Originally an ancient art form dating back thousands of years,
tattooing and body piercing have had various symbolic and religious
meanings throughout history.
For example, nipple piercing is known to have bean practiced
by the Romans who used it as a sign of bravery, while men in
ancient Japan used tattoos to signify their status in society.
Egyptians had tattoos which were believed to have religious meaning.
In many countries across the world, tattoos and piercings
are still a part of the cultures. The Cafara Indians of South
America wear a thin cane in the lower lip which denotes that
they are in their prime of life. In Africa, similar decorations
are found worn by the women but stretched to a greater extent.
People in India use temporary Henna tattoos to adorn their bodies
and encourage sexual attraction.
Today, teenagers have tattoos and body piercing for many reasons,
often to demonstrate their individuality. It is important to
consider why you want a tattoo or body piercing before getting
This is an example of a
tattoo designed by the
artists at Urge in Victoria
"I wanted to and it was kind of a bet," said Kathryn
Kemp, a Grade 9 student, of her eyebrow piercing, but her recent
tongue piercing, "that was for shock effect. I want to get
my belly button done next."
However, many people get tattoos and piercings on the spur
of the moment. Mike Nasby, another Grade 9 student, got his tattoo
"'cause my uncle and a bunch of his friends were getting
To get a tattoo or piercing, unless you are older than 18,
it is necessary to be accompanied by a parent. You will also
be required to sign a release form. Many parlours have been sued
for tattooing or piercing teenagers without parental permission,
and the rules are being more strictly enforced.
"Some piercings are good, but, if you're gonna pierce
something that you don't want anyone to see, what's the point?"
said Scott Dawson, who is also in grade nine.
Others don't agree with this comment, as often piercings are
for personal reasons. Lately there has been discussion in the
news about whether piercings belong in the workplace. If you
want a piercing but have a formal job, piercing your belly or
other private areas pierced is an option, as your boss would
be unable to see it.
In choosing a parlour, take your time. Talk to people who
have recently been tattooed or pierced to see where they had
theirs done. A good parlour will explain everything to do with
your tattoo or piercing beforehand. Urge in Victoria, as well
as Next in Vancouver, are very thorough and informative about
sterilization and aftercare.
"You're making a life decision, so you should be well
educated,"said Grahme McCuaig, a piercer and tattoo artist
from Urge. "For every good tattoo artist, there are about
one hundred bad ones."
Also, don't consider self piercing or tattooing because it can
be very uncomfortable and can lead to an infection or other complications.
Check the studio thoroughly, and ask questions. It you do
not see an autoclave (this pressurizes instruments and kills
any viruses or bacteria that could passed on), ask to see it,
and ask about the studio's cleaning techniques (how do you disinfect
the work area?).
Directly before going to get your tattoo or piercing, it's
important to be well rested. You must have recently had a shower
and clean clothes to help insure you won't get infected immediately
after. Also be sure to eat something beforehand, or else you
may suffer from dizziness, faintness, or nausea. To try and ease
the pain, pain killers, aspirin, and ibuprofen don't work. They
may just increase bleeding or cause other problems. If you are
under the influence of drugs or alcohol, most parlours will not
pierce or tattoo you.
Made a mistake?
Lasers may help
Have you made
the mistake of getting a tattoo in the wrong place or getting
the wrong one? You should know that you are not alone. Each year
many people decide to have their tattoos removed because they
are not satisfied with the choice they made. Currently there
are two methods used. One being the old-fashioned sanding of
the skin and the other being laser removal.
According to Kaye Fehr, a laser therapist at the T.J. Robinson
Laser Center in Vancouver, current laser removal is basically
a risk-free procedure with no side effects. However, it is not
cheap and is not covered by your medical plan as it is considered
cosmetic. You can expect to pay $80 for the consultation fee
alone, followed by about $200 per square inch each visit.
The length of
the treatment depends on the size of the tattoo. For example,
a tattoo that is one square inch would take about fifteen minutes
per treatment to be removed. It usually takes a minimum of 3-4
visits and you have to wait as much as 5 weeks before getting
the second treatment done. There is no age limit for getting
a tattoo removed and the procedure is said to feel somewhat like
an elastic snapping against the skin.
You should expect some pain when being pierced or tattooed.
"It hurt, but more of it was the thought of what they
were doing," said Grade 12 student Alisa Barry. "After
awhile it went numb."
The pain of the piercings and tattoos depends on the location
of the body that you are getting it on. Tattoos on an area where
the skin is lighter and you can see the veins are the most painful
while the most painful areas to get pierced are the genitals
Missy Crowell, a grade 11 student, recently had her ear cartilage
pierced and commented, "It hurt a lot."
At many piercing and tattoo parlours, they have methods to
help you out. At Next in Vancouver and other places both on the
Island and the mainland in British Columbia, they use different
essential oils to help calm you and to help increase your blood
It's very important to follow the aftercare instructions given
by your piercer or tattoo artists.Your piercings should heal
in the time estimated by your piercer on the day you had it done.
Clean your piercing wound two to four times a day, with clean
hands. If there is any build up around the piercing, you must
clean it out before turning the piercing. This can be done by
washing it with warm water. Your piercer will also recommend
the best product to clean your piercing with. Some things to
avoid with a piercing are rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide,
neosporin and polysporin, antibiotic ointment, hibitane, perfumed,
dyed, or cream soaps, band-aids, and make-up or hair products.
Your body will react to new piercings, which may lead to infection.
The four signs of infection are heat, redness, swelling and sensitivity
around the piercing. Some lymph discharge and a little redness
is normal, but if you have any concerns, call the place where
you got your piercing or tattoo done. The healing process can
be sped up with a healthy diet and an Epsom salt bath.
To care for a tattoo, wash it with soap and then apply an
extremely thin layer of Polysporin four times daily. Also avoid
swimming or soaking the tattoo in a shower or bath for the first
As for the price of your tattoo or piercing, expect to pay for
quality. Urge in Victoria charges between approximately $35-$150
for a piercing depending on the area pierced, including the price
of the jewelry. A one of a kind, custom-made tattoo will cost
about $75-$100 per hour.
Remember, getting your piercing or tattoo should be a safe
and positive experience. If you take the time to make an informed
choice it should be an experience that you won't regret.
Be careful when choosing a piercing or tattoo artist! Piercers
require no training and there are a lot of inexperienced piercers
out there. It's a good idea to look for a piercer who has taken
a piercing course. If you plan on getting a tattoo, you should
know that tattoo artists learn their trade by apprenticeship.
Make sure that your tattoo artist has done so.
Editor's note: This article originally
appeared in The Wailer, the school newspaper
at Port Hardy Secondary School in Port Hardy, British Columbia.