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Tattoos--The Body as a Canvass

Updated on April 29, 2014

The tattoo (tatau by Polynesian) is a decoration technique on the human body. Traditionally, the decoration is here to stay-- permanently-- but in recent times there have been invented techniques to make temporary tattoos.

In its most common form, the technique comprises etching the skin with scratchings delaying healing (more precisely, it is called scarification ) or performing punctures with the introduction of dyes into the wounds

Timucua warriors tattooed in Florida in 1562.

Origins of the tattoo

The tattoo has been employed by many cultures, both ancient and contemporary, accompanying man for much of his existence, depending on the area in which it is rooted, and could represent a sort of identity card of the individual, a rite of passage, for example, to adulthood.

Surprisingly tattoos were found on the mummy of the Iceman (ca. 3300 BC ) found in 1991 on the Italian Alps , and there were found tattoos even more complex on that of '" Man of Pazyryk " in Central Asia with intricate tattoos representing animals. Among ancient civilizations where the tattoo was performed was not only Egypt but also ancient Rome , a crossroads of civilizations, where it was prohibited by ' Emperor Constantine , after his conversion to Christianity . It is also noteworthy that, before Christianity became legal religion, and then the state religion, many Christian religious symbols were tattooed on the skin to mark their spiritual identity.

It is also attested in the Middle Ages the custom of tattooing pilgrims visited the shrines with religious symbols, particularly that of Loreto . Among Christians, the practice of tattooing is widespread among the Coptic Monophysites . With the tattoo Coptic merged with its Christian identity, the subjects are usually the Cross Coptic, the Nativity and the Holy Corios martyred under Diocletian and represented in the saddle of a horse with a child.

The Jewish religion prohibits tattoos , as prescribed in Leviticus (19, 28). In particular, Judaism prohibits etching accompanied by a brand with indelible ink or other material which leaves a permanent record. The Muslim religion forbids permanent tattoos all, as explained by several ahadith of the Prophet Mohammed , are only allowed temporary tattoos made by means of ' henna , organic pigment of red-purple, the proceeds from the plant "Lawsonia inermis", " Henna "in Arabic.

In the Arab tradition and South Indian women are tattooed with henna, both hands and feet, and many are completely tattooed brides for their wedding night, in fact the night before the wedding is called "the Henna Leleti "(henna night).

Of henna tattoos are extremely decorative, almost always with stylized floral motifs, and those very elaborate finish to look like works of art that the average duration of a few weeks of life. Muslim men, especially the Sunni fervent practitioners, using henna to dye their hair, the beard, the palms of hands and feet. However it must be said that among the Egyptian peasants (most likely resulting from customary ' Ancient Egypt ) and the nomadic Muslims (mostly Shiites ) that children and women particularly attractive, in ways that are permanently tattooed with small circles or thin vertical lines, both on the chin and between the two eyebrows. It is a superstitious custom, as a color with which tattoo is blue, the color superstitious par excellence since the time of the pharaohs .

Other people who developed their own styles and meanings were those related to the sphere of ' Oceania' , in which each particular area, despite the similarities, has well-defined traits. Famous as Maori , those of the people of Mount Hagen , Japanese , Chinese and Inuit even though virtually every population had its characteristic symbols and meanings.

At the end of the nineteenth century the use of tattooing spread even among the aristocratic classes in Europe, tattoos were known, for example, Tsar Nicholas II and Sir Winston Churchill. It should be noted that the criminologist Cesare Lombroso believed, in an age of positivism, the tattoo to be a sign of criminal personalities.

The spread of the tattoo in all social strata and between the most different people in the last thirty years these considerations relegated to a mere historical curiosity criminology

The Inuit use of bone needles to pass a wire through the skin covered with soot (to China , which improperly seeks to craft and the goal is ultimately an aqueous suspension of soot).

In oceanic areas (Polynesia, New Zealand) the tattoo is done through the teeth of a comb of bone that stopped at the end of a stick (thus forming an instrument shaped like a rake), and beaten by another stick, pierce the skin by introducing the color, the latter obtained from the processing of coconut .

The Japanese, with the technique called "tebori" use thin metal needles and pigments of many colors, and introduce substances into the skin of different chemical nature and different color. The Japanese technique requires that the needles attached to the end of a rod is pulled back and forth (shaped like a thin brush), are ushered into the skin obliquely, with less violence than the Polynesian technique, but in quite painful.

In Thailand and Cambodia is using a technique similar to that of Japan, which are used in a different position of the hands of the tattooist and a wand of greater length. The angle of introduction of needles into the skin is less oblique than the Japanese technique, but the movement of the rod is less vigorous.
The equipment used to make tattoos.

The tattoo is instead performed by a Western power machine , which are fixed in number of needles varied depending on the desired effect, the movement of the machine allows the entry of the needles into the skin, which deposit the pigment into the dermis.

Finally, the American electric pen (which became the Western technique) that uses an electric needle to express feelings warm, vibrant, but not too painful, in some cases more 'pain that can' be defined as a strong discomfort but is still dependent on the pain sensitivity of the subject and the body area affected. The element of suffering marks a clear division between the tattoo today, Western-style, and that of the past, popular in Asia, Africa and Oceania.

