How can I make it safer for my daughter to get a tattoo?
You're probably wondering what you should do if, even after you provide her with all the information, your daughter still insists on getting a tattoo. Well, one thing you can do is make sure she goes to a professional, reputable, and clean tattoo facility. A big step in achieving this goal is ensuring that the tattoo artist is a member of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists (APT).
The APT is a nonprofit, educational organization founded in 1992 to address the safety and health issues of tattooing. Both the APT and the Society for Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (that permanent eyeliner you see on some women is a tattoo as well) have endorsed specific guidelines for their members to adhere to.
In addition, the APT has spelled out specific things that consumers should look for in determining whether a tattoo artist is following necessary safety procedures. Specifically, in addition to making sure that the tattoo shop is "clean like a medical facility," a potential customer should ensure that the tattoo artist always uses new needles that he removes from a sealed envelope, that he pours fresh ink into a new disposable container, and that he puts on new, disposable gloves before even beginning to set up his supplies.
Can tattoos be removed?
It's not uncommon for people to become dissatisfied with their tattoos, either because their tastes have changed or because the artist didn't do a particularly good job. (Also, you and your daughter should keep in mind that some job interviewers view prominent tattoos as a big turn-off.) Although removing tattoos is difficult, there are several options, such as laser treatments, dermabrasion (using a sanding disc), salabrasion (using a salt solution to essentially "scrub off" the tattoo), scarification (using acid to produce a scar to remove the tattoo), or camouflaging the area with skin-toned pigments. These methods of tattoo removal are neither cheap nor fun.
One way for your daughter to avoid the pain, expense, and hassle of getting or removing a permanent tattoo is to get a temporary or henna tattoo. Temporary tattoos are applied with moistened cotton and fade over several days. Henna tattoos last longer and are created by applying to the skin a dark, red-brown dye derived from the henna plant.
Most temporary tattoo dyes are approved for skin use. (Just watch out for foreign imports that are not FDA approved.) Henna is approved for hair dye use but not skin use. Allergic skin reactions can occur with both of these tattoo alternatives. All adverse reactions to permanent or temporary tattoos should be reported to the FDA. Your local FDA district office can be located in the blue pages of your local phone directory or by contacting the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Adverse Events Reporting System (CAERS).
What should I know if my daughter says she wants a body piercing?
In addition to tattoos, body piercings have also become very popular among adolescents. One Canadian study found that more than half of all students with body piercings got their first one before the age of 15. While earlobes remain the most common site for piercings, just about any part of the body can be pierced. The following is a list of the most common sites—and some helpful medical tips that your daughter should keep in mind.
Nose—These piercings are usually done through the nostril, but they also can be done through the cartilage of the nasal septum, which can be very painful. Nose piercings can take 2 to 3 months to heal because of the poor circulation in the cartilage of the nose. Additionally, Staph bacteria commonly found in the nasal passages can be a source of infection.
Tongue piercings have been documented to cause enough swelling in a person's mouth to lead to airway obstruction.
Oral—The most common site for oral piercings is the lower lip, but sometimes people have their tongues pierced. When either of these sites is pierced they can become quite swollen. In fact, when the tongue is pierced you have to put a long bar in place initially to accommodate the swelling. This bar is then replaced with a shorter one once the swelling subsides. Further, tongue piercings have been documented to cause enough swelling in a person's mouth to lead to airway obstruction. Other complications can include tooth fractures, tooth chipping, interference with chewing and swallowing, increased salivation, infection, loss of taste, speech difficulty, numbness, and inhalation of jewelry.
Tongue piercings take 1 to 2 months to heal, while lip and cheek piercings can take 3 to 4 months.
Facial—This site is usually the eyebrow, which should be pierced on the outer part, away from the bridge of the nose. This is a common piercing site for men, and it poses relatively few difficulties.
Ear—In addition to the lobe, which is the most common and perhaps safest place to be pierced, the auricle (or rim) of the ear can also be pierced. Because of the poor blood supply in the cartilage of the ear, healing can take 3 to 4 months.
Navel—This site is very common among girls, but it also seems particularly susceptible to infections, such as from Staph bacteria. The piercing should always be done on the skin above the navel, and protruding belly-buttons can make this piercing difficult. This site typically takes 4 to 6 months to heal.
Nipple—The nipple is usually pierced horizontally, but it can be done vertically. Nipple piercing usually doesn't interfere with breastfeeding as long as the mother remembers to take out the jewelry before the child starts nursing. This site usually heals in 4 to 6 months, but sometimes breast abscesses occur.
Genital—Females can have their labia or clitoris pierced. These sites can take 1 to 4 months to heal. Piercing of the clitoris can cause fibrosis (or thickening) of that highly sensitive part of the female anatomy, and piercing behind the clitoris is risky because it can compromise the blood flow.
The healing times I've cited for different piercing locations are averages. Sometimes, complete healing in certain sites can take up to a full year.
Jewelry for piercing should be made of surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, niobium, solid platinum, or 14K or 18K gold to help prevent a reaction. A plastic such as Tygon can be used as well.
Piercing guns should only be used for lobes and not for the rim of the ear or any other body part.