect tattoo studios. However, tattoo studios operate in many states in the U.S. but are NOT inspected by a local health department. New York City currently has over 400 licensed tattoo artists. Tattoo studios are still illegal in several states in the US, Vermont, Massachusetts and Oklahoma being a couple at the time of this writing.

A good artist will take the time to sit down with you and create an individual work of art. A questionable artist might encourage you just to pick a design off of his wall. Check out the studio. It should be equipped with an autoclave -- a device that pressurizes the instruments and kills any viruses or bacteria. Does the artist use single-use or disposable needles?
Single-use needles are a higher quality needle than a disposable.

Don't get your tattoo at a "bargain" in some sleazy part of town. Remember, this will be on your body FOREVER. Yes, they can be removed with a laser. It can be a very expensive price to pay to remove an inexpensive tattoo.
To keep your tattoo color from fading, protect it with a good stick or spray.


The actual incidence of complications related to tattooing is not known. There are amateur artists, do-it-yourselfers, and informal tattooers, known as "scratchers" who are not required to report complications. Also just because a tattoo parlor is in business doesn't mean it is maintaining safety and sterility precautions. Bleeding, pain and some discomfort are to be expected. The intensity of pain from a tattoo depends upon the location and size. If not properly cared for during the first two weeks the area has the potential for infection and scarring.

Medical literature cites reports of gangrene, syphilis, TB, contraction of hepatitis B from contaminated instruments and hypersensitivity to the pigments to name a few complications. The CDC is concerned about the transmission of HIV. The risk for HIV transmission is always present when a contaminated instrument pierces the skin. (Although the virus that causes HIV dies at room temperature and a germicidal soap is enough to eliminate it, the potential for transmission should not be ignored). These risks can be eliminated if you go to a state licensed facility that is following the correct sterilization guidelines.

After Care

Tattoo aftercare is vital to the longevity of your tattoo! How your tattoo looks three months or three years from now depends upon how you treat it right away. Follow these steps to promote a healthy tattoo.

Remove the bandage after 4 to 12 hours. (Depending upon the size and location of the tattoo). Do not re-bandage. Wash your tattoo with warm water and an antibacterial soap. Gently pat dry with a clean towel. Apply a thin layer of triple antibiotic ointment. Use the ointment during the first two days, 3 or 4 times a day. Make sure your hands are clean before touching your tattoo. After the first two days, apply a thin layer of fragrance free moisturizing lotion. Apply it 3 to 4 times daily for the next 2 to 3 weeks. A fragrance free, natural lotion is preferred. The normal healing time is 2 to 4 weeks. Do NOT pick or scratch your tattoo. Flaking or peeling is a natural part of the healing process. Do not soak your tattoo during healing. That means no baths, hot tubs, pools, etc. Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight while it is healing. After your tattoo is healed, always use sunblock while in the sun, preferably 30 to 45 SPF. Remember to moisturize your skin with lotion. This will help keep your colors fresh. Please consult a physician at any sign of infection or allergic reaction and report any infection or allergic reaction to the tattooist and your State Dept. of Health.

Tattoo Goo Skin Care
For Tattoos & X-Treme Sports

Tattoo Removal

There are various methods of tattoo removal. The removal method depends upon the pigment used, the amount of time the tattoo was on the skin, the size, location and whether or not it was done professionally. It is important to remember that it costs more to remove a tattoo than to apply one. Since it is an elective procedure it is not covered by most health insurance companies. Total removal of a tattoo is not always possible. In the U.S. dermatologist's estimate that 400,000 people will have their tattoos removed this year.

Common Removal Methods

Surgical removal may be an option for small tattoos. Surgery also can be used for the removal of larger tattoos, but this may involve the need for multiple surgeries and skin grafting.

Dermabrasion is another removal method, which involves freezing the skin, then sanding the surface with an abrasive instrument. Because the pigments are located in the middle of the skin, pain, bleeding and or discomfort can be expected.

Salabrasion is a similar procedure, bur requires the application of an irritating substance prior to sanding. This position can take 30 - 60 minutes depending upon the location and size of the tattoo.

Laser treatment, whereby light is amplified by stimulated emission radiation, is a popular removal method. Its effectiveness is dependent on the targeted pigment. These instruments emit highly focused light beams that break up the pigment particles, which then evaporate.
The laser beam feels as if a rubber band is being snapped against the skin. Crusting at the tattoo site results and the tattoo will gradually fade as healing takes place.
The effectiveness of this method is compromised if the person has a deep tan. In some cases the multiple treatment sessions may be required for complete removal. The average cost for complete removal can vary, but the average range for removal of a 2-square-inch tattoo is $900 -$1500.