In such contexts, the experience of pain is crucial, as the individual approaches death and the endurance of pain becomes exorcism against the same. In addition to the experience of pain, blood loss is essential. The blood is the indicator par excellence of life: shed blood, in a controlled and reduced, when you get a tattoo, is symbolic. Loss of blood during the tattoo is present in all the techniques that provide a 'indelible engraving, is therefore present even though to a lesser extent in the same technique with American electric machine.

Among the substances most commonly used are the cinnabar (used for red), the cromossido (for green) and cobalt (for blue) or fine particles of minerals, gold or silver .

Techniques of elimination

The most widely used treatment for tattoo removal is surgical and the method with better results for removing them is via laser . Alternative treatments may be the dermabrasion or cryotherapy .

The alternative to the total elimination by laser, very often with exorbitant costs, the overlap of the old unwanted tattoo of a new subject (usually slightly larger and more elaborate than the old) performed by a recognized professional.
Health risks

More or less large, with or without writing the traditional tattoos last forever, but over the years fade if not carried out by a professional, generally do not cause side effects, however, may occur rarely allergic to the dyes used.

In any case, it is always preferable to the use of experts operating in suitable, hygienic and optimum use disposable instruments, since otherwise there is a risk of infection also very serious, including the ' Hepatitis B and C the tetanus , the ' AIDS , the leprosy and skin infections by Staph. In literature there are reports of statistical correlation between the execution of a tattoo and the emergence of a sarcoidosis .

It was also found a statistical correlation between the performance of tattooing and appearance of pseudolymphoma. It is the recent alarm over the possible use of inks containing o-toluidine or 2-nitroaniline compounds belonging to aromatic amines , substances with carcinogenic properties (Source: "The Press" December 13, 2009).

The treatment given here is obviously on a regular tattoo done with sterile equipment and machines for tattoos.

The practice of healing for a tattoo is usually in the application of a bandage (often directly to the study of the tattoo artist) to be removed after 1-3 hours to wash (with soap if possible) by removing the excess color. From that moment, it is recommended to air the tattoo and cover it several times a day with a thin veil of soothing and protective ointment (Bepanthenol, or has recently proved that the BIAFIN BIAFINE or allows to obtain better results on the care of the tattooed skin) . The choice of product depends on the advice of the tattooist and is still widespread use of petroleum jelly and cream type "Nivea moisturizer" or similar. The tattoo should be washed daily and recover completely within 20-30 days.

During the first week is generally recommended to abstain dall'esporsi to the sun, enjoy the swimming pools or public baths in the sea and remove any scabs that may come to form.

Generally, however, see the advice to treat the tattoo to the tattoo artist gives to the term of their work, while the intervention of a physician takes over where you create different kinds of complications in the healing process. Raises some concern about the possible use of inks of yellow, red and black that contain substances such as O-Toluidine or the 2-nitroaniline. These compounds are included among the aromatic amines with known carcinogenic nature (Source: "The Press" December 12, 2009).

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions to pigments contained in color are rare, except for certain types of red (cinnabar, mercury compound) and green. The skin of people with allergies to certain metals may react to pigments, swelling, itching and the escape of pus . These reactions are often, but it is advisable to perform a test prior to receiving a special tattoo.

There is also minimal risk of anaphylactic shock in hypersensitive individuals.

There are also rare cases of rejection of the ink, resulting in permanent damage to aesthetics of the area concerned, would be a good idea to undergo specific tests before tattooing, at least for the first time.

Permanence and tattoo removal

The semi-solid tattoo pigment is incorporated by cells of the dermis of the skin that keep it permanently. Who has second thoughts and wants to remove his tattoos must rely:

- The dermabrasion (a very aggressive because it scrapes away the skin from 1 mm to 2 mm thick if the color is penetrated), risking visible scars;

- The laser, which vaporizes only the blackened skin cells, not by causing bleeding and pain (with this method are not scars, but the new layer of skin may be different in color);

- To cryotherapy;

- The chemical peel with a deep TCA ( trichloroacetic acid ) at concentrations> 35%, depending on the location and type of skin.
Ethics of tattooist

A tattoo artist at work.

A tattoo artist has the task to put on the skin indelibly a drawing. For liability conferred, he must be conscientious and thorough knowledge of the trade. A tattoo artist seriously, the customer provides detailed information on the risks and burdens entailed by sessions that serve to create a job.

The client who comes for the first time in the studio of a professional tattoo artist is given a questionnaire to fill out health and hygiene. In addition, a tattoo artist really cares to understand what the real motivations of the client and prevent these, moved by motives transient or minor, is undergoing treatment which could then repent.

From the hygienic point of view, the customer should be informed about the study methods used for sterilization and cleaning of tools and environments.

The sterilization system is by far preferable to the saturated vapor obtained with autoclaves .
The autoclaves are tested regularly and kept in the study and performed tests to customers.
The tattoo artist should wear gloves, gowns and masks.

Every culture, whether it be Japanese or Polynesian, to assign a specific meaning of each symbol, would be by at least one of the parties concerned informed about the significance of what you want to perform. It should be noted that in traditional societies the misuse of the symbol borders on sacrilege .

Tattoos "new school" will refer to the "old school" but sharpen features, and even bigger lines and colors super bright. Particular case are the black panthers . For years one of the classic American tradition, for a period were considered a symbol of masculinity and machismo , and therefore boycotted by the world of tattooing.

Recently, in conjunction with the birth of the genre "new school" there has been a rehabilitation and is easy to see reinterpretations of the genre.


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    • profile image 6 years ago

      Thanks for the read. Very interesting.