Think before you choose to have a tattoo.
Tattoos are made by using a needle to deposit pigment within the dermis. Tattooing is an ancient practice, believed to have originated around 10,000 years ago. These days, tattoos are symbols of club membership for some males (street gangs, the military, and fraternities); other people view them as symbols of individuality. In recent years, females have increasingly acquired tattoos as means of expression and for cosmetic purposes; permanent eyeliner and tattooed lip lines now account for over 125,000 tattoos a year
But what if a tattoo becomes unfashionable or the pigment migrates? Until recently, once you had one, you were essentially stuck with it, because attempts at removal – dermabrasion, cryosurgery (freezing), or applying caustic chemicals – left nasty scars. Using new laser-based technologies, dermatologists have no problem destroying the black or blue pigments in tattoos applied a generation ago, but newer, multicolored tattoos pose a larger problem. The multitude of pigments in tattoos today require that several different lasers be used over seven to nine treatments spaced about a month apart, at a cost in pain roughly equal to getting tattooed in the first place.
Tattoos present some other risks. Even though the FDA has some regulations concerning the composition of tattoo pigments, their safety is not well established. Statutory regulations vary widely (from none to complete prohibition) from state to state. Still, in each case, needles are used and bleeding occurs, and practitioners’ competence varies significantly. If strict sterile procedures are not adhered to, tattooing can spread infection such as hepatitis.
So if you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, look into it carefully. Even with the availability of laser removal techniques, it makes sense to consider the risks.