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Frequently Asked Tattoo and Piercing Questions

A.W.O.L. Custom Tattooing Medical Questions about tattoos...and here are some Myths as well.

Any serious medical questions should be referred to a licensed physician, all information herein is based upon the experience or research of persons from within the body modification industry.

Now there are many many questions that get asked about tattoos and piercings so we are going to break them down into categories.

TattooFAQs below and here's the Piercing FAQ

Age_ Cost_ Type_ Medical_ Misc_

spacer Does getting a tattoo hurt?

spacer What are the dangers involved with receiving a tattoo?

spacer Has anyone ever passed out from a tattoo?

spacer What do I need to have or do before my first tattoo?

spacer Do you use skin numbing cream?

spacerHow do tattoos work?

spacer Why do tattoos fade or get a blur to them over time?

spacer Why does my tattoo look bruised even though it is healed?


Does getting a tattoo hurt? (back to top)

Everyone handles a tattoo a little differently. Most people describe the feeling as a dull burn, similar to rubbing or scratching a sunburn. There are exceptions in both directions varying from complete ecstasy to sobbing crying.

What are the dangers involved with receiving a tattoo? (back to top)

Well, in almost all cases, there is no danger. Most problems that occur with tattoos done by an educated professional tattooist come from an outside variable such as coming in contact with some form of staph while the tattoo is healing, letting the tattoo scab, or applying too much ointment. There are however some very rare instances of people having allergic reactions to the pigments. Since all of our systems are different there is always a possibility of allergic reaction to anything from food, clothing, smoke, metal, and pigments or dyes.

There are typically two main types of allergic reactions to tattoos if they do happen at all, contact dermatitis and photo-allergic dermatitis. "Dermatitis (eczema) is inflammation of the upper layers of the skin, causing itching, blisters, redness, swelling, and often oozing, scabbing, and scaling." says Merck. Contact dermatitis is simply from coming in contact with an allergen, while photo-allergic dermatitis is a chemical reaction occurring between the pigment, your body chemistry, and the sun. Ray (who's been tattooing for over 25 years) has only seen one extreme case (1/4 to 3/8 inch swelling) and four or so incredibly minor cases (slight swelling involving 1/32 to 1/16 of an inch) of the photo-allergic type as well as a small handful of contact from the use of inferior inks by other people. There are a few very extreme possibilities of danger associated with allergies but there are no documented cases anywhere that we are aware of so we won't bother going into them.

Essentially, if you are not prone to cellulitis, are not allergic to an abnormal amount of things, and are going to a professional there is nothing to worry about besides taking great care of your tattoo while it is healing. Here is our aftercare to point you in the right direction.

Has anyone ever passed out from a tattoo? (back to top)

Every once in a great while someone's system will go haywire and the will pass out. This generally happens from anxiety and/or shock as well as a lack of sleep or food. There is nothing to panic about, we've never lost anyone :), and the pain is usually mild and only temporary if it's not.

What do I need to have or do before my first tattoo? (back to top)

Well, basically you need to be well rested, make sure that you have eaten, and remain calm. We understand that this is a big deal for someone that has never gone through it before but it's typically not as bad as some people make it out to be. Eating and resting will help your body avoid going into shock, and will give you more nutrients to deal with the situation.

It is also a great idea to either bring or wear clothing that makes the area that you are getting tattooed accessible. Don't wear the best clothes that you own. Occasionally a spot or two of ink will get around the barriers that we use. We do our best to protect your clothing, but things do happen. You are also going to want to be comfortable while you are getting your tattoo done. Loose fitting clothes that will allow you to move around if need be are a plus.

If you are getting a large amount of work done it is a good idea to take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, obviously this is if you have no problems such as being on medicine that will interact with them, or allergies to them. Check with your doctor if you have any questions about that. There is a small amount of swelling that occurs when you are getting tattooed and this is more so in larger projects. Here's a checklist for you if you need one.

Do you use skin numbing cream? (back to top)

In our experience skin numbing is a last resort. It typically causes the skin to react differently than it needs to in order for the tattoo to heal up nicely. There are orders of events that need to take place for the ink to be encapsulated by your body. You don't just want to heal, you want to heal as quickly and cleanly as possible.

Occasionally after the outline is done we use a liquid with a small amount of lidocaine in it. This takes the edge off but doesn't cause the skin to react differently from it's normal attributes.

How do tattoos work? (back to top)

Tattoo pigment is pushed through the epidermis into the dermis with the use of an instrument, be it electrical or otherwise. The pigment is detected by your immune system and is typically deemed to be nonthreatening but also as not being a natural part of your body. Your body then normally reacts by building a barrier around every particle of ink in order to protect itself. This encasement is what keeps the ink, for the most part, stationary.

Why do tattoos fade or get a blur to them over time? (back to top)

Tattoos are held in place by microscopic barriers around the ink. These barriers breakdown and reform over time, allowing the ink to either be absorbed or to spread a little bit. Tattoos that fade premateurly generally occur due to scabbing, improper ink depth, or improper ink saturation. If the ink is not all within the dermis it will fade fast as the epidermis is shed. Excessive sun, differing body chemistry, and cheap ink are also other possibilities.

Why does my tattoo look bruised even though it is healed? (back to top)

Tattoos with an immediate, unintentional blur or bruised look after healing have typically been done too deep. The ink should reside within the dermis. If a tattoo is done too deep the ink ends up in the subcutaneous (or fatty) layer of the skin. The ink then spreads through the fatty tissues to some degree and causes that blurred or bruised look, which usually gets worse over time. This is a common occurence when dealing with inexperienced or rushing "tattooists". There are some spots of the body more prone to this than others but an experienced artist can almost always navigate through them with good results. See "blowouts"