By Jane Chen Fulop
During my dermatology rotation in medical school, I remember a young woman in her twenties who came in for a full-body skin check. She was working in medical research with the hopes of going to medical school. As I looked at parts of her body, she was very embarrassed about what were extensive tattoos all over her skin. They were nothing shocking or controversial, just decorative designs. Nonetheless, she apologized for them as though I would judge her poorly for them.
So did I? No. In fact, during high school, several of my classmates got tattoos or body art, and I thought about getting a tattoo myself – though I might add today, I am really glad that I didn’t go through with it!
I did feel badly for this woman, though, that she obviously regretted her decision to get the tattoos, and it was going to be very costly to remove the tattoos – not to mention there was no guarantee that she’d be able to fully remove them. Also, I sensed that she was really embarrassed by them. As though she would dread being seen at the beach with a boyfriend’s parents.
So, if you are thinking about getting tattoos, there are several things that teen girls and guys should consider. Some points are so you don’t have regrets like this young woman, and some are more serious – facts that could even save your life.
Tattoos are Permanent
- Unless you are talking about a tattoo you found at the bottom of your Cracker Jack box, tattoos are permanent, as in unremovable. This means that you have to be sure that whatever tattoo you get is something you can live with forever. FOREVER. Maybe you know some older people – like your grandparents or a teacher. At some point in their lives, they were young and hip. People do change, and most likely, you will too.
- The reality is that some people do judge people with tattoos, or don’t like the image that is tattooed on your body. Who cares what people think? Well, maybe that person will be your employer one day. Maybe it’ll be someone you really want to date. It’s hard to imagine a girl or guy turning you down because you don’t have a tattoo, but you can imagine someone thinking the huge snake on your chest is kind of creepy.
- Removal is expensive and iffy. How expensive? Possibly into the thousands of dollars, since it typically takes several treatments. Plus, the tattoo is not guaranteed to be 100 percent removed. Lasers depend on several factors, including the pigment in your design, as well as your own skin tone
- Tattoo designs are made by needles that prick and deposit small droplets of ink into the top layer of skin. Therefore, there are several blood-borne diseases that you can contract from the needles and equipment, if they were used on an infected person and no properly disinfected. They include many of the same ones you have to be concerned about with unprotected sex, such as HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), Hepatitis B and C (diseases that affect your liver), and many others.
- The site of your tattoo can also get infected. Some bacteria that can infect skin is resistant to the antibiotics we have today, and several groups of life-threatening skin infections have been traced to unlicensed tattoo artists who were not practicing good sanitation
If you decide to get a tattoo, and many do and love their body art, make sure you go to a reputable place. Things you should look for and ask about in finding a place:
- Licensing. Many states license tattoo parlors, check with your local state or city licensing office if it does.
- An autoclave. This is a machine that uses heat to sterilize equipment that must be reused. Things that cannot be autoclaved must be disinfected with cleaning detergents.
- Sealed packages. Watch the tattoo artist and make sure he or she removes a needle and tubes from a sealed package especially for you, just before your procedure. Any pigments, trays and containers should be unused as well.
- Professional and tidy appearance. Look for a tattoo parlor that looks clean and orderly, employing trained professionals.
Finally, avoid making a hasty decision to get a tattoo. In particular, avoid being under theinfluence of alcohol or drugs, or pressure from friends or are in a phase of low self-esteem or body image woes. Be sure to sleep on it for at least several nights before you do something you really regret.
Last reviewed Nov. 3, 2014