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More people are inked despite tattoo risks

Tattoo artist Grisha Maslov 2010
Image via Wikipedia

Brittany Queener of Lansing, Mich., received her first tattoo on her 18th birthday. It was a small, red heart on her wrist. Ever since, she has been addicted to tattoos, and at 23 she now has 22 tattoos.

“I don’t regret any of them,” said Queener.

“I am very proud that I was in a city [Ann Arbor, Mich.] that stressed good work.”

Tattoos have become a major trend. Nearly 15 percent of all Americans are tattooed, according to National Geographic News. Of those tattooed, 40 percent are between the ages of 26 and 40, while 36 percent are 18 to 25, according to a fall 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center.

Tracey Kelly, 36, of Grand Blanc, Mich., has five tattoos. Each one carries significant meaning to her, she said. To make sure her tattoos don’t scab or get infected, she follows a simple regimen until they are completely healed.

“I wash it two to three times a day with anti-bacterial soap and apply lotion any time it feels dry,” said Kelly.

Caring for a tattoo is very important, but taking precautionary measures before a tattoo is applied can save pain and money.

Many inks could cause an allergic reaction in some people, even years after they get a tattoo, according to the Mayo Clinic. Red dye is especially prone to cause such reactions because tattoo ink manufacturers have not yet developed a hypoallergenic formula, according to

Bacterial infections can occur if the tattoo artist doesn’t use proper sterilization or if the tattoo isn’t cared for properly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Redness, swelling, pain and pus-like drainage could occur without proper care.

“I dated this guy once who actually got strep in his tattoo. It literally ate away at his elbow,” said Queener.

Some people may form bumps called granulomas around the tattoo, especially if red ink is used, according to the Mayo Clinic. These bumps can also lead to raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue called keloids.

If the tattoo artist doesn’t use proper sanitation, blood-borne illnesses could be contracted, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus and HIV are all very serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses connected with tattoos.

Roni Laity, 21, of Logan Square, sports only two tattoos but said she knows about the risks of tattooing. She chooses a tattoo artist based not only on the artist’s talent but also on the cleanliness of the tattoo shop.

“When I walk into a shop, I look around to make sure it’s sterile,” said Laity.

“The tattoo artist has to show me their cleaning process and change their gloves often. It helps if they also make you feel comfortable.”

If a customer is unhappy with a tattoo, she or he can get it removed through a laser process, which is very costly, or cover it up with another tattoo.

“I had the dreaded boyfriend tattoo but took a positive spin on the whole thing after our three-year relationship ended,” said Queener.

“I planned a cover-up project called ‘Operation Focus 2008’and covered up the tainted tattoo with a film canister with the word ‘Focus’ on the side, because sometimes, you need to remember what’s important.”

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