If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, you might want to learn about the science behind the art before you make your final decision. While on the outside, a tattoo is a beautiful and symbolic creation, on the inside, it is actually the result of a perpetual inflammatory process.
Tattoos have been used as a form of self-expression for millennia. According to neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre in a TED-Ed video titled “What makes tattoos permanent?”, the earliest evidence of body ink was found on a Peruvian mummy from 6,000 BCE. To add even more history to this tradition, the tattoo machine was invented in the late 1800s, its design based on Thomas Edison’s engraving machine.
Today, one look around campus can reveal a variety of different tattoo designs, colors, and types of people sporting them. With the independence of life at college, who’s to stop you from getting one, too?
Maybe all you care about is whether or not it will hurt, but there is a lot more that can be learned about the tattooing process. Although humans shed 40,000 skin cells per hour, the TED-Ed video explains that tattoos remain permanent because they are not on the epidermis, but rather inside a second layer of skin: the dermis.
A tattoo machine punctures the skin continuously with a needle, depositing ink into the dermis, which is made up of collagen fibers, nerves, glands, blood vessels, and more.
Whenever the needle penetrates the skin — which could be up to 3,000 times per minute — it causes a wound which alerts the body to begin an inflammatory war to fight the intruding tattoo ink. White blood cells known as lymphocytes form the first line of defense; however, most of the pigmentation particles are too large for them to fight. Next, a different type of white blood cell — macrophages — come in and eat up the pigmentation particles. Some of these macrophages will carry the dye back to the lymph nodes, […]