5 Shocking Things Nobody Tells You About Getting Tattoos
When you think of all the issues associated with getting a tattoo, like being the absolute raddest and having all of the sex, you have to wonder: Why aren't you getting a tattoo right now? But besides the obvious reasons you shouldn't get a heart with your mom's name in it tattooed right above your genitals, there are plenty you've probably never thought of. For example ...
Nobody Knows What's In Tattoo Ink
You'd think that, because it's something you shoot into your body with a needle, people are really on the ball when it comes to making tattoo ink as safe as possible. But as inks aren't classed as foods, drugs, or administrations, the FDA pays little to no attention when it comes to regulating them. They're classified as a "cosmetic" product ... even though it's one that you can inject into your eyeballs. So what exactly is in tattoo ink, then? You know, except for meat?
Aside from the fact that we don't know what happens to tattoo ink in the long term, the people who manufacture it make it nearly impossible to even find out what's in their concoctions. However, when placed under a microscope, some inks have been found to contain heavy metals, microbes, and a boatload of carcinogens -- all of which pose unacceptable health risks. And forget about cancer (never thought we'd say that); if your tattoo contains iron oxide, which used to be a fairly common ingredient in red inks, getting an MRI could cause your body to go into full meltdown. That's because the magnetic field generated by the machine can cause these elements to generate an electrical current and basically fry your skin.
When your dragon art gets a little too real.
If all this talk of microbes and cancer is making your tattooed skin crawl, here's the kicker: Because ink manufacturers won't tell us what's in their product, it makes removing those tattoos an extra-big pain in the ass, or wherever else you got them. If doctors knew the composition and chemical makeup of each ink, they could identify and calibrate a treatment that stands a good chance of working without putting a patient into a pain-induced coma. Without that information, however, they're just winging it with lasers, which is much less fun than it sounds.
So what does it take to get The Man involved? Oh, they're waiting for enough people to contract dangerous infections. As the FDA doesn't mandate testing on tattoo ink, only a bona fide outbreak has can force them to take action. When an outbreak of nontuberculous mycobacterium (a cousin of actual tuberculosis) started afflicting tattoo owners in 2012, the infection was eventually traced back to a non-sterile ink manufacturer and the FDA finally stepped in. All it took was dozens of people oozing blood out of their skin for a few months.
Your Tattoo Could Totally Get You Sued For Copyright Infringement
Whether it's hoverboards, teacup pigs, or white supremacy, people love copying trends they see on TV. So when we see our favorite fictional characters or real celebs sporting cool tattoos, some will of course want to get in on that action. But not even your skin is immune to the laws of intellectual property, and getting a pop culture tattoo might just land you a real tricky cease-and-desist order.
We'll explain this using one of the most famous tattoos in pop culture: Mike Tyson's temple of flame in The Hangover. When The Hangover Part II homaged his appearance by having one of the main characters drunkenly get a similar face tattoo, it got Warner Bros. sued by Victor Whitmill, the artist responsible for the original. He alleged that by reproducing the tat and including it on posters and other marketing materials without his permission, Warner Bros. committed copyright infringement. The studio tried to claim the second tattoo was a parody, showing off how stupid the original was (making it symbolic of the whole Hangover franchise), but the judge disagreed and Warner was forced to settle out of court.
Their real punishment was having to admit involvement in The Hangover Part II.
It's an issue that's coming up more and more in video games as well. When the popular basketball game NBA 2K created its virtual avatars, it also added their many tattoos, leading to a group (or inkling) of tattoo artists suing the makers of the game for duplicating their artwork. Their lawsuit only failed because they filed for copyright after the game's release, not because it was dumb, but they still managed to claim damages for loss of income. In another case, when a tattoo on MMA fighter Carlos Condit appeared in UFC Undisputed, the artist responsible filed suit on the same grounds of copyright infringement.
So remember, if you ever muster the courage to get that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tattoo on your back, make sure to leave some room for the copyright symbol right above the butt crack.
Recovering From Getting A Tattoo Can Take A Long Time
You know why tattoos are commonly associated with hard-smoking, hard-drinking bikers instead of, say, vape-smoking, microbrew-sipping tech workers? Because they hurt like hell to get. It's analogous to plunging your arm into a sewing machine and asking a meth head to turn your torture into heart-shaped scar. But at least when it's over, it's over, right? Unfortunately, for some tattoo-havers, the real pain is only starting.
One in ten people will spend four months recovering from the medical side effects of getting a tattoo. In a survey of 300 inkbros and inkgals, 10 percent admitted to suffering from adverse reactions long after their new body art should have healed over. This could range from long-term redness to painful blisters to a nagging sense of having made a terrible mistake that will last forever.
