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How Tattoos are Make



Artists create tattoos by injecting ink into a person's skin. To do this, they use an electrically powered tattoo machine that resembles (and sounds like) a dental drill. The machine moves a solid needle up and down to puncture the skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. The needle penetrates the skin by about a millimeter and deposits a drop of insoluble ink into the skin with each puncture.


The tattoo machine has remained relatively unchanged since its invention by Samuel O'Reilly in the late 1800s. O'Reilly based his design on the autographic printer, an engraving machine invented by Thomas Edison. Edison created the printer to engrave hard surfaces. O'Reilly modified Edison's machine by changing the tube system and modifying its rotary-driven electromagnetic oscillating unit to enable the machine to drive the needle.

Modern tattoo machines have several basic components
  • A sterilized needle
  • A tube system, which draws the ink through the machine
  • An electric motor
  • A foot pedal, like those used on sewing machines, which controls the vertical movement of the needle


When you look at a person's tattoo, you're seeing the ink through the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin. The ink is actually in the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin. The cells of the dermis are far more stable than the cells of the epidermis, so the tattoo's ink will stay in place, with minor fading and dispersion, for a person's entire life.




Health Risks

Since tattoos involve needles and blood, they carry several risks. These include transmission of diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis and possibly HIV. When tattoo artists follow all the correct sterilization and sanitation procedures, risks for disease transmission are relatively low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has not been a documented case of HIV transmission from a tattoo. However, doctors warn that non-sterile tattooing practices can lead to the transmission of syphilis, hepatitis B and other infectious organisms.

Infections can occur in new tattoos, especially without appropriate aftercare. Some people also experience allergic reactions to tattoo inks. Although the pigments used may have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for other purposes, the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks. Finally, some people experience pain or burning during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations because of metallic pigments. Some doctors have also reported interference and distorted MRI images from permanent makeup pigments.


In addition, most states place restrictions on whether people who have tattoos can donate blood. Because of the danger of hepatitis, the American Red Cross will not accept blood from someone who has been tattooed in the past year unless the tattoo parlor is state-regulated. Most states do not regulate tattoo parlors. [Source: American Red Cross]

Tattoo professionals use rules known as universal precautions to prevent the spread of illnesses during tattooing. These precautions are part of the Bloodborne Pathogens Rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The same rules apply to hospitals and doctors' offices. The CDC is a good resource for information about universal precautions.

Other precautions specific to tattooing include:
  • Checking gloves for pinhole tears during tattooing, since petroleum-based ointment erodes latex.
  • Pouring ink in advance, using clean tissue to open ink bottles during tattooing and preventing nozzles from touching contaminated surfaces.
  • Patting tubes dry after rinsing during color changes -- never blowing excess water from them.
  • Spraying liquid soap into a tissue, not directly onto bleeding area, since blood can become airborne when the spray hits it.
  • Giving pens used for drawing on the skin, which should be medical grade and sterile, to the client.

Tattoo artists must also take special safety measures regarding their hands. Gloves help prevent disease transmission from bodily fluids, but bacteria thrive in the warm, damp environment they create. This means that artists must:  
  • Wash hands  thoroughly and often.
  • Inspect hands for cuts or sores and cover them with bandages.
  • Remove hangnails and keep nails short to prevent punctures to gloves.
  • Refrain from tattooing when experiencing lesions, dermatitis or allergic reactions.



Laws require minors to have a parent's permission to get a tattoo. So, some adolescents get tattoos from friends or amateurs, who use makeshift tools like pens and paper clips with little if any sanitary precautions. This is extremely dangerous, since proper equipment and sanitary measures protect people from disease and infection.


Sterilization


A tattoo machine creates a puncture wound every time it injects a drop of ink into the skin. Since any puncture wound has the potential for infection and disease transmission, much of the application process focuses on safety. Tattoo artists use sterilization, disposable materials and hand sanitation to protect themselves and their clients.

To eliminate the possibility of contamination, most tattoo materials, including inks, ink cups, gloves and needles, are single use. Many single-use items arrive in sterile packaging, which the artist opens in front of the customer just before beginning work.

Reusable materials, such as the needle bar and tube, are sterilized before every use. The only acceptable sterilization method is an autoclave -- a heat/steam/pressure unit often used in hospitals. Most units run a 55-minute cycle from a cold start, and they kill every organism on the equipment. To do this, an autoclave uses time, temperature and pressure in one of two combinations:
  • A temperature of 250° F (121° C) under 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes
  • A temperature of 270° F (132° C) under 15 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes


Prior to sterilizing the equipment, the artist cleans each item and places it in a special pouch. An indicator strip on the pouch changes color when the items inside are sterile.

Before working on customers, tattoo artists wash and inspect their hands for cuts and abrasions. Then, they should do the following:
  • Disinfect the work area with an EPA-approvedviricide.
  • Place plastic bags on spray bottles to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Explain the sterilization process to the client.
  • Remove all equipment from sterile packaging in front of the client.
  • Shave and disinfect (with a mixture of water and antiseptic soap) the area to be tattooed.


Prior to sterilizing the equipment, the artist cleans each item and places it in a special pouch. An indicator strip on the pouch changes color when the items inside are sterile.

Before working on customers, tattoo artists wash and inspect their hands for cuts and abrasions. Then, they should do the following:
  • Disinfect the work area with an EPA-approvedviricide.
  • Place plastic bags on spray bottles to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Explain the sterilization process to the client.
  • Remove all equipment from sterile packaging in front of the client.
  • Shave and disinfect (with a mixture of water and antiseptic soap) the area to be tattooed.


Early tattooing methods used picks, rakes, combs and chisels to cut or puncture the skin before adding pigment. Some Arctic and Sub-arctic tribes created tattoos by pulling a thread coated with soot thorough the skin.
http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/skin-and-lifestyle/tattoo.htm

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