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Tattoos and Piercing: Types, Health Risks, What Do You Need To Know Before Getting One

Tattooing has been practiced throughout the world since ancient times. It is practiced by many people and for various reasons. This article discusses what you need to know before getting a tattoo or piercing done.

Tattoo or piercing is an old practice that has gained popularity across the world. Ötzi- the Iceman’ tattoo is currently the oldest example of a tattoo in the world. The estimated age is said to be 3250 BCE. The corpse got its name because it was buried deep inside the glaciers of the Austrian Alps. Nevertheless, the same body has another record in its name-oldest known body piercing. Humans are known to be adaptive and dominant for ages. The urge to dominate new lands and control power shaped the new civilization. The type of tattoo used to tell about the position of the tribesman for example, Maori head-hunters used to pierce their nose and ears to commemorate their enemy’s defeat. Tattooing was mainly practiced by Austronesian people. Later, it was spread to other parts of the world. Egyptians were fond of piercing and beautifying themselves.

Types of Tattoos and Piercing

Types of Tattoos and Piercing

Some of the common types of tattoos include

Traumatic Tattoo or Natural Tattoos: These are those which imprints on the skin as a result of any injury or wound, for example, because of any contact with asphalt or dusty road. These are unintentional tattoos and the most difficult ones to remove.

Subcultural Connotation: These kinds include those tattoos, which serve as identification for status or rank, spiritual and religious devotion, valor, punishment, slaves and convicts. Many tribes have their own culture and symbolism, which is represented through tattoos. Nowadays the real meaning behind the tattoo has completely changed. Today, people choose to be tattooed for artistic, memorial, magical reasons. Surprisingly, the prisoners in the USA use the tattoo to form their gangs; whereas, in US marines, soldiers use tattoos to showcase their specialty.

Identification Tattoos: Many herders use engravings to mark their herd. They brand their cattle with unique identification numbers or bar codes to avoid losing them. The Nazis forcibly used to tattoo the prisoners on the arms for the identification of dead bodies. These identifications are used by forensic examiners to identify burnt, ripped or mutilated bodies.

Cosmetic or Permanent Tattoo are those, which are meant for aesthetic purposes. Many women, these days, prefer to enhance eyebrows, lips and other facial features through tattooing.

Functional Tattoos are those, which serve a purpose rather than aesthetic.

Medical Tattoos: Medical tattoos are used to convey any medical information like blood group, medical condition. They are also used for covering various skin disorders. These days, breast cancer patients are using them to avoid body shame.

Piercing, on the other hand, is done on various parts of the body like ears, nose, eyebrows, navel, etc.

What Do You Need To Know Before Getting A Tattoo or Piercing?

Tattoos are one of the coolest stuff for today’s youngster but some measures should be taken before tattooing. Here is what you need to know before getting a tattoo or piercing done.

  • One should not try showcasing any artistic talent on their body. It is better to consult any professional tattoo artist.
  • Tattoos are permanent, hence one should not go for tattooing without counseling and a proper decision. Around 23% of people regret their tattoo.1 It is commonly said that if one is willing to have any tattoo, then they should install any similar wallpaper. If the interest doesn’t close after the regular observation, then one should go for that similar design.
  • The studio should follow all the necessary conditions for hygiene along with all the safety standards. The staff should follow the safety and precautionary measures without fail.
  • Needles, tubes, containers, and trays should be fresh, and the artist should unpack that in front of the person.
  • The ink used in the process should meet all the safety standards and should be certified by designated authorities.
  • Avoid getting an infection and take good care of the tattoo. Follow the instructions given by the tattoo expert.
  • Don’t remove the bandage from the tattoo; it is necessary to keep airborne diseases away from the body.
  • Keep the tattoo clean and dry. Wash it with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water. Apply ointments containing vitamins to avoid skin infections.
  • For piercing, be very careful about the usage of a sterile needle that is used for piercing. Once the piercing is done, the area must be kept clean and allow the area to heal completely before putting any ring.

Be wise, choose a proper tattoo studio before getting a tattoo or piercing and follow the aftercare, as advised.

Health Risks of Tattoos

Tattoos are one of the most attractive features for humans but there are some health issues around them. Tattooing carries health risks including skin infections and allergies because it is done by breaking skin barriers. Tattooing can give a person excruciating pain depending upon the area of contact for example, the fat-laden part provides cushioning for the needle hence it is less painful than other areas.

Tattooing without following any sterilization process increases the risk of infection. Areas such as prisons are the breeding ground for blood-borne diseases. Some deadly pathogens can cause life-threatening diseases like hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis. Even during the removal of a tattoo, lasers are used, which if done unprofessionally can cause serious damage to the skin. It is said that removing a tattoo is much more painful than having one. Colored tattoos are much more sophisticated to remove and can take more time to change. Hence, one should take great care before, after and during the tattooing process.

When choosing an area for tattooing, ensure that the skin is ais free of moles. As for aftercare of tattooed skin, if the tattooed area feels dry, apply water-based lotion. Protect it from the sun, avoid sunbeds and see a dermatologist, if needed.2

Process and Ink Used in Tattooing

When considering what you need to know before getting a tattoo or piercing done, let us discuss the process of tattooing. A Tattoo is imprinted in the skin with the help of tattoo guns. Samuel O’Reilly, an American, invented the electric tattoo gun around 1890, set the trend to modern tattoo art.3 He is the pioneer of the billion-dollar tattoo industry in today’s time. Today’s guns are capable of puncturing skin between 50 and 3000 times per minute, penetrating the skin up to 1 mm.

Modern tattoo inks are made up of various chemicals such as lead, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, chromium, and industrial-grade carbon black; however, during the Egyptian era, vinegar, pine black, vitriol, and insect eggs were the main recipe.

Tattoo machine inserts ink into the skin through a needle or a group of needles. The unit is repeatedly oscillated in and out piercing the skin at the rate of 80 to 150 strokes a second. These are single-use needles and should not be used again to avoid contracting any disease.


Tattoos are a piece of art. Our ancestors also used to have these artworks engraved in their bodies. Many bold personalities these days prefer body piercing and engraving to show their boldness. Tattoos are a great way to show the cultural background but it should be performed with utmost care. This information gives you an insight into what you need to know before tattoo or piercing, to enable you to make a wise decision.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 12, 2020

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