A tattoo is definitely not a new idea, as archaeologists have discovered remains of tattooed human beings that date back thousands of years. In fact, the practice of putting permanent images on the body with various materials and tools may have always been a part of human history.
People have used the tattoo in coming-of-age ceremonies, fertility rites, as symbols of noble birth and much more. In addition, some have chosen the tattoo as a show of independence or defiance, or to make a statement about a specific aspect of their life. In more recent times, individuals have opted for a tattoo or the related body piercing as a way of showing solidarity with a group of individuals, sometimes a gang or sports team.
The roots of the word are probably in the language of Tahiti. This culture’s word was “tattau,” which indicated a design or special marking on the skin. While early tattoo art was created with various natural materials and inks, in the 21st century a tattoo is put on (actually in) the skin with an electric-needle device. Inks that are safe for human use are injected into holes made in the skin by the advancing needle. In recent decades, tattoo artists have become very skilled and many around the world are recognized as true geniuses of art.
Some have been concerned about the effects of tattoo ink on human health and it’s true that some people have negative reactions to the chemicals used to make the different colors (pigment). However, state health departments have established detailed guidelines for the materials to be used in tattoo parlors, and have established regulations for the people who operate the businesses and the artists they hire.
Many of the problems experienced with early tattoo systems have been eliminated as some paints and inks have been banned for human use. In addition, cleanliness is a key element of most reliable tattoo parlors, which must adhere to strict guidelines for sterilizing needles and maintaining a clean work environment. The individual who has the tattoo placed on their body is also given steps to take for the first week or two after a new tattoo is received.
Some people also have problems with tattoo removal, a procedure that is a bit easier now with new laser processes. But complete removal usually involves at least moderate pain. Completely removing a tattoo is usually impossible and most who try to have this procedure will carry a scar in that area for life.
While most people consider a tattoo permanent, the truth is the art fades over time and must be renewed by a tattoo artist. Changes in body structure can also alter a tattoo that was just fine when originally put on.
Some consider body-piercing to be closely related to tattooing. In history some cultures combined body art and strategic piercing as part of a cultural ceremony, a religious observance or a coming-of-age event for youth in the society. This traditional art of the human body has firmly established a place in nearly every culture around the globe.