The Science of Tattoos

  • by Mike Wargo
The Science of Tattoos

At Whiskey, Ink, & Lace, we obviously love tattoos. And with 21% of American adults sporting tattoos these days, they have clearly never been more popular in the United States.

But chances are, if you asked most of those people how tattoos are actually "made", they’d get it at least some of it wrong, if not entirely. So let’s get scientific y’all.

Let’s start with the tool.

The Tattoo Machine

Pictured below is a typical tattoo machine, which uses either electromagnets or coils to move a bar of needles up and down. These needles push ink into the skin.

Tattoo machines are the most common practice throughout the world, but there are still many artists who still use traditional methods for tattooing, using a stick with needles and a way to force that needles into the skin, like a hammer or club. However the principle remains the same either way.


The Science of Skin

For those of you who, like me, don’t remember much from high school biology, here’s a little refresher. The outermost layer of your skin is called the epidermis and the layer just below that is the dermis. This is important information to have, as it makes the difference between permanent body art and some ink that flakes off in a couple weeks.


Some people might believe that tattoo machines inject ink into the skin, but that’s not quite right. The tattoo artist dips their needle into the ink and the ink hangs onto the needle almost like the tip of a pen.

Then, the needles pierce through the epidermis and dermis, causing capillary action to draw the ink down into the dermis. If the needles don’t go through to the dermis, the inked skin will shed and you’ll have sunk that hard earned tattoo money for nothing.


Your Body's Reaction

While getting tattooed, your body is being pierced at a frequency of 50 to 3,000 times per minute. When this happens, your body will react by sending immune system cells to the site of the wound.

These cells are called macrophages and they try to stop the inflammation the needles are causing by eating the dye. What isn’t consumed gets soaked into fibroblasts, skin cells that remain in the dermis. These cells are what keep the ink showing through your skin.

How to Care For Your New Tattoo

After all the ink has been placed in the skin, your tattoo is essentially an open wound. This leaves the skin open to infections that can ruin both your new ink and your body.

So it’s an understatement to say that you must take care of your tattoo once you get it. The best way to do this is to use natural tattoo aftercare kits, like the one available at Whiskey, Ink, & Lace.

By using the Stage 1 Tattoo Serum for the first few days after getting tattooed, you’ll keep your skin moisturized and keep the ink clean. Follow that up with the Stage 2 Tattoo Cream for a couple weeks to keep the skin moist and prevent skin breakouts. Below are some of the tattoos of Whiskey, Ink, & Lace's founder, Andi Whiskey, treated with the tattoo kit. 

Tattoos are an investment and it’s important to take care of them properly. Now that you know how tattoos work, you might be itching to get some new ink. Just make sure to have great, natural products to take care of your new ink.

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