The way someone chooses to express themselves can take many forms. Some choose to dye their hair, some use makeup or clothing to create a unique look and others choose to trust a professional with a needle.
Body modification isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the Committee on Adolescence reports it is becoming increasingly more mainstream with 38 percent of 18 to 29-year-old’s having at least one tattoo and 23 percent with piercings in locations other than an earlobe. If this is the case, learning all the facts before making a permanent decision can be helpful.
Anyone over the age of 18 can walk into a tattoo or piercing shop to get the body art they want. However, Dan Duke, a piercer at Woody’s Old School Tattoos and Piercings, explained it isn’t doesn’t have to be difficult to find a reputable piercer or tattoo artist.
“There are organizations out there that certify piercers, as well as government organizations,” Duke said. “So definitely do your research beforehand like you would before any kind of medical procedure.”
Coconino County happens to be the only county in Arizona that regulates body modification. This means the studios that tattoo and pierce are inspected at random twice a year and must meet certain regulations as far as procedures followed and sterility.
Both professional tattoo artists and piercers have to take sterilization seriously when they are working with multiple clients every day. It is illegal to use a needle or substance on more than one person unless it has been properly sterilized. It is also illegal to pierce with a piercing gun in a professional piercing studio. Because of this, many studios use prepackaged, disposable sterilized needles for procedures.
Many tattoo artists and piercers post portfolios of their work on either social media or their studio’s website. Potential clients can research artists to pick out a design or style they like. Many artists welcome walk-ins and will tattoo a design the client picked out or sketched on their own.
“Some people don’t want custom art, they just found something perfect online that they like and I have no problem doing that,” said Woody’s tattoo artist Mike Williams.
Williams explained the importance of preparing before getting a tattoo because tattoos are technically wounds. Tattoos can be painful, but the pain varies client to client and the location on the body. He recommends eating a healthy meal and getting a full night’s sleep to ensure the client is comfortable during the entire visit. Senior Austin “AJ” Taylor said he felt great after getting his first tattoo.
“I didn’t know what the pain would be like but it turned out not to be that bad. Also I was surprised at how long it took to actually do the tattoo,” Taylor said. “It took so much longer than I thought. ”
The same goes for piercings but the pain is typically felt for a much shorter period of time. However, Duke usually won’t give a client more than one or two piercings in a specific area to allow for proper healing. Pain can vary depending on the location of the piercing but again can vary from client to the client.
“I think 80 percent is based on the person because a lot of times you can do an earlobe and the person has a complete psychological breakdown, whereas you can be doing an intense genital piercing or nipple piercing and the person’s just sitting there chatting up with their friend,” Duke said. “So really there are so many variables involved.”
A client should prepare for the proper length of healing time after any new piercing or tattoo. The healing time varies depending on size and location. For piercings, the standard healing time is typically between six and nine weeks, but Duke said some piercings require up to a year. For tattoos, Williams said to expect the wound to heal in about two weeks, but with more intricate pieces it could take three or four weeks.
Taking good care of new body art reduces the chance of infection and helps the art hold its quality. Williams stresseed the importance of wearing sunscreen and practicing basic skin care with a new tattoo. He also suggested using Aquaphor or A&D Ointment on a new tattoo because thicker products like Vaseline can suck the ink out of the tattoo. Duke gives each new client either a commercial piercing aftercare solution or a sterile saline bottle to clean new piercings.
Tattoos are permanent, but depending on the quality of ink and location, tattoos can fade while piercings are more reversible as they can close up in roughly a month. Duke warned that as with any wound, there may be some minor scarring. If body art is done properly and taken care of it shouldn’t cause any problems after it is healed. However, if problems do arise, clients should contact their piercer, tattoo artist or a doctor, depending on the severity.
“I always tell people you want to feel confident, sexy and beautiful with your new body art piece, so if you’re uncomfortable with it contact your piercer, they should be able to help you out and resolve anything like that,” Duke said.
Many people choose to express themselves with body art. When considering getting a new piercing or tattoo, learning what to expect can help alleviate stress and ensure a fun and relaxing visit.