People have adorned their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. Symbols on one’s skin were often used to show which tribe a person belonged to; to distinguish friends from enemies; and to indicate a person’s status among their peers. Other times, the designs were also chosen in an attempt to protect against evil spirits or to represent connections with supernatural beings or forces.
In modern times, people started getting tattoos as a means of self-expression, and their popularity has been steadily growing since the 1950s, when the first tattoo conventions were held. Nowadays, tattoos are mostly used to express feelings and views, to highlight a personal style and to serve as visual reminders of events, places or loved ones. Conversely, tattoos can also be used to cover up things we’d rather not be reminded of, such as scars, or things we simply don’t like about our body, such as pigmented moles.
Tattoos are something very personal and nobody else can tell you whether you should or shouldn’t get one yourself. But doing some research before you call up your local tattoo parlor is certainly a good idea, since tattoos are still a pretty permanent thing, even if removal options do exist. There are many factors to consider, such as the financial commitment, the health risks, and the consequences your tattoo might have for your future job prospects. To help you make this big decision, we’ve put together a list of the biggest pros and cons of getting a tattoo. Enjoy!
PROS OF GETTING A TATTOO
Tattoos are a way to express yourself
The clothes, hair cuts and make up we choose to wear (or not to wear) all help us express our individual personality and style, but none of these things are permanent. If you’re looking for an artistic way to visualize an aspect of your personality or style forever, a tattoo is a great way to go. Tattoos come in a huge variety — old school, new school, Japanese, stick and poke, realistic, minimalistic and geometric, to name just a few of the styles that have developed over the past decades.
You can pick a design that already exists, ask your tattoo artist to create something original for you, or even draw your own artwork to get something 100% unique.
Tattoos can be visual reminders of things you never want to forget
Countless people get tattoos of things they want to remember forever, such as a special place, a meaningful day or event, or a person they love(d). For many, such tattoos are not about showing off and thus they often appear in intimate places, or at least places that are easier to see for the person wearing the tattoo. The inside of the wrist is a popular spot, as the tattoo can thus be viewed easily throughout the day. For example, tattoos of semicolons can often be seen on the wrists of survivors of suicide, depression and addiction, who use these little markers to remind themselves of their struggles and their strength to keep on fighting.
Others use tattoos in a more light-hearted yet practical way, such as the actress Jennifer Lawrence, who got the letters H2O tattooed on the back of her hand to remind herself to stay hydrated.
Unlike bracelets or pendants, you can’t lose a tattoo or forget it at home, which is why some people even choose to tattoo important information on their skin that will help others identify them when they’re found. Such tattoos may provide information on a person’s blood type, allergies, or specific illnesses, to help doctors and first responders treat them correctly in case they’re unconscious or too stressed to remember this vital information. In this sense, tattoos can be real life savers.
Tattoos can cover up scars
Many of us carry scars from surgeries, attacks, and accidents on our bodies. And while not everybody minds having scars, and some even cherish them as reminders of things they’ve survived or overcome, others suffer every time they see themselves in a mirror. Tattoos can be used to cover up scars, and there are various artists and foundations who specialize in this art and help people in need of a cover-up tattoo who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford one.
A tattoo can do more than simply hide a scar. It can help a person feel beautiful again, and even enable them to love the formerly hated spot on their body once more. This way, a tattoo can drastically improve a person’s mental and emotional well-being or even change their life.
A tattoo can be your lucky charm
It is a multicultural and multireligious world we live in. People believe in different things, and many of us — sometimes even those who don’t believe in the supernatural at all — have good luck charms. Perhaps it’s an heirloom from your grandmother, or a specific symbol, number or animal with which you feel a special connection. Whatever it may be, getting it tattooed on your body will ensure that you never lose or forget your lucky charm. Additionally, the process of getting a tattoo is a type of ritual in itself; it takes time, involves real pain and requires a period of healing, which can make your charm all the more meaningful and powerful.
Tattoos are great conversation starters
Tattoos are pretty common nowadays, but they’re still special enough to draw people’s attention. As most people with obvious tattoos will confirm, their body art is often the starting point for a conversation. Strangers will often express their adoration or dislike, ask questions about the tattoo’s meaning, or even press them for their tattoo artist’s name so they can get a design just like it. So if you’re looking for a way to make new acquaintances, and you’re not in the market for a dog, a tattoo might be a good way to go.
