I have a confession to make. Gonna let that sink in for a minute…
Nope. Too soon. So instead I’ll confess that I have great readers who help me out by frequently provider even greater (settle down word police – I know) content that I am happy to share. Dan over at Authority Tattoo wins the “most patient content provider of the year award” (a crowded field I assure you) and graciously shared some interesting facts about tattoos you may not know. What I know is that if you have healing and aftercare questions – and you know you do – after you check out my semi-literate offerings here and here head over to Authority Tattoo for some crystal clear and accurate advice.
You love tattoos, but how much do you really know about them?
Unless you’re a genuine aficionado, there are probably quite a few facts about tattoos that will be able to surprise you.
I’ve compiled a few of them here. They range from stats to history to basic facts about tattoo materials and processes.
15 Tattoo Facts You Probably Weren’t Aware Of
- Tattoo machines seem like a fairly recent invention, but the first one was actually patented all the way back in 1876. The inventor was a tattoo artist named Samuel O’Reilly based in New York. O’Reilly realized that, with a few modifications, Thomas Edison’s electric pen could be turned into a tattooing device that would make his work a whole lot easier.
- Before tattoo machines, tattooing was a laborious, time-consuming, and frankly painful-sounding process involving chisels or picks.
- Tattoos recently underwent a gender switch. Ink used to be a mostly male pursuit, but a 2012 survey of Americans found that 59% of people with tattoos were women.
- Your black ink might be the darkest, but that doesn’t mean it’s the hardest to remove. In fact, since they absorb light more easily, darker colored ink breaks apart more quickly under the laser than lighter colors. Light tends to bounce off green and yellow pigments, which makes those some of the hardest colors to laser off.
- Many people consider tattoos therapeutic. People get tattooed to cope with depression, overcome trauma, or simply feel more empowered and confident in themselves. Therapeutic tattooing at least partly explains why women with tattoos reported both higher rates of depression and higher rates of self-esteem.
- Your body is constantly trying to get rid of your tattoo. Your white blood cells consider the ink particles that are injected in your skin to be a foreign body that needs to be cleared out. Those ink particles are just too big for the white blood cells to break down. That’s why laser removal works – by breaking down the large particles so they can be flushed out by the white blood cells. It’s also why your tattoo fades over time because those white blood cells gradually erode the ink particles.
- You can get blacklight tattoos created using UV ink. The ink will barely be visible under normal lighting conditions (and might become entirely invisible after gently fading for a year or two), but will show and glow under a blacklight. Be careful though – UV tattoos aren’t as safe as conventional ones.
- There’s a reason tattoos hurt: a tattoo gun pierces your skin between 50 to 3,000 times a minute while you’re getting inked.
- Tattooing was illegal in New York for over 30 years, and this was surprisingly recent. From 1961 to 1997, a tattoo ban was in effect in an effort to contain hepatitis B. (And there’s little reason for that fear these days – licensed tattoo artists know how to prevent contamination and the spread of bloodborne diseases like hepatitis B.)
- Tattoo artists won’t just tattoo anything you ask them to. Most tattoo artists have some types of designs they refuse to ink on their clients, whether for ideological or practical reasons. Many will refuse to tattoo white supremacist symbols, for instance. Others will refuse to tattoo a lover or spouse’s name because these are the tattoos people regret the most.
- Not all tattoo ink is vegan-friendly. One thing to watch out for is bone char, which is added to black inks to give them a deeper pigmentation. Other tattooing equipment might also contain animal-derived ingredients, even the tracing paper. Thankfully, most tattoo artists can accommodate vegans looking for ink (and many of them are vegans themselves).
- The oldest known tattoo was discovered on the skin of a mummy that dates back to sometime between 3370 and 3100 BCE. His tattoos are simple dot and line designs.
- Some people use tattoos to get permanent cosmetics. The designs are meant to mimic their make-up so they can make the look permanent and save time on their daily routine. Tammy Faye Baker’s famously eccentric makeup, for instance, was at least partly permanently inked.
- Most tattoo ink uses pigments derived from metals, such as chromium, iron oxides, and nickel. The rest of the ink is made of a carrier that can be made of glycerin, denatured alcohol, or some other similar substance.
- Getting a tattoo is hard on your skin, but it’s nothing compared to what tattooing does to your body. Because of all the precise, intricate handwork, along with all the hunching and awkward contortions involved in tattooing different parts of the body, many tattoo artists have to end their careers because of various ergonomic conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back problems. Artists who want to make a long-term living in the industry usually have to own and manage a studio instead of tattooing all day or earn enough to work part-time.
Thanks again Dan for this fun and informative article. And in case you are wondering – this is not a paid promotion. I am always happy to post well-written tattoo related content as long as you are cool with me taking forever to post stuff – like Dan 😉