Fancy a tattoo?
Yearning to get Angelina Jolie’s multilingual tattoos? Fascinated by the rosary designed on Alyssa Milano’s back? You are obviously not the only one. Tattoo art is hugely popular among young people around the world. Even if people don’t want tattoos, they are certainly intrigued by the creativity of body art. Henna patterns and permanent makeup offer needle-free substitutes for tattoos, but their popularity has failed to live up to that of tattoos.
Tattoos might seem like a modern phenomenon, but this is hardly the case. For instance, body art has persisted in Pakistan’s rural pockets for eons. Kalash and nomadic women in the north often have dotted facial tattoos or starbursts that are considered a mark of beauty. Women from interior Sindh sometimes have the names of their husbands etched into their forearms. Even though the tattoo culture is not currently widely popular amongst the country’s urban youth, there is a modest yet growing market for body art in Pakistan’s urban centres.
Having a tattoo etched in permanent ink on your body seems like a frivolous and fun thing to do — a notion which has been reinforced by the frequent juxtaposition of pubs and tattoo shops all around the world. But getting a tattoo is not child’s play. The tattoo artist basically uses a machine, with a needle poking you multiple times to inject ink deep within the skin tissue. The procedure has been notoriously associated with incurable infections like hepatitis C and HIV (virus leading to AIDS). The skin can also develop an allergic reaction to the ink and tattooed skin can get infected, leading to unchecked redness, swelling, and pus. In some cases people are prone to excessive scarring in the area of injury, leading to discoloured, rubbery outgrowths called keloids.
Thus all the rebellious souls gung ho about getting their bodies tattooed need to take some precautions. Firstly, go to a highly recommended shop. Ensure that the tattoo artist wears a new pair of gloves, pops open fresh ink bottles, cleans the tattoo site with disinfectant and disposable, sterile towels. Do not hesitate to question the procedure of sterilisation of non-disposable items i.e., the process of making surfaces free of microorganisms. Usually, intense heating in an oven-like machine (an autoclave) is employed, and the items to be reused are autoclaved prior to each application.
Inappropriate care of tattoos in the period ensuing immediately also has a bearing on outcomes. Use antibacterial soap and water to clean, and not alcohol based disinfectant. Pat dry as skin will be vulnerable to abrasion and entry of unwanted microbial visitors and apply topical antibiotic cream. Additionally, avoid getting too much sun for a while.
Moreover, unlike countries where tattooing is an established business, there is no quality control or licensing practice enforced in Pakistan. So before you get matching tattoos like Chris Brown and Rihanna, or have something misspelled on your back like Coach Sylvester in “Glee”, know that laser treatment done by dermatologists for tattoo removal is lengthy, expensive, and does not guarantee perfect erasure.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2011.
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