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Front Page » May 4, 2006 » Carbon County Youth Focus » Piercings and Tattoos
Published 3,442 days ago

Piercings and Tattoos

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Sun Advocate reporter

Above: Ben McCarty shows his three-year-old tattoo. which he describes as an "angel in bondage." He plans to have some touch-up work done to correct some problems with the original design. Top: Kaihanah Foster had a character meaning "blessing" tattooed on her leg. She said that at the time she had the work done, she had been given some good opportunities in her life. Top-middle: Nose piercings are common, especially among women. Foster did this piercing herself, though most experts advise against self piercing.

Looking for a way to set themselves apart, many young people look to ancient practices to make themselves stand out. Tattoos date back as far as 3300 B.C. and piercing dates back to at least 16th century India and ancient Mesoamerican people, such as the Aztec and Mayan tribes of Central America.

"Once you get one, you crave another," said 22-year-old Ben McCarty.

Though he has only one tattoo, McCarty said he is planning first to touch up his first tattoo and then he'll consider additional work.

He describes the figure on his right forearm as an "angel in bondage" - a design he saw in a tattoo shop about five years ago. He said he thought about it for about two years before he actually went in to get the work done.

Three years after the original work was performed, McCarty is planning to get some touch up work, at a cost of about $80.

"It's about time and money," said Cindy McIntire, who had her tongue pierced in San Diego, Calif., when she was 16. She explained that when she was about 10, she had her ears pierced, but she didn't get into more extreme piercing until she was a teenager.

McIntire is now 20 years old and will be graduating from College of Eastern Utah this weekend. She currently has 14 piercings and two tattoos. She had a 15th piercing in her lip, but she took that one out and let it heal.

Cindy McIntire displays her tongue ring. She had the piericing done about four years ago, and has since had at least 10 more piercings and two tattoos.

When she was in high school, she started gauging her ears. Gauging refers to the practice of making a piercing larger. Larger numbers signify smaller diameters. On this scale, one of the smaller sizes is an 18, which is around four-hundredths of an inch, though the scale does go as small as 50, which is less than one-thousandth of an inch.

McIntire has two piercings which have been enlarged to a 14 gauge - about six-hundredths of an inch- and 16 gauge - about five hundredths of an inch.

She added that her boyfriend, Jared Hunsaker, has a much larger piercing, a two gauge - just larger than a quarter inch - in his tongue. More extreme sizes range as large as a zero gauge - just over three-tenths of an inch. Sizes larger than this are shown by adding a zero. The largest size recognized by many is the 0000 gauge, measuring just under one-half of an inch.

Making the decision to get any type of body art can be unnerving. Many explain that there is a certain amount of fear associated with getting a tattoo or body piercing and many recognize the risks.

Finding the right shop for your work is often the first step. Everyone has their own preferences on environment, but most agree that one factor - cleanliness - outweighs others.

In the case of tattoos, McIntire said word of mouth is often the best resource. People who have done work done at a particular shop can show the quality of work performed.

Piercings are a little harder to judge by appearance. The outcome of the work may be great, but the immediate effects - infection and healing time - can only be told by those who have work done at the particular shop

McIntire, originally from Tremonton, selected a tattoo shop in Logan for her work based on the work she saw the shop perform on her brother. She noticed the detail and precision of the work and heard good reports relating to sanitary conditions.

She said she has had some piercings done locally. She has a preferred shop, where she trusts the owner and likes the environment.

Cindy McIntire displays a piercing in her eyebrow. This is one piercing she had redone. The first time, the piercer had incorrectly used a piercing gun. The second time, the piercer used a needle, with much greater success.

"Once you find a shop that does good work, you want to stick with them," she said. She explained that each shop has its personality. Simple business practices, such as keeping normal hours, sterile conditions and what type of environment is presented on the inside of the store are part of her decision making process.

Beyond location, there are a variety of other concerns that may need to be addressed before work is performed.

The American Society for Dermatological Surgery offers suggestions for piercings and tattoos, giving the following list of dos and don'ts:

•Do choose a facility carefully. Make sure the establishment is reputable and licensed to perform these procedures.

•Do keep things simple. A small tattoo or one with two or three colors is the easiest to remove, as well as conceal. And simple piercings in the ear are classic symbols of style that never go out of style.

•Do choose an appropriate location. Because outlandish piercings or tattoos in unusual and sensitive areas can lead to scarring and holes that never heal, you may want to think twice about where to place these items on your body. Also, think carefully about where you want it and how big it should be. A good tip is to place it in an area that can be covered by clothing traditionally worn in the work place. For example, a belly button piercing can easily be covered but shown off if you wish, whereas an eye brow piercing cannot.

•Do remember what's "hot" today may not be tomorrow. Today, the latest fad may be tribal or flower tattoos, but tomorrow's trends may be different. That lip ring may not be so popular when you are a soccer mom driving the car pool. So, think about down the road and what you'll be happy with in the years ahead.

