How Tattoos Work

Blog By M. Mitera

It’s more common than not these days to see people with tattooed skin. For us, we see each other (and ourselves) every day so we’re extremely used to it. But some people aren’t! And some people want to become used to it, so they visit us for their very first tattoos! We love having people come in for their first pieces, it’s always so exciting! Since so many people come through our doors never having been tattooed before, we figured a little background on HOW tattoos actually work might be beneficial! 

A tattoo is created when the artist’s machine injects ink into the skin. The needle moves at about 50 to 3,000 times a minute and penetrates the skin by about a millimeter. It deposits a drop of insoluble ink into the skin each time the needle punctures. Most people are aware that tattoo needles are usually numerous needles grouped together, which speeds this process up. These machines come in all sorts of styles and sizes. Many artists choose to make their own as well and new kinds of machines are being produced constantly. They usually contain a few main components though such as:

– A sterilized needle
– A tube system which draws the ink through the machine
– A foot pedal, which controls the vertical movement of the needle
– A motor

When looking at a person with tattoos, you’re seeing the ink through the outermost layer of skin, called the epidermis. The needle punctures this and goes down in to the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin. The cells in this layer are much more stable as compared to the cells of the epidermis. It’s this stability of the cells that helps the tattoo ink stay in place. There are cells that the body releases as part of the immune response, called macrophages. These cells “eat” the invading material (the ink) and attempt to clean up the “mess” made from the tattoo. When these cells travel through the blood vessels, a handful of them go back to the lymph nodes to dissipate the ink that they’ve “eaten” while other macrophages stay in the dermis. Because the macrophages themselves can’t dissolve the ink, they remain in the dermis and is visible through the skin. Minus some minor fading and some dispersion, this ink will stay for the wearer’s entire life. 

At first, the tattoo is both in the epidermis and the dermis but the damaged epidermal cells are shed and fall off. This is the reason that tattoos don’t look as colorful or as vibrant once they’ve finished their initial healing process. It’s important to take care of your tattoo while it’s healing to ensure that it retains as much color as possible and of course, DO NOT TOUCH IT! A tattoo is an open wound and should be treated as such. Be sure to follow the instructions given to you by your artist in order to properly take care of your tattoo.

If you have any questions about a new tattoo or are perhaps looking to add one to your collection, please feel free to stop by the shop, Monday through Friday from 12pm-8pm!

About the Author: M has been a professional blogger for six years and has contributed to various websites. When she is not writing, she is a professional body piercing apprentice. M can be reached at m@spider-bite.com and you can find her piercing only blog HERE.

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