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Body Art - Customize Yourself

Updated on June 13, 2014

Body art has been practiced by every human society for thousands of years

Do you cut your hair or shave body hair?  Paint your fingernails?  Have any tattoo or piercing?  Sculpt your body by wearing a corset?  ....Welcome to the Body Art Club.

Although just as recently as the 1980s having a tattoo was considered "radical," body modification has undergone a major shift in perception and certain forms are now part of modern, mainstream culture. Tattooing, several forms of piercing and technicolor hair no longer induce shock and awe. In fact, having all those things have become the norm in certain facets of society.

Body Painting

This is one of the oldest forms of body art on Earth, and thanks to it being a temporary form, it still enjoys widespread practice.

Learn more about the different forms of body painting with the Body Painting with Makeup and Liquid Latex lens.

Shown here is one of the naked and bodypainted bicyle riders from the Seattle Fremont Solstice Parade. This late June parade and celebration famously opens with a few hundred colorful and unclothed bicycle riders.

The Sociology and Psychology of Body Art - Where art and history come together in beautiful living color

All of these books are on my own shelves. Once you decide to keep a small library, you find yourself looking for titles that will be useful over the long-term and not just fun to look at once.

This is the intellectual and historical take on body art. If you're writing a paper about tattooing or body art, these are the sorts of books you'll want to reference.

Body Piercing

Ears and beyond....

Body piercing seemed until recently to just be about ears and the occasional nose ring but now it's leapt to just about any body part that you can get a ring through.

Read all about this family of body art with The Ins and Outs of Body Piercing.

This is Joey, of SF's Body Manipulations, marking where she's going to pierce my friend George's nipple.

Confessions of a Body Art Collector

I do this stuff 'cuz I'm supposed to be this way...

When you look at body art in the broad sense, I've done a lot of it. I've done tattooing, ear and body piercing, branding, shaving, hair growing, henna, liquid latex body painting, makeup body painting, corsetry, orthodontistry, hair dyeing (both natural and unnatural palattes), finger nail growing, finger nail painting, toe nail painting and yes, even I (a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away) did sun tanning.

I did a few of my own ear piercings as a high schooler and in college and did the ears of a few friends. It was ok, but it's easier to let the pros handle that stuff now. I did once get to do a branding on a friend of mine and that was a fantastic experience that I enjoyed a lot.

Things I've not done yet would include any form of implants or surgery. I've never even had a mole frozen off yet, although there is one on my neck that I would like to get rid of. I'm very much not attracted to conventional plastic surgery, reductions and all those tightenings up, but the body mod form of implants, say, custom silicone shapes that incorporate with surface tattooing, I'm really interested in that. I've done temporary piercings to people but not skin stapling. That seems kinda cool...


The burning desire to have skin art

Most people think of Western movies of cattle drives or dog food commercials when you mention branding. The technique used to make marks on humans is similar but care must be taken in order to come out with an aesthetic result.

This picture shows me branding the leg of one of my friends. You can learn more about this form of body art via burning on the Branding lens.

What types of body art do YOU have? - poll - an informal body art survey

For your information...

See results


Tight-lacing or waist-training by any other name is just as sweet

The practice of binding the waist to reduce the size can be traced back to ancient Crete. Art shows bull jumpers with broad belts tightly binding their waists as they leap the bulls.

In modern times, corsetry is most often done for fashion purposes, as a temporary change in look or body size. However, it can also be pursued as an around-the-clock body art practice.

Read more about Corsetry, Tight-Lacing and Waist-Training .


Statistics report that in the 1950s, about 7% of American women colored their hair, and the hairdressers of the day were sworn to take those secrets to the grave. Presently, it's estimated that over 75% of women color their hair, and most of them would openly admit it too.

Some people say, "hey, hair coloring is just cosmetic, it's not body art." I say, if you're playing around to get something that is other than what nature intended, it's art.

I'm a proud third-generation home hair colorist. Yes, I'll buy a $7-10 box of hair color and go home and do it myself. Really, I've had less errs and mistakes than when I paid $65 and left it up to some professional. Don't get me wrong, I've had some stunning professional color jobs, it's just that 4 out of 5 times, they don't listen to me and give me what I want.

I am a natural brunette, now with a touch of grey. I've dyed my hair black, red, turquoise, purple, blue, burgundy, copper and once spent a glorious 18 months as a luscious Fuschian (that was what the boyfriend-at-the-time decided a pink-haired woman should be called). I've dyed my hair with permanent color that has to be grown out over months, and used stuff that rubbed off on my pillows and telephone right away. For the last year and a half, I've been alternating red and purple every six months.

Now, the stigma of hair coloring seems to have reversed, and it's now "in" to have coloring effects like bold streaks done, which are obviously not natural.

Even though 40% of the general population has some grey hair by the time they are 40, it's almost become a stigma now, and many people are reluctant to show any grey until they are in their 60s.

See Body Art In Living Color - piercing, tattoo and body painting videos

henna hands, photo by Relache
henna hands, photo by Relache


Historically, this form of longer-term body painting came from India and the Middle East, where the henna bush grows. The plant is dried, powdered, mixed with essential oils and painted onto the hand and feet in elaborate patterns.

To learn more about the history and practice of henna body painting, please visit Mehandi - The Art of Henna.

tattooing, photo by Relache
tattooing, photo by Relache


What is tattooing and how does it done?

Tattooing is growing in popularity in recent times as a form of body art in Western culture. Body art in US culture tends to be about adhering to overall aesthetics, such as is found with the widespread practice of orthodonture and procedures such as breast implants. Tattooing skirts the edges of that concept, as it can be done so as to make the wearer adhere to social beauty standards, or blatantly snub them.

Read more about The Art and History of Tattooing Lens.

Body Art Links - From ancient rites to modern mods

Here are a wide range of body art resources on the web.


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