Oh, and there's one other teeny-tiny medical side effect: You might be making it harder to get diagnosed with cancer. In 2013, a German man was undergoing tattoo removal when a suspicious-looking mole was discovered hiding inside his artwork. He had it examined by doctors ... who diagnosed him with Stage 2 melanoma. Over a dozen tattoo-related untreated cancer cases have been recorded in the last few years alone, which means plenty more death lumps are still hiding inside infinity symbols and ironic Bart Simpson tattoos. And now, with the current trend of armpit tattoos, doctors are getting worried about the increased risk not just of a lack of diagnosis, but also misdiagnosis as well. To the naked eye, there's little difference between a metastasized lymph node and one that has simply been colored in by a tattoo, which could lead to an unnecessary increase in biopsies and traumatizing a bunch of people by telling them they might have cancer. All in all, you're not making it easier for doctors to save your life by giving half of your body cancer camouflage.
Your Skin Will Rub Off Tattoos
Despite what your boring parents and teachers used to say, tattoos aren't permanent at all. Unlike lawns or babies, you can't expect a tattoo to take care of itself. But the hard truth is that no matter what you do, those knuckle tats saying "hate" and "kids" are going to fade faster than your chances of getting a job teaching kindergarten.
You could be the kindest, gentlest person to your tattoo, but before you know it, you'll be spending tons to get it retouched because it will start to look like crap. This is especially true if you had your tattoo printed on an area of your body that's frequently moving, such as your hands, wrists, neck, or if you're like us, rippling sack of python-esque biceps. That's because the action of your skin moving and creasing will erode the tattoo faster. Think of it as a piece of paper constantly crumpling and uncrumpling. Actually, best not to think of your body that way.
Try not to think about what kind of rubbing wore that down in a year and a half.
If you don't want to speed up this process, you have to do one other thing: Stay out of the sun. Forever. A sunburn causes your skin to shed like crazy, causing the ink to fade, feather, or blot much faster than it normally would. To make it even worse, seeing as you've just painted your skin unnaturally dark, tattooed skin is extra sensitive to sunburn, absorbing sunlight more easily and causing swelling, itching, or even blisters. But don't worry, this only happens with obscure colors like yellow, red, blue, and black.
There Are Tons Of Things That Make Tattoos Harder to Remove
It's all gone horribly wrong. Your relationship has fallen apart, the band has broken up, your favorite brand hired Kylie Jenner. Whatever the reason, you need this tattoo removed now. That's fine. Merely pop down to the nearest laser surgery clinic and remove the mistake of mistakes while reading a dated US Magazine. Except that that kinda doesn't work if you've lived your life in any way whatsoever.
Do you smoke? Yes? Throw in a leather jacket and you must be the coolest motherfucker in town. And there's even more good news: You get to hold onto that feeling of coolness for a lot longer than you planned to. The chance of your tattoo being removed inside of ten laser sessions (a pretty standard treatment length) is reduced by 70 percent in smokers. That's because smoking inhibits the immune system, the main way in which tattoo ink is allowed to break down and be flushed from the body.
Is your tattoo full of bright colors? Congratulations on completing art school / rehab. Unfortunately, choosing literally any other color than black or red means more of that painful laser surgery we mentioned. When it comes to inks like yellow, blue, and green, the chance of their removal inside of ten sessions was reduced to a measly 20 percent because, instead of disintegrating when lasered, these bad boys change hue and refuse to take the hint that you want them off your body.
You don't smoke and your tattoo is just black? You must be either straight edge or a sailor from the '60s. Better hope it's the former, though, because the older a tattoo, the harder it is to get rid of. Over time, the ink sinks deeper into the body. Just three years in, and laser therapy only has a 47 percent success rate, whilst tattoos over six years old are so hard to get rid of that you'd think they have squatters' rights.
And here's where it gets ironic: If you listened to society and got a discreet tattoo on your ankle or foot that no one (including prospective employers) could pitch a fit about, your chances of removing it inside of ten sessions are even worse. As it turns out, those discreet locations are far away from the main bad-stuff-removal routes of your body, which means they take longer to break down.
So to summarize: If you're thinking of getting a tattoo and want the option of removing it quickly, all you need to do is not smoke, get it on your face or neck, make it black and red, and pay extra attention to your skin. That way, you'll never have any regret getting a tatt-
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook. He also has a newsletter about depressing history, but that's only for the coolest kids.
Instead of getting a tattoo, try putting together this 1,329-piece Millennium Falcon Lego set. Seriously, it even comes with the little dudes.
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