Getting a tattoo is now relatively common in all parts of the world, especially among the youth. Though more prevalent nowadays, the practice of tattooing is actually ages old and originated in various parts of the world to serve diverse purposes. Many people, today, are concerned whether tattoos expose a person to carcinogens.
1. Why Do People Get Tattoos?
People get tattoos for the following reasons:
To many people across the whole world, tattoos are a form of self-expression. You can get a tattoo to display your unique personality, beliefs, values, and experiences. A tattoo can say a lot about who you are or what it stands for.
A tattoo can serve the purpose of memorialization. People often get tattoos in memory of a loved one, pet, or significant other. This is a beautiful way to remember someone or something significant for the rest of your life.
1.3. Cultural & Religious Significance
Tattoos can also have deep cultural, spiritual, and/or religious significance. You can use tattoos as a way of symbolizing membership in a particular group, marking rites of passage, or even conveying devotion to a culture or deity.
1.4. Aesthetics & Art
Some people get a tattoo to adorn their bodies with beautiful as well as meaningful artworks. They appreciate the visual appeal of the tattoos as a wearable form of artwork.
1.5. Empowerment & Identity
Tattoos often help people feel comfortable in their own skin, which contributes to a sense of identity, empowerment, and uniqueness in them.
1.6. Reminders & Mantras
A tattoo may also serve the purpose of a reminder of one’s favorite quotes or mantras that hold special meanings for them and resonate with their inner sense of being. Such tattoos are really effective in providing motivation and inspiration.
1.7. Coping & Healing
Tattoos can also be part of the healing process for some people. Individuals sometimes get tattoos to cope with difficult experiences or to heal from hurt and trauma. The act of getting a tattoo, for some, symbolizes moving forward and finding strength.
1.8. Bonding & Relationships
People often get matching tattoos with people they love. Tattoos, thus, are a great way to signify bonds or a special relationship. Getting matching tattoos with shared meanings will create a sense of unity and connection, and strengthen your bonds or relationships.
1.9. Rebellion & Non-Conformity
To some people, tattoos are a symbol of rebellion and non-conformity related to social norms and expectations. For instance, individuals from some special communities (for instance, the LGBTQ+) sometimes get certain tattoos that serve the purpose of challenging conventional ideas about appearance and self-expression.
1.10. Exploration & Adventure
Tattoos can also serve as a symbol of exploration and adventure. People may sometimes get tattoos when they travel to a new place, achieve a personal milestone, or to mark a significant experience in their life.
A tattoo is a reflection of an individual’s unique experiences, emotions and desires. Thus, it should not be surprising to anyone to know that a tattoo is deeply personal and can be multifaceted. People’s attitudes toward tattoos and their motivation for getting them may change over time as they grow and evolve.
2. The Origin of Tattoos
Here is what we know about the origin of tattoos.
2.1. Ancient Times
Some of the mummies dating back to ancient Egypt and Nubia, now Sudan, had tattoos on them. This makes it evident that the practice of tattooing was present in certain civilizations that existed around 2000 BCE. Tattoos of ancient Egyptians held religious and spiritual significance as well.
2.2. Polynesian Cultures
There is a rich tradition of tattooing present in Polynesian cultures. Some examples of such cultures are the Maori in New Zealand and the Samoans, to mention just two. The Maori people refer to a tattoo as ‘tā moko’ while the Samoans call it a ‘tatau’. Tattoos in the Polynesian cultures are centered around their social status, rites of passage, and their cultural identity.
2.3. Asian Cultures
The practice of tattooing also has its ancient roots in a number of Asian cultures, including the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Indians. Each state and region of India had its own tattoo customs as well as a unique mix of colors; tattoos would signify social status or be simply worn as a form of permanent jewelry.
A type of traditional tattoo called ‘irezumi’ was used to mark criminals in Japan. Later on, these tattoos evolved into more elaborate as well as decorative designs for criminals and common people alike.
In China, tattoos served both of these purposes. They were considered artistic, used as an ornament, used as a symbol of identity and alliances; yet, tattoos were also used to brand prisoners.
2.4. Native American And Indigenous Cultures
The practice of tattooing has always existed among Native Americans and several other indigenous cultures. An example of such cultures is the Haida people from the Pacific Northwest; these people used tattoos to depict clan symbols as well as other meaningful designs.
2.5. European Influence
European explorers were introduced to the practice of tattooing when they interacted with indigenous people from various parts of the world. In fact, it is believed that the English word ‘tattoo’ was derived from the Polynesian term ‘tatau’.
2.6. Modern Era
The practice of tattooing gained prevalence in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe as well as the United States. Tattoos were commonly found in sailors, soldiers, and individuals of the working class during this period.
2.7. Contemporary Times
The transformation of tattoos from a mere niche practice into a mainstream form of self-expression began in the latter half of the 20th century. Also, the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s played a huge role in popularising tattoos as symbols of rebellion and individuality.
Today tattoos are accepted and embraced by a wide range of cultures and people, spanning various social, artistic, and personal motivations. As time moved forward and the society changed, so did the tattoos and the method of the artisans in the application of it. Modern technology has enabled a broader range of intricate designs, colors, and styles. Tattoos have nowadays become a meaningful way for individuals to convey their stories, beliefs, and creativity on their skin.
