Walking down the streets today, you will find tattoos adorning the skin of many people. From military insignia to secret meanings, tattoos cross all gender, age, race and socioeconomic lines. Dating back to the early Egyptians, tattoos have had symbolic meanings for centuries and have stood the test of time.
But what does getting or having a tattoo mean for you and your skin? Dr. Sutton explains it here!
How do we tattoo today? Tattoos used to be done by hand, puncturing skin with needles to inject dye. Now this procedure is performed by special machines, injecting dye, puncturing skin frequently, from 50 to 3500 times every minute. Each needle penetrates through the epidermis, leaving a tiny spot of pigment in the dermis layer.
How about your skin? Protection is one of skin’s most important functions. The dermis contains immune cells that protect against invasion, infection, and can call more lymph cells in to help. Epidermis is the thin layer on the surface and also has several types of cells with immune function. Our skin is able to identify and wall off foreign substances that may potentially be harmful to the body.
What happens to the skin after receiving a tattoo? There are many small holes in the skin, tiny spots of bleeding, and new pigments in the dermis that show artistry. Most of the new pigment stays in the dermis. Some of the tattoo dye is moved: the outermost layer (in the epidermis) is shed within a few weeks, and some immune cells move dye from the skin to lymph nodes deeper in the body.
Our defense systems in the skin recognize tattoo dye as foreign matter and our immune systems respond. The needles should be sterile, yet the bacteria that normally live outside on the surface of our skin (without causing problems) can go through the tiny holes and get inside the skin. The tattoo dye, bits of blood, and the holes cause some inflammation, which lasts for several weeks. During this time skin can become itchy, red, swollen and sensitive to touch, with increased risk of infection. It is very important to follow instructions how to take care of your new tattoo.
Just about to get a tattoo? Read our next blog post "How to Take Care of your Skin After you Got a Tattoo" for recommendations on tattoo skin care, tips on how to look after your new ink and pointers for keeping an eye out for possible problems you should be aware of!