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What Makes Tattoo Permanent


Even before your great, great, great grandfather was born, tattooing has been around. Historically speaking, mummies and icemen were found that date as far back as 5,200 years who have tattoos on their remains. 

Ancient tattoos were simple and very, very painful. Since the method that was used back then was the "stick and poke" method. In other words, a needle with ink on it punctured the skin repeatedly to create a permanent design. Luckily, modern ink aficionados don’t need to suffer that much. Thanks to Samuel F. O’Reilly. It was on December 8, 1891 when O'Reilly, a famous New York tattoo artist, patented the first electric tattoo machine. 


How Does It Work? 

The tattoo machine consists of a needle that can puncture the skin up to 3,000 times per minute. It is up to the tattoo artist to work with a single needle, a small bundle of needles, or a wide “brush” of needles (up to 32) for shading large areas. It all depends on the artist’s choice and the design. The ink used in this machine is permanent. So how does it really work? 

Recall that you have several layers of skin .Your epidermis is the uppermost part and continuously regenerates skin cells. Under that is the dermis, which contains nerve endings, oil glands, and sweat glands. Now, that is where the needle pushes in the ink. 

After your skin initially heals from the injury caused by the needle, your body starts to break down as much [of the ink] as it can. The body will try to get rid of anything that it doesn't want there.  This is where our immune system comes to the rescue. With each penetration, the immune system is alerted that there’s a wound and immune system cells are sent to the site. 

The first ones to act are the macrophages, a special type of white blood cell that will try to consume the ink molecules. Some macrophages will succeed and carry off the ink to your nearest lymph node. Fibroblasts work and engulf ink molecules, too. The remaining ink are absorbed by fibroblasts. These are the cells responsible for producing collagen. More fighter cells will rush to the area, but in the end, your immune system can't eliminate of all the ink, making your tattoo permanent.  

Is It Dangerous? 

There are a number of tattoo ink brands out in the market. Each tattoo ink brand might contain a slightly different ingredient. Some artists use water to dilute concentrated tattoo pigments, and there’s not a ton of oversight there either.  

While some inks use charred bone or glycerine derived from animal fat, the market for vegan inks has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Brands such as Eternal Ink and Fusion Ink have material safety data sheets (MSDS) directly on their sites, so you can check what materials were used, and you can ensure your safety from there 

Before getting a tattoo, you should know the brand of the tattoo ink being used. You might have allergies and side effects when using a certain brand, but experience the complete opposite when using another brand.  

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  • Matthew Nelson