What happens to your skin when you get a tattoo?

Getting a tattoo is infamous for being a process which involves excruciating pain. However, it has not hindered people from reaching ink on their skin. Technology has made it more comfortable with the introduction of tattoo machines, which are an improvement to the tools used previously.

For a tattoo to be permanent, the ink should reach the second layer of the skin known as the dermis. It is the tissue situated underneath the skin’s outer layer or epidermis, composed of collagen fibers, glands, nerves, blood vessels, and much more.

Process of Tattooing

This process of tattooing involves making tiny pricks or punctures on the skin by a tattoo artist using a handheld machine with a sterilized needle fixed to it, injecting the ink into the skin. 

The needle is dipped in ink, and the electric motor turned on. This motor moves the needle and applies the stylus to your skin. 

The skin is pricked, rapidly and repeatedly with the sharp needle, penetrating the surface by about a millimeter and depositing drops of insoluble ink into the dermis of the skin. This occurs between the range of 50 and 3,000 times per minute.

Different types of needles can be used to achieve different effects. A needle can have as little as three ends or as much as 25. Needles with lesser ends can be used in outlook, while those with more ends can be used for coloring and shading.

Machines Used

The two most common machines used in tattooing are the rotary and the coil. These machines function differently but do the same thing; in essence, that is, moving the needle. The motor of the rotary machine runs a rotating circular bar, which causes the up and down movement of the needle.

The coil machine, on the other hand, makes use of the direct electrical current is causing the movement of the needle. The artist steps on a foot pedal; this shoots current to the coil, making it an electromagnet. 

The coil, now magnetized, pulls down the metal arm attached to the needle, thus pushing out the needle. When the metal arm touches the coil, contact between a thin piece of metal and the circuit screw is lost, resulting in a break in the current, and forcing the loop to lose electromagnetic force. 

The metal arm is pulled back to its original position by the return spring, thereby removing the thin metal piece in contact with the circuit screw and reconnecting the current used to magnetize the coil. This process takes place repeatedly as the tattoo artist holds the foot pedal down.

What Happens When Your Skin Is Tattooed

If the ink is distributed on the epidermis, it won’t do much good because the outer skin dies off and is shed continuously. The tattoo will disappear in weeks. For a tattoo to last almost a lifetime, the machines should be well packed to get the ink all the way down to the dermis.

The tattoo ink particles are dispersed differently, some of the gel-like matrices of the dermis, while others are consumed by fibroblasts (dermal cells beneficial in healing wounds).

In essence, tattooing is making lots of tiny wounds in the skin. This, therefore, forces the immune system response, sending specialized blood cells known as macrophages to the site of the puncture to gobble foreign ink particles. This is how the body attempts cleaning up, the reason why tattoos fade over time, though it affects permanence as well. 

After consumption by macrophages, it goes back to the liver for excretion. Other macrophages, however, don’t make it back to the lymph nodes. Instead, they remain in the dermis while the consumed particles remain visible.