•Don't administer self-piercings or tattoos. Attempting to pierce yourself or give yourself a tattoo is extremely dangerous and can lead to infections, serious health complications and even death.

•Don't have a procedure in unsanitary conditions. Sterile equipment and supplies should always be used for tattoos and piercings. Look out for unacceptable conditions, such as the use of needles on more than one patient and technicians who don't wear gloves.

•Don't let an infection go. If you suspect any problems or experience considerable redness or soreness, see your dermasurgeon immediately - it may signal an infection.

If a tattoo or piercing shows signs of infection or other problems, individuals are encouraged to contact a doctor. The ASDS can direct interested individuals to doctors who are members of its society.

Certain risks are associated with tattoos and piercings. And individuals considering getting either should be aware of them and make efforts to reduce those risks.

Navel piercings are among the most popular piercings among women. Many get the piercing to appear sexier. One of the advantages of navel piercings is that they can be concealed under business attire, but revealed when a person wishes.

When a tattoo is applied to the skin, a needle pierces the skin repeatedly. Each time the needle pierces the skin, it leaves pigments. The process can last several hours or take just a few minutes.

Piercings are generally done using a hollow needle which is forced through the skin. Jewelry is immediately inserted and the skin is allowed to heal around the foreign object. Many experts warn that piercing guns are particularly problematic. First, the guns are often difficult to sterilize. Second, piercing guns can pinch the skin, causing undue irritation or bruising.

McIntire explained that when she first had her eyebrow pierced, the practitioner insisted on using a piercing gun. She said she had a black eye for three weeks afterward. When she later had the same piercing performed again, the practitioner used a needle, with much better results.

Other risks include the chance of contracting blood-borne diseases. If the equipment used to perform the procedure is contaminated with blood or other fluids from an infected person, equipment can carry hepatitis C, hepatitis, B, tetanus, tuberculosis or even HIV.

In addition to the diseases mentioned, certain bacterial infections can result after the skin is broken. For this reason, tattoos and piercings should be treated like open wounds until they heal properly.

Another risk is skin disorders. Tattoo ink can cause the body to form small bumps, called granulomas. This is especially common if the tattoo was done using red ink. Tattoos can also leave excessive, raised scars.

In the case of tongue, lip and other oral piercings, there is a risk of cracking or chipping teeth and causing gum damage. Piercings can also cause skin complications.

And finally, because every person is different, the body may react differently to the ink used in tattoos or the metal or other material used in piercings. Allergic reactions can occur as a result of the tattoo or piercing, but may not occur for years after the work is performed.

There are a number of procedures and practices that can reduce these risks. After an individual finds a reputable, clean business to perform the procedure, he or she should follow instructions on how to care for the tattoo or piercing.

Business owners can take certain steps to prevent the spread of disease and infection by following accepted standards. Those considering having tattoos or piercings should ask about preventative procedures that businesses employ.

Cindy McIntire shows off the piercing on her right forearm representing her family crest. Eventually, McIntire plans to have her right arm covered in tattoos, commonly known as a sleeve, which will tie into tattoos on her back.

The Mayo Clinic suggest the following:

•An autoclave. An autoclave is a heat sterilization machine regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. It should be used to sterilize all non-disposable equipment after each customer. Instruments and supplies that can't be sterilized with an autoclave should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use. These include drawer handles, tables and sinks.

•Fresh equipment. An unused, sterile needle should be used for all piercings. If you're getting a tattoo, watch the tattoo artist and make sure he or she removes a needle and tubes from a sealed package before your procedure begins. Any pigments, trays and containers should be unused as well.

•Gloves. The piercer or tattoo artist must wash his or her hands and put on a fresh pair of latex gloves for each procedure. The operator should change those gloves if he or she needs to touch anything else, such as the telephone, during the procedure.

•No piercing gun. Don't receive a piercing from a piercing gun. These devices typically can't be autoclaved, which may increase your risk of infection. And such guns may crush your skin during the piercing, causing more injury.

•Appropriate hypoallergenic jewelry. Brass and nickel jewelry can cause allergic reactions. Look for surgical-grade steel, titanium, 14- or 18-karat gold or a metal called niobium.

Tattoos take several days to heal and any scabs that develop should be allowed to heal naturally to avoid unnecessary scarring. Daily cleaning with soap and warm water is usually encouraged. Tattooed regions should be moisturized regularly and protected from exposure to prolonged sunlight.

For oral piercings, use an alcohol-free rinse after meals until the piercing heals. Extra care should be taken when brushing teeth not to irritate the piercing.

Other piercings should be rinsed with warm water and cotton swabs. Many people suggest using a diluted saline solution, which can be purchased in an both aerosol and liquid forms. Medicated cleansers are also widely used to prevent infection. Alcohol and peroxide are particularly dangerous, as they should only be used to clean the surface of the skin and can cause complications when taken into open wounds and dry the skin. Antibiotic ointments often keep oxygen from the piercing and frequently leave a sticky residue.

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May 4, 2006
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