Students’ Tattoos: Individuality and Self Expression

Tattoos are permanent and getting one is a big step. Make sure the tattoo studio and tattoo artist are licensed and reputable.

Tattoos are a highly personal form of self-expression for students. As emphasizes in ancient times, only those of high status or royal birth had them, and it was mostly women who were adorned. In more recent times, they have been worn by sailors and bikers.

How Is a Tattoo Created?

A tattoo is created by injecting ink about 1/8” under the skin – into the second layer or dermis – using a needle. The tattoo artist uses a machine that consists of a sterilized needle and tubes for the ink. The machine drives the needle rapidly into the skin, delivering the ink under the surface. Depending on the design, it can be time-consuming.

Although it can be a painful procedure, an experienced tattoo artist will know how to minimize the pain as much as possible. Some areas of the body, such as over bone, are just naturally more painful than others.

Choosing an Accredited Tattoo Studio

The first step in getting a tattoo is to find a licensed and reputable tattoo studio. Some students ignore this fact because they are looking for cheap options. The local health department should know the laws for the state, county, or city and be able to supply a list of licensed studios. If a particular studio has had complaints registered against them, the health department will have that information as well.

There are a few considerations to take into account when choosing a tattoo studio:

  • Is the studio clean? If not, there is a higher risk of developing serious infections.
  • Do they have an autoclave? An autoclave is a machine that sterilizes using heat, steam, and pressure and is the only acceptable method for sterilizing reusable items (needle bar, tubes, etc.) and clients should be able to watch it being used. If they don’t have an autoclave or don’t allow the process to be observed, find a studio that does.
  • Are they licensed? If so, they should have a list of references. It’s always a good idea to check references before deciding on a studio.
  • Do they follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Universal Precaution for Bloodborne Pathogens? This is crucial for reducing the possibility of exposure to HIV, Hepatitis B and C, bacterial skin infections, and dermatitis.

Preparing for the Procedure

Before the artist begins, he or she will use a germicidal soap to wash their hands, then clean and disinfect the work area. The sterilization process will be explained and all equipment will be removed from its sterile packaging in front of the client. Most of the items used by the tattoo artist, including inks, needles, and gloves, come in single-use packages. The artist will use disposable gloves throughout the process. The area that is to be tattooed will then be shaved and disinfected. The artist will either draw or stencil the design directly onto the client’s skin to use as an outline.

The designs themselves can either be custom – drawn to the client’s specifications – or one the client chooses from those the studio has on display. The more elaborate the design, the more time it will take to complete and the more money it will cost. Intricate designs can take more than one session.

The Procedure

There are several steps involved in the creation of the actual tattoo:

  • Using the tattoo machine, thin ink, and a single-tip needle, the artist outlines the design on the client’s skin.
  • The outlined area is cleaned with antiseptic soap and water. Various needles and thicker ink will be used for the tattoo’s shading.
  • Once the shading is complete, the artist will again clean the area and then apply the color by overlapping lines to prevent missed sections.
  • Using a disposable towel, the artist will wipe away any blood. The new tattoo will be bandaged.

Aftercare of a New Tattoo

There is still a possibility of infection after the tattoo is finished. The artist will give the client instructions on how to care for the new tattoo. Here is an idea of what can be done to minimize the risk:

  • Leave the bandage on for at least two hours. Some artists recommend leaving the bandage on until the next morning.
  • After removing the bandage, wash the tattoo with mild soap and water, using the fingertips. Be sure to pat the tattoo dry – no rubbing!
  • A good ointment, such as one that contains vitamins A and D, should be used in thin layers several times each day for three to five days then use unscented body lotion for the next week.
  • The tattoo should heal within nine to fourteen days. Sometimes the tattoo will develop scabs – if so, they should be left alone. Scabs can cause scarring which can damage the design. Ointment or lotion can be used to help with itching if needed.
  • The sun can be detrimental to tattoos and cause the colors in the design to fade. Direct exposure to the sun should always be avoided when possible and if not, sunscreen with at least 30 SPF should be used.

Tattoos are meant to be permanent and can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Some students due to their age regret getting a tattoo after it’s done but most people choose a design that they can see themselves with for the rest of their lives, something that holds personal meaning for them. If the tattoo is created by a professional and properly taken care of after completion, this form of self-expression can bring pleasure for years to come.