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Tattoo Or Not to Tattoo, That Is The Question

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The tattoo industry has become big business in the past decade. American’s spend about $1.65 billion on ink each year. About 15 percent of the population (40 million) have one or more tattoos.

The majority of tattoos are purchased by women, about 23 percent versus only 19 percent for men. Tattoos are more popular with younger than older folks. Thirty-six percent of those aged between 18-25 and 40 percent between the ages of 26-40 have at least one tattoo.

Some Tattoo History

The word “tattoo” comes from a Polynesian word meaning “to strike” after the sound of the needle being hit against the skin. Tattoos have always been associated with sailors and that may be due to Joseph Banks, a naturalist, who along with Captain Cook brought the word to Europe.

Getting a tattoo in earlier times was not a very pleasant or healthy experience. Your artist might have used chisels, rakes or picks in the process. If you were really into pain some tattooists would use soot covered thread and your design would be sewn through your skin. I think I’ll pass on that procedure.

Martin Hildebrandt, a German immigrant is believed to be the first professional tattoo artist in the US arriving in Boston in 1846.

Tattoo Machines

Tattoo machines have four parts. A needle, for delivering the ink to the skin; the tube, where the ink is kept; an electric motor, to propel the needle and a sewing machine type foot pedal to control needle speed. The tattoo machine’s needle pierces the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute.

Our skin has two layers, the epidermis and the dermis. Cells in the dermis are more stable and the fading will be slower over time.

Other Uses For Tattoos

During the 1950’s the big fear was nuclear war and the Defense Department suggested people tattoo their blood types on their arms in case of a disaster. In 1936 many people tattooed their social security numbers on their arms.

Some Final Thoughts

The most popular places for tattoos are the lower back, wrist, foot, ankle, arm, chest, breast and neck. Women are twice as likely to get their tattoos removed than men.

The best way to remove a tattoo is with laser surgery. The laser breaks up the tattoo pigments and the body’s natural immune system does the rest. Black is easiest to remove, green and yellow the hardest.

My own personal comment on tattoos is they might seem cool when you’re young but I think in future years when you see 50 and 60 year olds with faded tattoos on wrinkled skin running around Walmart, you might want to rethink the idea.

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