Teens and Tattoos
Tattoos have become quite common. For a variety of reasons including expressing individuality, tattoos are a big draw for teens, but despite their interest, there are a lot of things for teens to think about before making the decision. Teens may believe that the hardest part is deciding on the perfect tattoo design, so the responsible adults in their lives should help them think through the process.
Be sure to check the rules for getting a tattoo in your state and your town. Almost every place has an age limit for getting a tattoo. In a lot of places, teenagers need to get consent from a parent. Although teens may feel angry at parents who do not want to consent to tattoos, they certainly have the option of getting one when they’re older. Besides, teens may be grateful later that they didn’t get that permanent design. Although some teens will want to go behind their parents’ back to get a tattoo, remind teens that an “artist” who is willing to break the law is likely to not have the best concern for their clients.
Tattoos are permanent. Teens should at least consider how they will feel about a tattoo when they are older. As we mature, our bodies change, possibly distorting the picture, and our perspectives change, possibly making that perfect tattoo design embarrassing, or at least no longer relevant, to our future selves. According to the American Society of Dermatological surgery, over 50% of everyone receiving a tattoo wants it removed. Depending on the size of the tattoo and colors used, the laser tattoo removal surgery can be very painful and very expensive. It normally takes between 10 and 15 laser surgery sessions to remove the average tattoo, but can be almost 30 sessions if the tattoo is very complex. When you consider the average single session costs between $400 – $800, the removal surgery can be very expensive
Reputable Tattoo Artist
Teens need to realize that they must find (and be able to afford) a reputable tattoo artist. Their limited budgets may make them want to choose the cheapest option, but that can lead to bad consequences. At a minimum, it may mean that the design doesn’t look good or the colors bleed. At worse, they could get a disease, such as Hepatitis C, passed through a poorly sanitized needle. Finding a reputable tattoo artist is very important.
If the parent has decided to provide permission, then they should help their teen find a reputable tattoo artist. Parents should look for a tattoo shop that is clean, safe, courteous and responsive to your needs and questions. If a place doesn’t feel clean or safe, or if something just seems off, look elsewhere. You can recognize a clean tattoo shop when they are using the following: latex gloves; sterile, disposable cloths or towels for cleaning tattoos; a virus-killing disinfectant for cleaning the workspace; antibacterial hand wash (for the tattoo artist’s hands) and sterilizing soap (for clients’ tattoos); an FDA-approved autoclave, which uses steam, pressure and heat to sterilize the tattoo equipment; and sterile disposable needles (individually packaged, sealed and dated). The shop should let you watch the autoclave being used and witness a new, individually packaged needle and tube set being opened for each client. It’s important to use a shop — and a tattoo artist — that makes you feel comfortable and invites your questions.
Before granting your teen permission to get a tattoo, take the time to explain how to care for a tattoo. Many teens don’t realize the extent of caring for their new body design, and it’s up to the parents to make sure they understand the whole picture before getting a tattoo. Make it clear to your teen that if they don’t follow the aftercare procedures, they could ruin their design (through scarring or color bleeding) or get an infection. Here are the procedures for caring for a tattoo:
- Keep the bandage on the tattoo for at least two hours after the work is complete. The bandage the artist uses should NOT be saran wrap.
- Remove the bandage very carefully and throw it away. This allows your skin to breathe and begin the healing process. Do not rebandage the tattoo.
- Put a drop of mild antibiotic soap on your hand and lightly wash the tattoo using lukewarm water. Gently pat it dry with a clean washcloth (not a paper towel) taking care not to rub it.
- Dab an over-the-counter water- or petroleum-based ointment on the cleaned area. Do not use an ointment that contains zinc as it may cause an adverse reaction.
- Continue to lightly apply antibiotic ointment to your tattooed skin for the first few days, then switch to a plain skin lotion that is dye and fragrance free.
- Expose your healing skin to air as much as possible but avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. The ultraviolet rays can fade and damage a new tattoo very quickly.
- Avoid getting a lot of water on your new tattoo. Submerging your tattoo in a bath or hot tub can cause serious damage, so you’ll want to avoid those for 2-3 weeks, but showering is perfectly fine.
Once all of these issues have been thoroughly considered, your teen can make an informed and reasonable decision.