Salvador Dali had his mustache, Van Gogh had his ear–or lack thereof, and Andy Warhol had his wigs. Artists have always drawn outside the lines in their work and in their lives, decorating themselves as an extended form of creative expression. Like these craftsmen, tattoo artists are prescribing ways for individuals to assert their own declarations of self, making tattoos more popular within mainstream society.
Over the years, the age-old art of tattooing has gained currency among young and old alike. No longer are they reserved solely for sailors, jailbirds or rough-and-tumble motorcycle gangs. Despite professions, ages or residencies, tattoos — and the myths formed with them — have left an indelible mark on American culture. Here, a list of some of today’s most common tattoo myths exposed.
Myth or Truth: Tattoo machines contain only a single needle.
Myth: In reality, tattoo machines contain multiple needles which are usually grouped in odd numbers depending on how much coverage and shading the tattoo requires.
Myth or Truth: Scratching or peeling a healing tattoo won’t harm the outcome of the tattoo.
Myth: Scratching or picking at a tattoo can cause permanent loss of pigmentation in those areas.
Myth or Truth: Applying a lot of ointment to a healing tattoo helps it heal faster.
Myth: Applying too much ointment to a tattoo can cause bubbling at the surface level and healing complications because the skin can’t breathe. On the other hand, keeping the tattoo too dry can cause the skin to crack. There needs to be a happy medium.
Myth or Truth: Going into a chlorinated pool with a tattoo will fade the colors.
Myth: The chlorine cannot get below the first layers of skin like a needle and, therefore, cannot cause the colors to leak out or fade. It isn’t a good idea to enter a pool with an unhealed tattoo that is still oozing and raw, though.
Myth or Truth: If you get a tattoo, you will never be able to donate blood.
Myth: According to the American Red Cross, if you are tattooed at a shop that uses proper sterilization and is state regulated, you will be able to donate blood immediately. Otherwise, you can’t give blood until a year after getting inked. Currently, 32 states regulate their tattoo shops making it easier for the residents of those states to donate.
Myth or Truth: If you are pregnant and have a back tattoo some hospitals may not be able to give you an epidural.
Truth: According to the March of Dimes, it is a good idea to check with the policies of the hospital you will be giving birth at. Some doctors will refuse to pass the epidural needle through skin that has been recently tattooed for fear of possible contamination of ink in the medicine being administered.
Myth or Truth: Drinking alcohol or taking aspirin before getting a tattoo will help ease the pain.
Myth: Alcohol and aspirin are actually blood thinners, which cause more bleeding during the tattooing process. This could, in turn, lead to issues with healing or color intensity.
Myth or Truth: You shouldn’t get red tattooed on your body because it is more likely to fade or give you an allergic reaction.
Myth: While some people may be allergic to certain inks, the pigment used specifically in red dyes has been upgraded over the years to react better with people’s skin. Any tattoo that is not properly taken care of will fade regardless of what color it is.
Myth or Truth: Getting a tattoo hurts more than giving birth to a child.
Myth: In reality, getting tattooed does hurt — but it does not produce the same type of pain as childbirth. The pain of getting a tattoo feels more like scratching a bad sunburn.
Myth or Truth: Having a tattoo means that you will be unable to get an MRI because the ink will react to the radiation in the machine and will cause your skin to swell or burst.
Myth: While tattoo ink may have contained high levels of metals in the past, there are much safer pigments nowadays that no longer contain metals like mercury. No metal in the ink means no reaction during an MRI.
Myth or Truth: Tattoos are art.
Truth: True enough. However, like any piece of art, it is subjective. Some tattoos are good art done poorly and some tattoos are bad art done well. Find a tattooist who is competent with both a pencil and a tattoo machine for the best results.
Myth or Truth: Anyone who is artistic can tattoo.
Myth: Don’t bet your skin on it. The ability to draw cool designs does not make a tattooist. Without the proper equipment, mechanical skill and technical knowledge, the design originally done on paper can leave you with scar tissue in just a few months.
Myth or Truth: Every tattooist has artistic talent.
Myth: A good deal of a professional tattooist’s time is spent fixing or covering someone else’s “artistic talent.” Just remember to never don’t give up on finding the perfect artist for your tattoos!
Myth or Truth: Any good artist can do any tattoo.
Myth: While most professionals are capable of a variety of styles, they usually have a unique style of tattooing they’ve developed and are especially good at. That artist who’s known for his intricate tribal work may not be the right choice for that portrait of mom and dad. Match the design you want with the artist who can pull it off.
Myth or Truth: When a tattoo is old, it will turn blue.
Myth: This only applies to those tattoos that were created 50 years ago or before. The inks used in tattoos have improved a lot since that time.