CONS OF GETTING A TATTOO
Good tattoos are expensive
Obviously, expensive is a relative term. What may be close to unattainable for one person may be a bargain for the next. But generally speaking, good tattoos aren’t cheap. It takes great skill and experience to create a work of art on a human body. Working on skin isn’t as straightforward as drawing on paper, and a good tattoo artist also has to be able to take the shape of the particular body part into account. For all of these reasons, good tattoos can be quite expensive, setting you back multiple hundred or even thousands of dollars, depending on the size, style and intricacy of your chosen design. Plus, tattoos fade over time, so you might have to come back after a few years to get your tattoo refreshed, spending even more money on it.
Removing a tattoo is a long process
Although the tattoo removal process has improved and become more affordable over time, it is still a long and quite painful procedure. The bigger, darker and more colorful your tattoo is, the more time-consuming and expensive it will be to remove it.
Laser removal is considered the most successful and cost-effective way to remove unwanted artwork from your skin. Essentially, the laser sends a pulse of energy which heats up the ink in your skin in order to dissolve it. Sounds simple enough, but you won’t get rid of your tattoo in one sitting. It can take multiple weeks and many painful sessions to remove a tattoo, and even then, your tattoo might not be gone completely, and you might be left with a faded image. For this reason, many people actually choose to cover up their old, unwanted tattoos with new ones, though for this to work, the new design usually has to be quite a bit bigger than the old one, which will again require a painful and rather expensive session at the parlor.
Tattoo designs can go out of style and their meaning can change
Just think of the infamous lower-back tattoo which became popular among young women in the late 90s. Back then, it seemed really cool. Even kinda hot. But nowadays? What do you think when you see a woman in her mid-forties bending over and revealing a half-faded tramp stamp? That’s right: trashy.
Worse, the meaning of a symbol or image can change over time, not only for you personally, but for society as a whole. Just think of all the fans of the American post-metal band ‘Isis’ who got a tattoo of their favorite musicians in the early 2000s. Not a good choice in retrospect.
Not everybody will like your tattoo
Should you care about what other people think? Well, you don’t have to, but before you put something as permanent as a tattoo on your body, it might not be a bad idea to consider the implications for a few minutes. First of all, your mother probably won’t love it, but we realize that you can likely live with that.
Many people believe that a tattoo says a lot about the person who’s wearing it. After all, the person was willing to pay good money and endure quite a bit of pain in order to get it. You can’t really be surprised if people judge you based on what you’ve chosen to permanently ink into your skin. Even if you just get a geometric pattern that has no deeper meaning for anybody, the simple fact that you’ve chosen this particular design says something about you. More controversial, of course, are tattoos that do have a particular meaning — be it a religious symbol, your personal motto, or the name of your ex.
Not only will you be judged by your tattoos, they might also offend certain people or turn off potential partners. You might even limit your job prospects with a tattoo, especially if you choose a spot on your body that’s not usually covered up by clothes.
Tattoos don’t age well
New tattoos often look amazing. Their lines are sharp, their colors are vivid, and they’re in the perfect shape and place. Unfortunately, your tattoo likely won’t look like this forever, or even for a long time. How quickly your tattoo fades and changes its appearance depends on many factors, such as the skill level of your tattoo artist, the quality (and color) of the ink, and the way you treat your skin. But even if you choose a competent tattoo artist and treat your skin perfectly, after only four to five years, your tattoo might not look nearly as good as it did when you first got it, and if you want to get that awesome, vivid look back, you’ll have to return to the parlor and get it refreshed.
Getting a tattoo can be dangerous
Naturally, tattoos breach the skin, which means that infections and other complications can potentially occur. You might have an allergic reaction which reappears even years after you’ve gotten the tattoo; skin infections or even bloodborne diseases are also possible, particularly if the equipment used for the tattoo isn’t completely sterile. So when you decide to get a tattoo, be absolutely sure to select a reputable tattoo parlor with high hygienic standards.
Proper aftercare is also important to reduce the risk of complications. You’ll need to allow up to two weeks of healing after you’ve gotten a tattoo, and during this time you need to keep the tattooed skin clean and moisturized, stay out of the sun, and avoid swimming.