3. Can Tattoos Cause Cancer?
There is no definitive evidence that links tattoos to an increased risk of developing cancers.
Most of the inks, available in the market, used for the purpose of creating tattoos have not been definitively proven to be carcinogenic, i.e. they may or may not cause cancer.
As the ingredients used in tattoo inks vary widely, a definite conclusion has yet not been possible to reached. Some concerns have been raised about potential health risks associated with certain pigments.
It is true that some tattoo inks do contain harmful compounds such as heavy metals, aromatic amines, and other chemicals that have been associated with health concerns in laboratory studies; however, they are constituted in such less quantity, that it is presumed that the risk of exposure is limited for most people.
Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the long-term effects of tattoo pigments, including any potential link to cancer. It is the subject of a large amount of research work. Researchers are still searching for rare and long-term health effects caused by the pigments upon coming in contact with human skin.
Though tattoos have been used for centuries, and there have been very few reports of adverse reactions and concerns caused by these pigmentations, definitive links between tattoos and cancer have not yet been established.
4. Side Effects of Tattoos
Here is a list of side effects that you may experience during or after getting a tattoo.
4.1. Pain & Discomfort
Needles are inserted into the skin to deposit ink when you are getting a tattoo. This can cause significant pain and discomfort, which varies according to the location and type of tattoos you get. Individual pain tolerance is also an important factor here. Getting tattoos on sensitive parts of your body or tattooing complex designs can cause more pain and uneasiness than usual.
4.2. Swelling & Redness
Immediately after you get the tattoo, you will see that the area of the skin tattooed gets swollen, red, and tender. This is your body’s natural response to the trauma caused during the process of tattooing.
It is important to maintain proper hygiene during as well as after the tattooing is done. Poor hygiene can cause skin infections. Consult your tattoo artist on how to prevent infection on tattooed skin. Aftercare instructions need to be followed properly to make sure the tattooed area does not get infected.
4.4. Allergic Reactions
Some people are allergic to tattoo ink or certain ingredients present in tattoo inks. Allergic reactions include redness, itching, and swelling on tattooed skin. Allergic reactions caused by tattoos are rarely severe.
4.5. Skin Conditions
People who already have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis should be especially careful while getting a tattoo as tattoos may intensify these skin conditions.
Tattoos can sometimes create and leave scars on your skin. Though the chances are minimal today, there is a possibility of developing raised or keloid scars around the tattooed area.
4.7. Ink Spreading & Fading
With time, the tattoo ink may spread slightly under your skin, which will cause the tattoo design to lose its original sharpness. Moreover, frequent exposure to sunlight may also cause the tattoo pigments to fade.
4.8. MRI Interference
Some tattoo inks contain metallic compounds. This may interfere with MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans. You should definitely inform the medical professionals about your tattoo before you undergo an MRI scan.
Though the feeling of regret is not a physical side effect, it is worth considering as an impactful effect as your tastes and preferences may change with time. What you may have found appealing earlier in your life may not align with your present or future tastes and preferences.
5. How to Minimize Risk While Getting Tattoos?
Here are a few things you should keep in mind while getting a tattoo to avoid or minimise potential side effects.
5.1. Choose a Reputable Tattoo Parlor
Make sure the tattoo parlor you choose has a good reputation and proper hygienic practices. If possible, go through ratings and reviews of other customers for strong confirmation. A reputable studio is highly likely to use the safest and best quality tattoo ink, which will minimize the possibility of developing side effects.
5.2. Do Not Hesitate to Ask Questions
Before you get your tattoo, ask the tattoo artist about the ink they use and how safe it is. They should be able to provide you with sufficient information regarding the ink quality and the safety standards it can meet.
5.3. Ask for a Patch Test
In case you have a family history of skin sensitivities or allergies, you should definitely inform the tattoo artist about it and request a patch test first. Going for patch testing with a small amount of ink before getting the full tattoo will detect adverse effects earlier and you can avoid using that tattoo ink further.
5.4. Follow Aftercare Instructions
Make sure to properly follow the instructions provided by the tattoo expert for a thorough effective aftercare. Remember, proper aftercare is as important to reduce the risk of side effects.
5.5. Stay Updated
It is a good idea to stay updated on the latest research and developments regarding tattoo ink if you think you are susceptible to skin allergies and side effects. New facts are discovered from time to time.
5.6. Consult Medical Professionals
In case you have some specific conditions or health concerns, it is best to consult a dermatologist before you decide to get a tattoo. Consulting a medical professional will help you be more sure and relaxed before, throughout, and after the tattooing process.
People go through a personal journey as a tattoo is being etched upon their skin. It is through their consent, that they have turned their skin into a canvas for self-expression. Tattoos are usually associated with their memories in the form of art. Through vibrant colors or delicate lines, a chapter of their life is being displayed upon their body in the form of a tattoo.
Through their tattoos, some are celebrating an identity or a belief or are boldly declaring their individuality to the world. Some find solace in the permanence of those marks while others simply displaying the twists and turns of their personal journey.
Whether it’s a tribute to a loved one, a symbol of resilience, or a mark of cultural heritage, tattoos are a testament to the diverse tapestry of human emotions and experiences, and, a fusion of creativity and catharsis that leaves an indelible mark on both skin and soul.